Our wedding will take place in our village Kilakarai. Kilakarai is a lovely coastal town in Ramanathapuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This gentle town reminiscent of Spanish Moorish architecture is close to the Temple town of Rameswaram.
Kilakarai is one of the greatest historical coastal cities, situated in the southern part of Tamilnadu.
Most of its present Muslim population hails from the Pandyan King Raja Varma Kulasekhara's lineage. It is a known fact that their ancestor’s came from (Hadra Mowt. Yemen) Arabia for trade and then decided to settle down in this busy port harbour. Kilakarai used to be the main port in South-India during the Pandyan King Dynasty. It was to South-India, what London was to Europe. The well-known Arab adventurer, Ibn Battuta, had taken note of this small port, during his travels around the world. The Kilakarians were in constant connection with royalty in those days, and is still true today. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb was said to made Sathakathullah Appa, a leading Islamic scholar the governor, of Kilakarai. The broad-minded people of Kilakarai were instrumental in sending Swami Vivekananda on his quest to the West.
Some of the famous Kilakarai ancestor’s include:
Habib Marickar: a pioneering trader and merchant, whose anchor’s and compasses have been discovered as far as New Zealand and Australia.
Kilakkarai residents include Sunni Muslims, Hindus of Devar, Nadar, etc and other communities such as Christians and Harijans living in harmony. Kilakarai is distinct in that the mother tongue of the Muslims here is Tamil. This distinguishes them from the pre-dominant Urdu speakers of the sub-continent. The beautiful art of Islamic architecture can be found in the masjids of Kilakarai. To name a few, Jummah Masjid, Ameerul Mumineen Abu Bakr Masjid and Pudu Pali. Kilakarai is also home to the Portuguese church and the Dutch church. The sunrise at the harbour and jetty is a must-see.
The main occupation for the Kilakarians was Pearl fisheries. It was closely followed by Conch trade. Maritime trade took the inhabitants to all corners of the world.
Today, many Kilakkarai residents have made Chennai home. Industrious and honest, Kilakkarai natives have contributed to the distinct landscape of Madras city, now known as Chennai. Dynamic Kilakkarai educational institutions were the forerunners of the innumerous colleges and universities and hospitals found today. The Crescent group of institutions are managed by the Seethakathi (Siddakadi) Group in Southern India.
As recently as spring '06, Kilakkarai-ians launched the theme shopping mall called Citicenter in the heart of the city, close to the Marina beach. Imagine Singara Chennai without the 'Gemini Bridge', the Light House, Valluvar Kottam, the Crescent Institutions, etc, to name a few landmarks. Khader Nawaz Khan Rd and its environs, the 'golden-mile of Chennai' is home to the Kilakkarai community.
Merchants and Entrepreneurial blood line made the Kilakarians famous and successful in Trading and Industrial activities. They have made their homes far and wide as U.S.A., Japan, the Middle-East, Belgium, Hong Kong, Malaysia and U.K. The Kilakarians have built and maintained strong partnerships with the Arabs of the Middle-East, the Japanese, Chinese, Belgians, Britons, which is not entirely based on business, but family and friendship ties. This has lead to their successes in various business enterprises such as construction, jewelry, cars, metal etc.
Despite making their homes and businesses far and wide, Kilakkarai natives return during the summer and year-end for family celebrations. This idyllic town comes to life during marriage functions. The unique rendezvous ensures that centuries of customs and lineage is understood by the next generation. The Kilakkarai diaspora families compulsorily attend at least once a year.
As of 2001 India census, Kilakarai had a population of 30,472. Males constitute 46% of the population and females 54%. Kilakarai has an average literacy rate of 78%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 82%, and female literacy is 75%. In Kilakarai, 13% of the population is under 6 years of age.
Dressing: The majority of the population being muslims, modest dressing is observed. Ladies observe the hijab, both in traditional saree-style, and the arab abaya dressing. Men are seen to wear the traditional sarong.
Food: The staple food of the kilakarians is rice and fresh fish gravy. Most meals are made from some varient of rice, idli (rice cakes), dosa (rice flour crepe), idiapom (stringhoppers) etc.
Weather: the weather is pretty pleasant throughout the year. During summer, things start to heat up a bit. But in winter, the weather is cool and breezy. The nights tend to get a little cold during the winter. Light showers can be expected.
Cultural Traditions: Although Kilakarians may have travelled far and wide, their cultural traditions and customs bind them together. Respect for the elders and young ones are unspoken but firm-footed traditions. Orthodox, matriarchal and educated, the typical Kilakkarai family observes the strict Islamic ruling of non mixing of the genders, and prohibition on drinking. Arranged marriages are still the norm for the well heeled youngsters.
You find men, women and children grouping together around the town, getting back where the left from a year ago. Most of the time is spent sitting around chatting with friends and family. The men go to the farmhouses to bathe in the pools and rivers. Everybody takes a turn picnicking in the farmhouses, swimming, drinking fresh coconut water, enjoying the breeze and beautiful dance of the peacocks (during mating season)
Getting to/around Kilakarai: Although Kilakarai has developed to such an extent, access to the town is only by bus or car. The nearest railway station is in Ramanadapuram and the nearest airport is in Madurai, each taking from 30min till 2 hours respectively.
The streets are reminiscent of the narrow alleys of Venice. Most people get around walking or hiring autorickshaws
Hotels and Guesthouses: Kilakarai town can boast of only one tourist lodge which not be able to accomodate the daily influx of visitors and guests. It is customary to lodge such visitors in the houses and farm houses of family and friends on a friendly and informal basis.