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RESEARCH PAPER

ARAB INFLUENCE AND ITS IMPACT ON INDIAN AND EAST AFRICAN COASTLINES

AND ITS IMPACT ON INDIAN AND EAST AFRICAN COASTLINES VAISALI KRISHNAKUMAR AC – 634 2012-2014 GUIDED

VAISALI KRISHNAKUMAR

AC 634

2012-2014

GUIDED BY

PROF. NALIINI THAKUR

ASST PROF LAXMIPRIYA

SCHOOL OF PLANNING AND ARCHITECTURE, NEW DELHI

RESEARCH PAPER

ARAB INFLUENCE AND ITS IMPACT ON INDIAN AND EAST AFRICAN COASTLINES

MAY2014

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. AIM

3

2. LITERATURE REVIEW

 

6

3. THE NATURE OF ARAB TRADE

9

3.1 GEOGRAPHY

 

9

3.2 HISTORY

9

3.3 MONSOON

ROLE OF

11

3.4 ITEMS ARABS TRADED WITH INDIAN COAST AND AFRICAN COAST

12

4. THE GROWTH OF SWAHILI TRADING TOWNS

13

4.1 KILWA MOMBO, TANZANIA:

14

4.2 ZANZIBAR PORT

 

15

4.3 MOGDISHU PORT:

15

4.4 KENYA

16

5. GROWTH OF PORTS IN INDIAN PENINSULA

17

5.1 GOA :

 

18

5.2 CALICUT:

19

5.3 CRANGNORE:

20

5.4 QUILON:

20

5.5 COCHIN:

21

6. SPREAD OF ISLAM AND EVALUATING ITS INFLUENCE ON THE COAST

21

6.1 ISLAM RELIGION

 

21

6.2 Morphological components of the Muslim settlement

22

7. SWAHILI CULTURE AND MAPPILA CULTURE

23

7.1 CASESTUDY- EXAMINING THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE SWAHILI TOWN OF LAMU

23

7.2 CASESTUDY- EXAMINING THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE MAPPILA SETTLEMENT OF

KUTTICHIRA

 

27

7.3 INFLUENCE IN EAST AFRICA

30

7.4 INFLUENCE

IN MALABAR

32

8. CONCLUSION

33

9. BIBLIOGRAPHY

35

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1. AIM

The paper aims to study the impact of Arab Navigation and trade on the Indian and

East African coast by exploring the cultural and economic aspect

 

OBJECTIVES

o

To study the conditions that led to the active trade in Indian Ocean by the

Arabs

o

To explore the nature of Arab Navigation and trade with the East African coast

and Malabar Coast, their motives and expertise

o

To study the cultural and social evolution that took place along the East

African and Malabar coastline.

o

To construct a framework for evaluating the extent of socio cultural and

architectural impact in these coastlines due to Arab influence.

o

To evaluate the nature of influence Arab trade had on the coastline port cities

of East Africa and West India.

o

To compare and analyse the settlement of Lamu in African and Kuttichira of

the Malabar coast.

METHODOLOGY

The study for this research paper is based on secondary sources and literature on the Arab

world and its role on the maritime trade. As the purpose of the paper is to evaluate the

 

relationship and impact Arab merchants and traders had on the local lives of the people of

Malabar Coast and East African coast, my focus has mainly been on the Islamic principles,

and the culture and evolution of the Mappilas and Swahili people. The research began with

extensive reading and gathering information on the principles that govern planning of an

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Islamic city, and the unifying factors that bring the various Muslim settlements under one

umbrella despite being diverse in their architecture.

 

The research then took a turn towards exploring the trade relations that the Arab World had

with other countries and the impact that this association has brought about. The scenario that

prevailed along the East Africa and Malabar Coast are of comparable scale and therefore the

study was scoped down to the particular area.

 

With constant discussion with guides and analyse of the collected data conclusions of the

paper was made.

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1.

INTRODUCTION

In the ancient times, winds shaped the navigation over sea and from simple boats to

traditional ones which made it possible for human being to roam around various parts of the

known world. The coastal people indulge in seafaring playing an important role in bringing

different nations closer which gave way to trade between different nations of the Indian

Ocean.

 

Ancient history tells us that Romans and Greeks knew about the Indian Ocean and

hence carried out their first maritime expedition in 1498AD from Egypt to East Africa.

 

The vastness of the Ocean, compounded by the intensity of its seasonal wind

system, had, for quite a long time in the distant past, made oceanic-sailing difficult and had

kept the different peoples and cultures apart. It is to the credit of the Arab mariners and

traders, who played a bridging-role among the fragmented cultural entities, that diverse

peoples spread around and all over the Indian Ocean. From the very beginning Arabs and

Persians were linked through the maritime trade with people of East Africa, the Western

Indian Coast and even up to Chinese and South eastern coast. The coastal region of Indian

Ocean was an area of social and cultural diversity enriched with four different civilizations.

Thus the maritime trade generated a strong sense of bonding between the people of different

geographic regions. The emergence of the Abbasid rulers not only increased the trade

activities but also gave way to conquest of lands by Islam rulers which strengthen their

position in sea trade compared to other regions who were more involved in defending their

land. Thanks to their knowledge and advancement in geography, cartography, astronomy,

meteorology, navigational science and shipbuilding, the Arabs reigned as the masters of the

seas. They facilitated the flow of goods, migrants, missionaries, animal breeds, plant species,

cultural practices, art and literature. They crisscrossed the Indian Ocean and cross-fertilised

the various ethno-cultural waves with some core values, thus creating the conducive

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environment for trade and a common milieu for inter-cultural and inter-regional development.

This integrative process was disturbed by the establishment of European political and

economic domination that began in the 15th Century after the exploratory expeditions of

Vasco da Gama in the Indian Ocean marking the decline of Arab dominancy in maritime

trade.

 

The paper looks into the period of 11 th to 17 th century during which Arabs dominated

the trade in the Indian Ocean and their role in spreading Islam , hence impacting the socio-

cultural setting of East African and Malabar Coast.

 

The paper supports my thesis topic on Conservation of Kuttichira, a Mappila

settlement of Kozhikode, Kerala which showcases a unique culture that is a fusion of Arabic

and local influences.

 

Due to time and material constraints the research and outcome is based on the

available material and secondary sources.

2.

LITERATURE REVIEW

In the book, Architecture of the Islamic World by George Mitchell the entire field of Islamic

architecture from mosques to markets, from citadels to cemeteries, is surveyed. Although

Islamic buildings may make an immediate visual impact, it can be useful to know something

of the society which they serve. This text relates the architecture to the social areas of

religion, power structure, commerce and communal life, placing emphasis on function and

meaning rather than on style and chronology. The text contains photographs, drawings and

plans that highlight the variety of building type and design. Building materials, techniques,

and principles of decoration are also described and explained, and a comprehensive

inventory of the key buildings of the Islamic world concludes this study.

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Mappila Muslims of Kerala- A study of the Islamic trends by Roland Miller is an

addition to the meagre literature on the area as he discusses the Muslim Community whose

turbulent career has figured so prominently in Kerala History and whose representatives play

a prominent role in modern Kerala politics. Miller has produced the first significant study of

this important Indo Muslim community since William Logan, the Collector of the old

Malabar District. He introduces the culture by giving detailed account of the spread of Islam

in the area and the context of various religious practices followed in Kerala. The Mappila

Islamic community, probably the oldest on the South Asia Subcontinent formed gradually as

Arab traders from the Persian Gulf and red sea intermarried and converted members of the

Malayali Hindu community. In 1498 when Vasco da gama arrived, the mappilas wre

estimated to make up 20% of the total of Keralas populaiton which is more than the present

statistics. These MUSLIMS were part of Arab Islamic world rather than of the Persianinzed

cultural miliieu of the Mughal Empire and the Deccan Sultanates. Follows Shaki school not

the hanafi as central and north india.They share more with the Muslim communities of

Gujarat or those of Indonesia and the Philippines. In 19th and 20th century thought of as a

peasant population. Arabi -Malayalam -local Malayalam dialect written in the Arabic script.

He also is principally interested in the religious practices and Islamic culture of the Mappilas

and his discussion of these subjects forms the best sections of the book. He has also

appreciated the importance of Sufi saints as subjects of Mappila popular worship and to

describe the seasonal devotional festivals known as nerccas which honour these saints and

Muslim martyrs. In the book Muslim Architecture of South India by Mehrdad Shekoohy goes

in detail about the traditions of maritime settlers on the Coromandel and Malabar coast. He

gives a detailed account of the roles of the main ports along these coast, their history and the

rich muslim architecture seen in south India which is very unique and distinct compared to

that of the Islamic architecture seen in the rest of the country. Detail drawings are

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supplemented by architectural descriptions and comparison with structures in the South east

Asia as a part of special studies. However the author restricts his documentation only on the

religious structures of these town such as mosques, tombs and details on the urban form is

very limited. Swahili Origins: Swahili Culture and The Shunguwaya Phenomenon by James

De Vere Allen is a major study of the origin of the Swahili peoples and their cultural identity.

Kiswahili" has become the lingua franca of eastern Africa. Yet there can be few historic

 

peoples whose identity is as elusive as that of the Swahili. Some have described themselves

as Arabs, as Persians or even, in one place, as Portuguese. It is doubtful whether, even today,

most of the people about whom this book is written would unhesitatingly and in all contexts

accept the name Swahili. This book was central to the thought and lifework of the late James

de Vere Allen. It is his major study of the origin of the Swahili and of their cultural identity.

He focuses on how the African element in their cultural patrimony was first modified by

 

Islam and later changed until many Swahili themselves lost sight of it. They share a language

and they share a culture. Their territory stretches from the coast of southern Somalia to the

Lamu archipelago in Kenya, to the Rovuma River in modern Mozambique and out into the

islands of the Indian Ocean. But they lack a shared historical experience. James de Vere

 

Allen, in this study of contentious originality, set out to give modern Swahili evidence of their

shared history during a period of eight centuries. The book however lacks information on the

Swahili architecture and the evolution of the built form due to close association with the

 

Arabs and change in lifestyles.

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3.

THE NATURE OF ARAB TRADE

3.1

GEOGRAPHY

Surrounded by the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea on three sides, the

land of the Arabs has arid conditions and is isolated which triggered its people to follow

nomadic life with trade as their only means of livelihood. Apart from

the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, navigable rivers in the this regions were uncommon, so

transport by sea was very important. 1

3.2

HISTORY

Arabs were engaged in both land and sea journeys and they had trade links with

neighbouring states such as Iraq Iran Syria Egypt. Due to strategic location of Oman,

Baharain, Yemen, trade became a common occupation.

 

Arab ships sailed from India to Yemen ports where they unload their merchandizes.

From here these goods are transported though overland caravan routes all the way along the

Red sea coast to Syria and Egypt and then shipped to Europe via the Mediterranean sea.

 

In ancient history, The Indian Ocean was known to the Egyptian, Greeks and Roman

and this lead to the first maritime expedition in 1478 B.C of Queen Hatchepsut of Egypt to

explore the East Coast of Africa. The various paintings and scenes on the walls of her temple

depict Egyptian ships being loaded with myrrh-resin, ebony, ivory, gold, incense woods,

apes, dogs, panther skins from Somalia with the exotic Indian Ocean feature in nets under

water.

 

Pre-islamic Arabs had a good knowledge of the stars, the moon and winds, which they

utilized for agriculture and for travel by land and sea. Such knowledge is found scattered in

Preislamic Arabic poetry and in many books of 9 th and 10 th century. Islamic greography and

1 Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean before European Dominance in South and Southeast Asia: A Historical Study, Dr Arshad Islam

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navigational sciences were highly developed, making use of a magnetic compass and other

rudimentary instruments to measure altitudes and latitude of stars. Islam spread quickly from

Arabis into the surrounding countries in the 7 th century. Arab scholars were more pragmatic

than their Greek predecessors; they relied in their descriptions of seas and oceans on direct

observation and experience. The oldest text available on Arab sea voyage describes about the

maritime routes from Siraf to Canton which the ships used to cover in “cycles during a period

of 4 months which can be summarized as: Siraf to Mascat, then to Kalam( Malabar Coast)

and to the ports of Ceylon, then across the Bay of Bengal to Isle of Lingbalus(Nicobar) from

there to Kalabar( Malacca) and from there Mainland China to the Port of Kanfu(Canton. Post

the Portuguese expeditions in the Indian Ocean, the doors opened to great enterprise by the

Turks, British and Dutch. 2

The wide trade network established by the Arab empire across Europe , Asia and

Africa helped establish itself as the most powerful economic giants through 7 th -13 th centuries,

known in history as the Arab Age of Discovery.

2 History of Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean, Anwar A. Aleem, Oceanography Department, University of Alexandria, Egypt.

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Figure 1: Trade routes in Indian ocean ( 12th- 16th century 3.3 ROLE OF MONSOON

Figure 1: Trade routes in Indian ocean ( 12th- 16th century

3.3 ROLE OF MONSOON

Monsoon is a rainy season which lasts for 6 months with lasting climatic effects. It

refers to both the dry and wet monsoon experienced in the South East Asian continent.

Greek and Roman mariners were able to reach the Indian coast to carry out extensive

maritime trade with the help of monsoon winds. It is clear that the seafarers were not able to

see the flow of the winds and currents but felt that there are forces that can drive the ships

faster than in normal conditions. Once the directional pattern of the Monsoon winds was

knows to Mariners they could effectively reduce the turn over time of their voyages to and fro

to their destinations. Once the monsoon winds where studies by Hippalus he concluded that a

voyage from Arab port to West coast port in India could be completed in 40 days. Similarly

voyages from the Indian coast to the Mesopotemia if started in the post monsoon periods

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could be completed in shorter periods using Retreating Monsoons. There have been evidences

of increases trading activities in this period with several ports being developed along the West

coast of India during this period.

 

SHIPS USED FOR MARITIME TRADE

during this period.   SHIPS USED FOR MARITIME TRADE Figure 2: Dhows used by the Arabs
during this period.   SHIPS USED FOR MARITIME TRADE Figure 2: Dhows used by the Arabs
during this period.   SHIPS USED FOR MARITIME TRADE Figure 2: Dhows used by the Arabs

Figure 2: Dhows used by the Arabs for trade

For many centuries, boats that sailed on the Indian Ocean were called dhows. While there

were many different types of dhows, almost all of them used a triangular or lateen sail

arrangement. This made them markedly different than the ships that evolved on the

Mediterranean. These ships had a characteristic square sail. The dhow was also markedly

different than the ships that sailed on the China Sea. Despite their historical attachment to

Arab traders, dhows are essentially an Indian boat, with much of the wood for their

construction coming from the forests of India. The dhow was known for two distinctive

features: it's triangular or lateen sail, and for it's stitched construction. Stitched boats were

made by sewing the hull boards together with fibres, cords or thongs.

3.4 ITEMS ARABS TRADED WITH INDIAN COAST AND AFRICAN COAST

The Spice Trade has involved the merchandising of spices, incense, drugs and even opium.

Spices were an important component of ancient commerce and attracted the attention of the

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Ptolemaic dynasty as well as that of the Roman Empire. The Spice Trade was transformed

when Black Pepper trading became an influential activity for European traders. One of the

main reasons is that spices preserve, and they also make the poorly preserved foods palatable,

masking the appetite-killing stench of decay. After bad harvests and in cold winters the only

thing that kept starvation at bay was heavily salted meatwith pepper. And there was never

enough of it. Thus pepper was as prized as with gold. Pepper, along with other spices such as

cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, was such an important commodity five centuries ago that it

drove nations to sail across vast oceans searching for new routes to the spice-rich Orient.

Spices didn't just make merchants rich across the globe it established vast empires,

 

revealed entire continents to Europeans and tipped the balance of world power.

The thriving maritime routes of Southern Asia were not under the control of a single power,

and through various systems Eastern spices were brought to the major spice trading port of

Calicut in India.

Arabs traded for Gold , Ivory (the ivory of the African elephant more in demand than the

harder ivory of the Indian elephant), animal skins with the African Coast and

 

Spices,Silk,cottons and timber to build and repair their ships with the West Indian Coast in

exchange for Copper plates obtained from the Mediterranean countries and Arabian horses.

There was also slave traded from the East coast Africa as they as the cheapest form of labour

for the wealthy Arab merchants.

 

4.

THE GROWTH OF SWAHILI TRADING TOWNS

Historians say that Arab commerce with the East African coast could go back as far as the

2nd century BCE. East African trade with India came later, around the 7th century CE. As a

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consequence of the international trade that developed in this region, markets became focused

on urban centers along the coast with concentrations of wealth and power. Some of the most

prominent market towns that developed are Mogadishu, Shanga, Kilwa, and Mombasa. The

merging of African, Arab, and Indian peoples along the East African coast (from southern

Somalia to northern Mozambique) produced a unique language (Kiswahili) and culture

(Swahili), which still exist today. Swahili is spoken today throughout East and Central Africa,

but the majority of Swahili speakers reside in Kenya and Tanzania.

The major ports Arabs conducted trade with in the East African coast:

4.1 KILWA MOMBO, TANZANIA:

On the northern end of the island of Kilwa Kisiwani about 2 kilometers (~1.25 miles) off the

coast of Tanzania lies the site of Kilwa (spelled Quiloa in Portuguese), the most important of

about thirty-five Swahili Coast trading communities on the Indian Ocean during the 11th

through 16th centuries AD. he earliest substantial occupation at Kilwa Kisiwani dates to the

7th/8th centuries AD when the town was made up of rectangular wooden dwellings and

small iron smelting operations. Imported wares from the Mediterranean were identified

among the archaeological levels dated to this period, indicating that Kilwa was already tied

into international trade at this time. Kilwa became a large center as early as 1000 AD, when

the earliest stone structures were built, covering perhaps as much as 1 square kilometer . The

first substantial building at Kilwa was the Great Mosque, built in the 11th century from coral

quarried off the coast, and later greatly expanded. In its heyday, Kilwa was one of the

principal ports of trade on the Indian Ocean, trading gold, ivory, iron, and slaves from interior

Africa including Mwene Mutabe south of the Zambezi River; imported goods including cloth

and jewelry from India; and porcelain from China.

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4.2

ZANZIBAR PORT

Traders from Arabia (mostly Yemen), the Persian Gulf region of Iran (especially Shiraz),

and west India probably visited Zanzibar as early as the 1st century AD. They used

the monsoon winds to sail across the Indian Ocean and landed at the sheltered harbor located

on the site of present-day Zanzibar Town. Although the islands had few resources of interest

to the traders, they offered a good location from which to make contact and trade with the

towns of the East African coast. A phase of urban development associated with the

introduction of stone material to the construction industry of the East African coast began

from the 10th century AD.

Traders began to settle in small numbers on Zanzibar in the late 11th or 12th

century, intermarrying with the indigenous Africans. Zanzibar was famous worldwide for its

spices and its slaves. It was East Africa's main slave-trading port, and in the 19th century as

many as 50,000 slaves were passing through the slave markets of Zanzibar each year.

4.3

MOGDISHU PORT:

Mogadishu was known as the White pearl of the Indian Ocean.Located in the

coastal Banaadir region of Somalia on the Indian Ocean, the city has served as an important

port for centuries. maritime trade connected Somalis in the Mogadishu area with other

communities along the Indian Ocean coast as early as the 1st century CE, and the ancient

trading power of Sarapion has been postulated to be the predecessor of Mogadishu.

With Muslim traders from the Arabian Peninsula arriving c. 900 CE, Mogadishu was well-

suited to become a regional centre for commerce. The name "Mogadishu" is held to be

derived from the Arabic Maq'ad Shah ("The seat of the Shah"), a reflection of the city's

early Persian influence

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For many years, Mogadishu stood as the pre-eminent city in the Bilad al Barbar ("Land of

the Berbers"), which was the medieval Arabic term for the Horn of Africa. By the time of

the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta's appearance on the Somali coast in 1331, the city was at

the zenith of its prosperity. Battuta described Mogadishu as "an exceedingly large city" with

many rich merchants, which was famous for its high quality fabric that it exported to Egypt,

among other places.

 

4.4 KENYA

Malindi Port:

Malindi has been a Swahili settlement since the 14th century. Once rivaled only

by Mombasa for dominance in this part of East Africa, Malindi has traditionally been

a port city for foreign powers. Malindi is the second largest coastal town of Kenya and it is

situated about 120 km north of Mombasa just a little south of the equator

Lamu Port

Lamu Town on Lamu Island is Kenya's oldest continually inhabited town, and was one of

the original Swahili settlements along coastal East Africa. It is believed to have been

established in 1370.

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Figure 3:East African Coast 5. GROWTH OF PORTS IN INDIAN PENINSULA Asian merchants operated in

Figure 3:East African Coast

5.

GROWTH OF PORTS IN INDIAN PENINSULA

Asian merchants operated in mutually interactive community networks with ethnic, religious,

family or linguistic ties and an opportunistic concentration on profit. In this respect their

trading habits were not very different from those of Venetians or of Jewish traders in the Arab

world of the Mediterranean. In Western Asia and the Middle East merchants were generally

Arabs and Muslims, but further east they included “Gujarati vaniyas, Tamil and Telugu

Chettis, Syrian Christians from Southwestern India, Chinese from Fukien and neighbouring

provinces”. If they paid for protection and market access, they found that they were free to

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trade. If the protection became too expensive they usually had some leeway for moving

elsewhere.

The Portuguese trading network was different in two respects. It consisted of a string of

strongly fortified bases linked by a fleet of armed ships, so market forces were modified by

coercion. Unlike the Asian trading communities or in the European trading companies which

penetrated Asia at a later date, Portugal was involved in religious evangelism.

The headquarters of the Portuguese trading empire was established in 1510 at the captured

Arab port of Goa, an island harbour halfway up the west Indian coast which was a Portuguese

colony for nearly 460 years. It was the residence of the Portuguese Viceroy, and from 1542 it

was the headquarters of the Jesuit order for all its operations in Asia. A base was established

at Jaffna in Sri Lanka for trade in cinnamon. Most Portuguese shipments of pepper and ginger

originated from the Malabar coast of India.

Through studies we can find that it is most likely that the Arabs had been sailing to Malabar

for centuries to obtain timber for building their own ships. This led to the peacefull settlement

of many Arabs on the seashores of Malabar and Srilanka since first century CE.

Some of the important ports on the Malabar Coast:

5.1

GOA :

Goa was a long established port and had a large community of Muslim merchants, many of

whom were Arab and Persian settlers.

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AND ITS IMPACT ON INDIAN AND EAST AFRICAN COASTLINES MAY2014 Figure 4:A view from Johann Christoph

Figure 4:A view from Johann Christoph Wagner, 'Delineatio provinciarum Pannoniae et Imperii Turcici in oriente," Augsburg, 1687

It was

place of great trade and kept at sea a fleet of swift vessels with which they used to

make the ships which passed by come into their port to pay them their tax. From accounts of

travellers we know about the independence of the Muslim settlers from the local rulers as was

commonly the case with the Muslim settlements of Malabar. After the region was taken over

from Hindu kings by Bahmani sultans in 14 th century, the Hindu town was gradually

abandoned, and it was the newly developed Muslim town which was taken over by the

Portuguese.

5.2 CALICUT:

Calicut developed as a major port in the 12 th and 13 th centuries and was unknown to the 10 th

century Muslim traders which by 14 th century was completely controlled by them. Calicut

never had a safe harbour, and ships did not dock near the coast, but anchored well away from

the shore in the open sea. Loading and unloading was carried out by small boats.

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Figure 5: A 16th century engraving of Calicut, Biblioteca Nacional,Lisbon

 

5.3

CRANGNORE:

A small town north of Kochin was once one of the

 

important ports of Malabar and the seat of an

Figure 7: Crangnore Port

Figure 7: Crangnore Port

independent

coastal

kingdom.

William

Logan

identifies the town as the ancient port of Muzris

noted in the Periplus where Greek ships from

Egypt used to go as early as the 1 st cent. It is also

 

the place where India’s first mosque was built.

Figure 6: Quilon Port

Figure 6: Quilon Port

 

5.4

QUILON:

Kollam sea port was founded by Mar Abo with

sanction

from

Udayamarthandavarma

the

Tamil

king from Venad otherwise called Ay kingdom in

825

AD. It was a flourishing port of the Chera

 

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Dynasty until the formation of the Venad kingdom. An ancient trading town trading with

 

Romans, Chinese, Arabs and other Orientals with historical citations of trade dating back

to Biblical history to Red Sea ports of the Arabian Sea and the reign of Solomon, Kollam

was considered one of the four early entrepots in the global sea trade around the 13th

century,

along

with Alexandria and Cairo in

Egypt,

the

Chinese

city

of

and Malacca in the Malaysian archipelago.

 
 

5.5 COCHIN:

 

Emerged as a major port only in

the 15 th

Emerged as a major port only in the 15 t h

century prior to which is was known only for

its

Jewish

settlement.

Ever

today

the

rich

Muslim

heritage

of

Cochin

remains

unexplored,

a

reason

being

the

Muslim

community

while

highly

influential

in

the

Figure 8: Portuguese map of district of Santa Cruz (Fort Kochi), showing location of Fort Manuel of Cochin. Orientation is eastwards, with Vembanad lake on top, and Arabian Sea at bottom

commerce of the region kept low profile with

regard to political affairs from the time of the

 

appearance of the Portuguese.

 
 

6.

SPREAD OF ISLAM AND EVALUATING ITS INFLUENCE ON THE COAST

 

6.1 ISLAM RELIGION

 

Introduction of Islam in many martime cities across Asia, Africa and Europe has had an

 

irreversible and overwhelming impact on the social and urban development. New

 

communities have emerged as a result of the mixing of two cultures. 3

 

3 Introduction to the Islamic City, Rabah Saoud, 2002,Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisattion, UK

 

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Design principles primarily around housing and access. Their development

paralleled that of Islamic law. A number of factors play important role in shaping the plan and

form of Muslim settlement. In addition to the influence of the topography and morphological

features of pre-existing town, every muslim settlement reflects the general socio-cultural and

economic structures of the newly created society which includes the following:

Natural laws

Religious and cultural belief

Design principles stemmed from Sharia law

Social principles

6.2 Morphological components of the Muslim settlement 4

There are debates over the genesis and existence of an Islamic city as its argued that Arab

Muslims did not settle in new towns. Some historians share the view that towns in the Islamic

period have developed as an extension of the pre-existing ones and some of their

morphological features where inherited and some evolved through time. Scholars such as

Hakim , Eikelman see the Muslim settlement as an entity with distinctive form and

characteristics which led to the identification of key elements and features that bring all these

settlements under one umbrella. General consensus among scholars on a typical Islamic town

will have most if not all of the following features:

The main mosque

Souqs or Bazaars

Citadel

Residential quarters

4 Arabic Islamic Cities:Building and Planning Principles, B.S Hakim, 1979

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7. SWAHILI CULTURE AND MAPPILA CULTURE

The Swahili culture and language originated around 3 rd century CE as a consequence of the

the interaction with Persian and Arabic merchants and explorers. These merchants created

trading settlements on the Swahili Coast and nearby Islands mixing with the local Bantu

people. During the period from 10 th to 15 th known as the Shirazi Era, the Swahili culture got

further enriched with the interaction between Arabic, Persian and Bantu traditions.

Aspects of Swahili culture are diverse due to its influences from Indian and European cultures

as well. Historic Swahili culture was intensely urban and dominated by a strict class culture,

with the elite group called Waungwana identifying themselves as Arab- African, and

determined to distinguish themselves from the purely Bantu population.

7.1 CASESTUDY- EXAMINING THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE SWAHILI TOWN OF LAMU

Lamu Port and the settlement is the oldest and the best preserved living settlement among the

Swahili towns on the East African coast, and therefore justifies the selection for detailed

analysis of the settlement and built form.

justifies the selection for detailed analysis of the settlement and built form. Figure 9: Lamu Port

Figure 9: Lamu Port

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The building and their applied architecture carries a long history that represents

the

development of Swahili architecture and building technology. The old town is thud a unique

and rare living heritage with more than 700 years of continuous settlement which is the same

case as in the Mappila settlement of Kuttichira.

 

Residences 5

Material used- Coral stones, lime and sand which makes it more durable and

sustainable .

Courtyards in a Lamu Residence in placed in front of the building near the entrance.

 

The external facades are made simple with no balconies, simple window and a unique

feauture called Wikio ( flyover between residences for women). These features

enhances the introvert nature of the building clearly conforming to the laws of privacy

emphasised in the Quran.

The aesthetic richness is given more emphasis internally rather than externally.

 

5 WHC Nomination Documentation of Lamu Old Port, 2001

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Figure 10: Swahili Residence in Lamu Settlement 6 -  The narrow winding streets/ alleys
Figure 10: Swahili Residence in Lamu
Settlement 6 -
 The narrow winding streets/ alleys are the main feautures of the streetscape of
Lamu.
 Walls of the buildings and open galleries are designed such a way that they trap
and channel the cool sea breeze.
6 WHC Nomination Documentation of Lamu Old Port, 2001

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Buildings are Rectangular in shape, oriented north/south and are one or two

storeys.

Street settings are in North South, East- West directions and acts as tunnels and

communication areas as well as meeting place.

as tunnels and communication areas as well as meeting place. Figure 11: Lamu Settlement  The

Figure 11: Lamu Settlement

The town square which functioned as a landing space of the port historically is

now a major meeting space.

These narrow streets have hindered motorised traffic to reach the town.

Street networks

Exterior(cemeteries, fields , weekly markets)

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7.2 CASESTUDY- EXAMINING THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE MAPPILA SETTLEMENT OF KUTTICHIRA

THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE MAPPILA SETTLEMENT OF KUTTICHIRA Figure 12: Kuttichira or Thekkepuram with its subdivisions

Figure 12: Kuttichira or Thekkepuram with its subdivisions

Settlement-

The central pond acts as the focal point and the main public zone of the settlement

from which the settlement derives its name too.

The main streets around the pond ivides into narrow roads which lead to the

residential units ( private zone).

The street network has been designed to incorporate the division of public domain

with private domain.

Roads are aligned in North-South East West directions.

The settlement is bounded by sea on the west, Bigbazaar on the north and timber

yard on the south which are the main sources of livelihood and employment of the

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resident Mapplias called Koyas. The eastern boundary was the low lying marshy

land now occupied by the Calicut Railway station.

Residences

He residences of the regions are large joint family houses called Tharavadus where

family follows the matrilineal system.

The planning of the spaces separate the private and public domain.

The planning concepts used in these residences is a mixture of Arabic houses and

local Nair houses.

The exterior is very simple when compared to the interior which is heavily

ornamented with intricate timberworks by traditional craftsmen.

Local materials such as Laterite blocks, timber and thatch has been used for

construction.

The residences growth and extension pattern is organic in nature.

growth and extension pattern is organic in nature. Figure 13: Muthiraparambu Tharavadu, Source : Author 28

Figure 13: Muthiraparambu Tharavadu, Source : Author

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Figure 14: Barahmi Veedu: Source: Author Figure 15: Drawings of Srangiyalakam Tharavadu with the family
Figure 14: Barahmi Veedu: Source: Author
Figure 15: Drawings of Srangiyalakam Tharavadu with the family tree of the residents ,Source: Author

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7.3 INFLUENCE IN EAST AFRICA

SOCIO CULTURAL

o

Religion- Arabic remains key language used for worship. When Arabs reached

Fast African Coast they interacted with the local Batu tribe. The cultural

contact led to huge impact on the Swahili spiritual and material culture. Most

of the Swahili people converted to Islam. Their laws of marriage were

influenced by the Sharia law.

o Commerce and livelihood- Association with Arabs and interlinks with the

community has led to the birth of a wealthy sect of Muslim traders in these

coast associated with maritime business and transportation of goods from

hinderland to the coast. They are renowned as sailors, traders and artisans.

o

Language and Life style- Kiswahili is the new language that emerged out of

this union.

o

ARCHITECTURE-

o Urban Planning- In urban settings houses have always been built in tightly

packed huddles accessed by narrow alleyways, keeping the heat and glare at

bay.

oBuilt form-

The traditional urban Swahili House is characterised by its veranda in the front, t

hree rooms on each side of a central corridor from which all rooms are

accessed, and the backyard. The house type is in general spatially defined

using these crucial qualities. The Swahili house is

considered flexible because the ground plan can be changed within the limits of

the basic structure. The addition of new rooms,

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changed positions of doors or windows has led to various forms diverging from
the original house design. The advantages of the Swahili house
com‐pared to other house types are that it allows for flexibility in furnishing and
functional use. Rooms can also be added at the main house or in the backyard.
In original appearance the walls of the Swahili house are made of mud
and poles and covered by a hipped roof. Small windows characterises
the facades of these houses which are occasionally plastered. Founda‐
tions are often of coral plinths but can by advantage be replaced by a
strong and durable soil foundation obtained with 10% cement.
The climate and the virtue of modesty extolled by the Quran determine the logic
behind traditional Swahili Architecture. Windows did exist but were kept
minimum width to limit glare and for privacy concerns.
oElements- A fascinating feature of Omani architecture seen in these buildings
is the ornately carved doors which serves the symbol of the wealth of a
household.
Figure 16: Wooden doors with heavy decorative carvings
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7.4 INFLUENCE IN MALABAR

SOCIO CULTURAL

o

Religion- The Mappila community follow the Shari school of Islam like the

Arabs. But unlike the patrilineal system followed in the Arab world, their

kinship remains matrilineal till date, which is borrowed from the regional

Hindu castes of Nairs. Marriages are conducted within the area to avoid

mixing with muslims with Persian beliefs.

o

Commerce and livelihood- Mappilas are essentially a trading community,

who dominated the timber and spice trade, bringing these items from the

interiors to their godowns near the port and selling them to the Arabs and other

foreign merchants. Some sect of Mappils known as Marakkars served as naval

army of the Zamorins. In modern era, timber trade has suffered a lot due to

recent regulations on felling of trees forcing these traders to look for other

means of income. A large majority of Mappilas have migrated to Gulf

countries in search for better prospects.

o

Language and Life style- Arabi Malayalam was a new language that

emerged from the association which is Malayalam, the local language, written in

Arabic script. Today this form of language is now overshadowed by Malayalam

and exists only in few texts and literary works and is not commonly used by the

locals. Although the Mappilas follow a different dialect of Malayalam that

includes many words borrowed from Arabic.

ARCHITECTURE-

oUrban Planning- The spaces in Mappila settlements follow the principles of

segregation of spaces, private from the public, male domain from female

domain. The street layout was such that the main branch from the public zone

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sub-divides to narrower streets towards the private zones which is abutted by

huge residences on either side.

oBuilt form- The built form is hugely influenced by the climate and regional

architecture as it was built by local craftsmen and artisans.

oElements- The carved main door is an important features of these residences.

The carvings were usually Quranic verses with decorative features that is

commonly seen in the temples of the region. Even the columns are adaptation of

the local form. In very few residences in the past , the lattices window or

Mashrubiya whis is found in many Arab houses was adapted in residences here.

This feature is not seen anymore and has been removed from these residences.

The residences built during the 18 th and 18 th centuries show the usage of stained

glass for windows which can either be Arab or colonial influence.

 

8.

CONCLUSION

Arabs who once dominated the Indian Ocean trade were the most instrumental in spreading the faith

of

Islam to other trading countries. Along with this they also left their imprint on cultural setting of

these respective countries. As discussed in the contents of the paper the influences that Arabs had on

the locals vary in degree from one place to another. In Africa this association led to the emergence of

a

new community ,culture and a new language “Swahili”. There are strong cultural similarities

acknowledged by the diverse peoples. They are matriarchal and family or clan oriented. They

observe the normal Islamic celebrations, but the various groups also have dances and festivals from

their Bantu cultural roots.

They are traditional Sunni Muslims, mostly Shafiite on the East Africa

coast.

 

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In Malabar coast the association gave rise to a new community named as Mappilas , which means “

Son in law”. Like the Swahili people they follow the Shafi school of Islam and matrilineal kinship.

Their art forms and cuisine are very much influenced by the Arab connection. The dialect of

 

Malayalam spoken by them has many words borrowed from Arabic.

When it comes to the built form in both cases we can find adaptation from local architecture with

Arabic influences in subtle forms in terms of architectural elements and spaces to support the

 

functioning of a Muslim family. However we can find that the level of immersion of the Arab

influence is different in these two coasts. While in Africa we can see the Swahili culture spread all

along the coast and the language spreading widely, becoming one of the key identity of Africa today,

in Malabar coast we can now see that the influences that the Arabs had were more subtle in nature

with the local traditions, culture and language having a profound influence in the lives of Malabaris,

gradually overshadowing the former. The religion of Islam is still followed in the same form as it was

brought in by the Arabs but cultural penetration is less on Malabar coast as compared to the coast of

East Africa.

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9.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean before the coming of Portuguese- G R Tibbets,

1911, Oriental translation Fund, Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britian and Ireland

History of Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean-Anwar A. Aleem- Oceanography

Departent, University of Alexandria, Egypt.

Mappila Muslims of Kerala- a study of Islamic trends, 1976- Roland Miller, Orient

Logman

Swahili Origins: Swahili Culture and The Shunguwaya Phenomenon by James De

Vere Allen

Islam and the development of Kiswahili, Mwenda Mukuthuria, PhD Egerton

University, Kenya

Transport and Communication in India Prior to Steam Locomotion- Jean Deloche

Muslim Architecture of South India, Mehrdad Shekoohy,2006, Routledge,

WHC Nomination Documentation: Lamu Old Town, 2001

Arab- Islamic Cities: Building and Planning Principles, B.S.Hakim 1979

History of Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean, Anwar A. Aleem, Oceanography

Department, University of Alexandria, Egypt

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