In Kerala's Anachal, religious amity has no boundaries
Hindus were also given a plot of land in an adjacent location to build a temple.
IDUKKI: People of various faiths celebrating their festivities together has become a utopian concept in this day and age. But for the residents of Anachal, in Idukki, this is the reality: Christians and Muslims here celebrate Iftar and Christmas together with equal fervour.
For 40 years, St George Town church and Juma Masjid have shared a compound without a separating wall. The cheek-by-jowl existence of the two shrines, in the heart of town, may surprise visitors, but not us, says Vavachan M V, a parishioner and local newsagent.
“Before it was renovated and elevated in 2000, only a small chapel functioned in the area, as an adjunct to the main church in Thokkupara. Even then, the church used to play Christian, Muslim and Hindu devotional songs over loudspeakers every morning,” he told TNIE.
In the evening, churchgoers would sing hymns even as a muezzin (a man who calls the Muslim faithful to prayer) would recite the azan at the mosque. “Hymns from the church and the azan from the mosque can be heard in perfect symphony here. People of both religions respect each other and their places of worship.
Interestingly, when church vicar Fr Jose Pulparambil tried to build a separating wall between the places of worship a few years ago, parishioners opposed the move.
‘During festivals, we invite one another to join in celebrations’
When both communities expressed their wish to maintain the shrines on a single compound, the imam of the mosque also agreed. According to residents, the plot was revenue land allotted to people who had moved to Anachal in the 70s after they were evicted from Churuli, Keerithode and Chenkulam areas. Then district collector Babu Paul took the decision to enable the displaced to build their places of worship.
Hindus were also given a plot of land in an adjacent location to build a temple. “The mosque was built first and the church and the temple followed,” said Vavachan. Hailing the bond that the people in the area share, Sabhash, a resident said, “During religious festivals, we invite one another to join in the celebrations. If any of us face a problem, we help them regardless of faith.”