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Shamsuddin Circle Bhatkal.jpg
Shamsuddin Circle
Motto: "serve the lord, serve the mankind"

The Nawayaths (also spelled as Navayath or Nawayat) are a Muslim community concentrated mostly in Uttara Kannada in coastal Karnataka. The Nawayaths are mostly Arabs and many are also of Portuguese descent. Every Nawaythi family has a surname and mostly it is an Arabic name, some of which still resembles the surnames of Arabia, specially from the Saudian region: for example Al Amudi in Saudi Arabia and damudi in bhatkal, faqi in Saudi and faqi in bhatkal, similarly sada in bhatkal and Al Sada in Qatar sada.The great historian of Bhatkal and author of book Arab-o-dea-re hind Moulana Khaja Bhavadeen had discussed about surnames of bhatkallys in details and have tried to traced their roots with Arabs for example as per the author, Sidqua family of Bhatkal are descendants of the first Muslim CaliphAbubakr. The majority of Nawayths are found in Bhatkal. Among this Nawayaths there is a large Nawayath Diaspora community of economic migrants working across the globe specially in Gulf countries like Oman,UAE, KSA, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar few are even located in USA, UK, and other European countries. In India these nawayath traders and economic migrants are mostly located in Mumbai, Chennai, kolkata, Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore,Coorg,calicut,kannurand few other parts of Kerala. The nawayaths consider their home town as Bhatkal . There are smaller distributed pockets of Nawayaths with nawaythi as mother tongue located in Bhatkal, Murdeshwara, Kumta, Manki, Upponi, Honnavar, Sirsi, Byndoor, Gangolli, Shiroor, Hoode, Malpe and Basrur in Karnataka apart from this, non nawaythi speaking nawayaths are located in Arcot district in Tamil Nadu. Meenambur, a small village close to Gingee south of Madras in Tamil Nadu, is the largest of these. Nawayaths also found in Dewas District of Madhya Pradesh also in Indore, Ujjain, Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh. Many nawayath speak nawayathi as their language had trade and businesses in Pakistan before independence, few still remain in Pakistan and have predominantly settled in Karachi, Sindh in Pakistan, Even this Nawayath community speaks Nawayathi as mother tongue. Even though Victor D’ Souza in his book "Nawayaths of Kanara" (1955). Anticipating Khalidi, D'Souza relates Nawayaths to Iranians based on the influence of the Persian language on the language spoken by the Nawayaths and Persian elements in Nawayaths culture which may be partly true, as the major part of nawayaths culture is influenced by Arabic culture. The cuisines like khazurne, petaude and depositing this sweets before month of Ramdhan can still be found in Arabs. Moreover it is an ethnic society, having its own unique traditions and distinct cultural identity. Majority of Nawayaths are involved in large & Medium businesses. The Nawayath community holds an important place among the other coastal Muslim communities, like Bearys of South Kanara district, Mappilas (Moplahs) of the Malabar Coast and Labbay of the Coromandel coastKilakarai. The Nawayaths belong to the Sunni Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence, unlike most Indian Muslims who generally adhere to the Sunni Hanafi school.

History of origin[edit]

Nawayats are migrants predominantly from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and few are from Persia who married into another trading community of India, the Jains who had been converted to Islam more than 1,000 years ago.[1][2] With this a new caste system emerged.[3]

Jaffer Shariff (Qanoon-e-Islam (1832)), Colonel Wilkes (History of Mysore, vol 1), and the Imperial Gazetteer of India derive Nawayath from the Persian نوآید 'Nawāyad' ("newcomer"). The contemporary Indian historian Omar Khalidi summarizes the modern view, writing that "[t]he various Muslim communities that sprang up on the Konkan coast of India in the seventh century share three common characteristics: the first is a common origin in the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf region, second is a common adherence to the Shafi'i madhab, or school of Islamic law and finally the common descent from Arab mariners and merchants. Among these communities at least three groups came to be called Nawayaths. The name appears in a variety of forms in Arabic, Urdu and English, including Nait, Naiti spelled with the letters ta or te. There is controversy among the Nawayath scholars and academic researchers regarding this term. Based on a detailed and sophisticated philological analysis D.V. Chauhan has concluded in his important study that 'the term Navait in the Arabo-Iranian historical sources and also in Indian languages is in fact the Prioritization of the Arabo-Iranian term "navakidh", meaning ship-owners.' [From a possible combination of "naav" (boat) and "khuda" (lord) from Old Persian, and ancestor of Farsi; "nakhuda" is even today applied to boat captains in Kuwait]. Regardless of the origin and meaning of the term Nawayath, it is clear that there are three groups of Muslims who are descended from the Arab immigrants and their progeny and dispersed to various parts of western and southern India. The first groups of Nawayaths are those who live predominantly in the town of Bhatkal, in North Kanara district in the southern state of Karnataka. The second group of Nawayaths are those who live, among other places, in Kilakarai and latter in Chennai (Madras) and Hyderabad. The Chennai and Hyderabad Nawayaths are closely linked with ties of kinship and intermarriage. The third groups of historical Nawayaths were initially called Nawayath but are now known as Konkani Muslims inhabiting the region of Konkan . "[4]

Note that Khalidi's view does not turn on notions of an exodus of Nawayaths from the Persian Gulf to India, but (anthropologically) locates the Nawayaths within a tradition of coastal sea-faring communities. Older (i.e. colonial-era) narratives describe a more dramatic origin. For instance, Colonel Wilkes states that the Nawayaths belong to the House of Hashem, and that they were among the "respectable and opulent persons" who fled Iraq in the early part of the eighth century AD, fearing persecution during the fearful reign of Hajaj bin Yusuf, the Governor of Iraq under the Caliph Abd-Al-Malik Marwan. It is believed that they followed the route their fellow Arabs took for trade, anchoring on the west coast at several points. But "while there may be some among the Nawayaths whose ancestry can be traced to those who fled Iraq during Hajaj bin Yusuf’s time not all ancestors are of that type", writes Victor D’ Souza in his book "Nawayaths of Kanara"(1955). Even thgouh Khalidi, D'Souza relates Nawayaths to Iranians, this can't be completely true as most of nawayaths are Arabs not and not from Persia there is hardly any Persian element in nawayths culture as claimed by the duo . Another theory postulates that the Nawayath community traces its lineage to Yemen from a noble group called Na’at in Hadramawt, Yemen. They sailed through the Arabian Sea with the intention of trade with India. Both Hadramawt and Bhatkal are at 15 degrees of latitude. It is also claimed that integration of Arabs with the locals led to the Nawayath community. D’ Souza writes, "The Arab sailors and traders who came to India have generated Muslim communities in different parts of India. Among them at least three different communities are known by the generic name of ‘Nawayath’. It has been found that Nawayaths are scattered in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu (kilakarai), Hyderabad, Nellore, Arcot, Kolar, Hassan, Goa, Daman Diu and Ratnagiri.


See also: Goan Konkani

The Community speaks a dialect called ‘Nawayathi’. It is an amalgam of Portuguese, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, Marathi and Urdu with Konkani as its base. The Nawayath language uses Persian script for writing, it is interesting to note that "Persian script" was being used to write by the Nawayathi's long before the language Urdu came into existence.

Family names[edit]

Nawayathi family names are distinctly different from the native people of that area. The most reputed peoples of Nawayath belongs to Dabapu, Muallim, Naite (Nait), Aydarusa (Aydarus), Bhalli, Jubapu, Jukaku, Ruknuddin, Mohtesham, Kola, SM and Kazia.

Some of common Nawayathi family names are: Ajaib, Akrami, Ali Akbara, Allu, Armar, Askeri, Aydaroosa, Barmawar, Bette, Bhatti, Bota (Siddiqua), Syed Bafaqi, Chadkhan, Chamundi, Damda Abu, Damda Muhiddina, Damda Baddoor, Damudi (Damda), Delvi, Dhinda, Durga (Siddiqua), Ekkery, Esufji, Fakerde, Faqui Bhav (FB), Faqui Ahmada (Siddiqua), Gangawali, Gawai, Gortey (Goltey), Gudmanna (GM), Habibullah, Haji Faqui (HF), Hejib,Hussain, Jakti (Faqih Ahmada), Jidda, Jubapu, Jukaku (Siddiqa), Kadli, Kashimji, Kak Mohiddina (KM), Kasargod, Kazi, Khalifa, Khani, Khateeb, Kharuri, Khazi, Kobatte,kakde, Kochebapu, Kola, Koteshwar, Lowna, Mahmood Jaupa (MJ), Malpa Siddiqua, Manegar, Manna, Mani, Matta, Maved, Megoon, Misbah, Mohajir, Mohammada, Mohammed Siddiqua (MS), Mohtesham, Motiya, Muallim, Muniri, Mulla, Musba, Mukri Naite, Nilawar, Patel (Ali Akbara), Peshmam, Qazi, Qazia, Quazi, Quraishi, Ruknuddin, Kundanguda, Ruknuddin Shekrey (RS), Ruknuddin Shipai (RS), Sada, Sakerdey, Sawda, Sayeedi, Shahbandri, Shahbandri Patel (SP), Shingati, Shingeri, Showpa, Siddi Ahmada (SA), Siddiqua, Siddique, Siddibapa, Sukri, Syed Jamaluddina (SJ), Syed Kazmi (SK), Syed Mohiddina (SM), Tahira( Kharuri), Temmende (Qazia), Udyawar, Vazeera, Waag (Wagh).

Also most of the Nawayathi's from Minambur, Villupuram district, Tamil Nadu family names are Papa, Shakir, Kelair, Kokan, Amberkhani, Pulerei etc.


Nawayathi men are generally light skinned, usually with beard. They like to stay with their community people where ever they go. They are generally business minded people. They do marriages among their community and their attire consists of a shirt and lungi.

Women have generally adopted the local way of dressing; however they observe strict Burkah (Islamic Veil). Anklets and nose studs are not a common practice.


The traditional Islamic festivals of Eid ul-Fitr (Ramadan) and Eid ul-Adha (also known as Bakrid) are celebrated. Special Eid prayer is offered during these two occasions. Bhatkal City has a centralised Eidgah in Bunder Road where congregational special prayers or Salat al Eid is held. Usually in the central Eidgah the Qadhi leads the Eid prayer and delivers Khutba. Colourful costumes, delicious food, exchanging the Eid greetings – Eid Mubarak (Arabic/Persian/Urdu: عید مبارک) and generous charity to the poor and needy are part of Eid celebration. Other occasions celebrated are 12th Rabi' al-awwal of the third month of Islamic calendar commemorating Meelad-al-Nabi — prophet Muhammad's birthday. Moon citation is an event of rejoice for Nawayathi folk.


Main article: Arab cuisine
See also: Indian cuisine

The traditional food of the Nawayathi’s has always been rice, fish, and meat. The people of Bhatkal have adopted most of their foods from the surrounding regions including Tamil Nadu (Kilakarai,) Kerala (Calicut) and other parts of India.

Seafood has been the mainstay of the Nawayathi diet for centuries.

Meat and rice are other staple foods; Poultry is the more favored meats, then goat and lamb.

Popular beverage is tea, which can be supplemented with cardamom or mint to give them a distinct flavor.

Muslims are prohibited from eating pork, so it is not included in local menus.

Alcohol is prohibited in hotel and restaurants.

Dishes forming part of the Bhatkali cuisine:

  • Bhatkali Biryani
  • Mudkale (small balls of rice dough steamed and put into prepared curry)
  • Navari (Rice dough Steamed and stuffed with mixed preparations of coconut scrapings/onion/jaggery AND made into cakes covered with leaves) of different varieties
  • Godan aka Kheer (A sweet dish preparation of ingredients like jiggery, coconut juice and ghee) of different varieties. E.g.; Gavan Godan (wheat Kheer),

Mooga Godan (Green gram kheer), Macaroni Godan (Coconut milk and macaroni kheer), Amatya Godan (Hog Plums Kheer)

  • Puttu (Made of rice powder and grated coconut, steamed in a metal or bamboo holder)
  • Tawsuli (Rice Pudding)
  • Taryepoli (Rava Pudding)
  • Khubusapoli (Bread Pudding)
  • Chappipoli (Plain Pancake)
  • Vatalapam (Egg Pudding)
  • Kuluchiya (Snacks)
  • Madaku Kolkattai (rice cake with coconut)
  • Adharasam (vada like sweet)
  • Paniyam (sweet and snacks)
  • Shoupa Pana Poli (Dill Pudding)
  • Terlouz (Egg Dessert)
  • Bhanduli (Bhanuli)
  • Sawdano
  • Shinawniyo (Spicy Oysters)
  • Waatve
  • Shayya Biryani (Seviya Biryani)
  • Manni(ragi,teel and badam)

And varieties of Appos (Pancakes)

  • Goda Appo (Jaggery Pancake)
  • Malpura Appo
  • Shoupa Pana Appo (Dill Pancake)


  • D'Souza, V.S. The Nawayaths of Kanara- study in culture contacts. Page 12-20, KRI Monogs. No. 3. 2nd ed. Dharwar: Kannada Research Institute 1955.
  • Colonel Wilkes, History of Mysore, vol 1

External links[edit]