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The Marakkar (or Maraicayar, Maraicar) refer to a distinctive Tamil and Malayalam-speaking Muslim people of the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in India and Sri Lanka.


According to S. V. Muhammed, the Marakkar family (Kunhali) originated from the Konkan and they were rice merchants. According to him Marakkar was the family name and Kunhali was the titular name given by the Zamorin.[1][full citation needed]

Marakkars and Marakkayars[edit]

J. B. Prashant More points out to spoken words, marriage customs etc. which strongly connect the Marakkayars of Tamil to the Malabar Marakkars. He says that the Malabar Marakkars had relations with the communities in the Kayalpatanam (Tuticorin) region, a group which conducted trade with Burma, Malacca and Indonesia. He also sees similarities in their family systems, with both communities practising marumakkathayam (a matrilinear system of inheritance) and settling in the bride’s house. More concludes that the Tamil Marakkayars came from Malabar.[2][full citation needed][3][full citation needed]

Susan Bayly says the Tamil Marakkayars have always looked down upon converted Muslims and had a higher social standing, being directly linked to Arabs. She states the Sunni Shafi Madhab connection to Arabia as proof of their identity. They (marakkars) maintained the sect by intermarriage between the Marakkayars of Malabar & Tamil Nadu strictly. She states that Labbais are Hanafi sect followers are follow rules like marrying father’s sister’s daughter (Murapennu- a popular south Indian ‘kalyana murai’). Nagore, Kulasekarapattinam, Kayalpattanam, Kilakkarai, Adirampattinam are the main centres with old mosques and remains of ancient Sahabi saint.[4][full citation needed]

Marakkars of Kottakal (Kerala)[edit]

In Kerala Marakkar also known as Marikkars are mostly concentrated in and around Malabar. They were traditionally boatmen.[citation needed]

According to tradition, Marakkars were originally marine merchants of Kochi who left for Ponnani in the Samoothiri Raja's dominion when the Portuguese came to Kochi. They offered their men, ships and wealth in the defence of their motherland to the Samoothiri of Kozhikode-The Raja took them into his service and eventually they became the Admirals of his fleet. They served as the naval chiefs in the Zamorin's army. Kunjali Marakkar, one of the first Keralites to rebel against the Portuguese, hailed from the Marikkar community.[5]


  1. ^ Mohammed, S. V. Charithrathile Marakkar Sannidhyam.
  2. ^ More, J. B. Prashant. Political Evolution of Muslims in Tamil Nadu and Madras.
  3. ^ More, J. B. Prashant. Muslim Identity, Print Culture, and the Dravidian Factor in Tamil Nadu.
  4. ^ Bayly, Susan. Saints Goddesses and Kings. p. 80.
  5. ^ "Kunhali Marikkars: myth and reality". The Hindu. 2005-03-01. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  • Medieval Seafarers of India - Lakshmi Subramaniam
  • India & the Indian Ocean world – Ashin Das Gupta
  • Kerala Muslim History – P. A. Syed Mohammed
  • Portuguese Cochin & the Maritime trade of India – Pius Malekandathil