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Marakkar, or Marikkar (Tamil: Maraikka(ya)r) is a South Asian Muslim community found in parts of Indian states of Tamil Nadu (the Palk Strait) and Kerala, and in Sri Lanka. The Marakkars speak Tamil in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, and Malayalam in Kerala.[1]


The Marakkars were a powerful maritime spice trading community in the medieval South Asia.[1] They traded in and with locations such as Myanmar and Malaysia in East Asia and South Asia, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. With emergence of the Portuguese in India, some Marakkars were forced to take up arms and enlist themselves in service of the Hindu king (Samoothiri) of Calicut. The Marakkar naval chiefs of the Calicut were known as Kunjali Marakkars.[2] The seamen were famous for their naval guerrilla warfare and hand-to-hand fighting on board. The Marakkar vessels — small, lightly armed, and highly mobile — were a major threat to the Portuguese shipping all along the Indian west coast.

The Marakkars were an endogamous community, and followed the system of inheritance known as marumakkathayam.[3][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kunhali, V. "Muslim Communities in Kerala to 1798" PhD Dissertation Aligarh Muslim University (1986) [1]
  2. ^ Kunhali, V. "Muslim Communities in Kerala to 1798" PhD Dissertation Aligarh Muslim University (1986) [2]
  3. ^ More, J. B. Prashant. Political Evolution of Muslims in Tamil Nadu and Madras.
  4. ^ Bayly, Susan. Saints Goddesses and Kings. p. 80.

Further reading[edit]

  • Medieval Seafarers of India – Lakshmi Subramaniam
  • The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama – Sanjay Subrahmanyam
  • The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 1500–1700: A Political and Economic History – Sanjay Subrahmanyam
  • Portuguese Cochin and the Maritime Trade of India – Pius Malekandathil
  • India and the Indian Ocean World – Ashin Das Gupta
  • Kerala Muslim History – P. A. Syed Mohammed