A tradition of over 150 years in Killai, a coastal village in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, delivers lessons in communal amity when parts of the country have betrayed vulnerability to intolerance.
The age-old harmony will be seen again on February 18 when Muslims of the village receive Hindu deity Bhoo Varahaswamy (the boar avatar of Vishnu) from his temple at Srimushnam, 60 km away. Every year, Bhoo Varahaswamy is taken out in a procession for the Brahmotsatava festival between February and March. The procession receives a grand welcome in Killai where it halts at a dargah built for Sufi saint Hazrath Syed Sha Rahmathullah Vali Shuttary. The Imam offers prayers, a garland and oblation of 11 kg of rice, five coconuts and Rs 501 to the deity. Later, a silk shawl on the deity is offered at the dargah and a chaddar is offered for the deity in return.
The practice is linked to varying versions of land gifted to the temple by either the Sufi saint or one of his descendants.
Syed Sha Vajehunnaqi Saqaf, trustee of the dargah, said: "This area was not affected even during communal tension after the demolition of Babri Masjid and the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat."
Tracing the origins of this practice, Saqaf said that one of his predecessors had
given 26 acres of land to the then tehsildar, Uppu Venkatrao, on a long lease and at low rent to help him demarcate the Dargah lands and draw up the boundaries.