Santhanpara Juma Masjid in Kerala, a state on India's tropical Malabar Coast - © 2018 Sebastian Castelier
The Asia-Gulf relation includes a multidimensional cultural and religious component that pushes the migration experience far beyond employment opportunities, remittances and other socio-economic factors. In South Asia, modern migration perpetuates an Indo-Arab relationship that dates back to the very ancient times. In high migrant districts, known in India as Gulf pockets, local researchers study Arabic-Malayalam interactions and the occurrence of hybridisation of cultural identities.
Mosque architecture throughout India's Kerala used to be unique to the region, inspired by local houses made of tiled roofs. As millions of Keralites migrate to the Arabian Gulf, remittances sent home mean not only has the standard of living in the region increased, but so too has its local Islamic architecture. Billions of dollars in remittances sent back to Kerala every year significantly contribute to modernise the state’s architecture. But some villagers have taken this one step further, with demands for towns to convert their traditional mosques in to modern, spacious and comfortable ones, locally referred to as Gulf-like mosques, which they have become used to in their adopted homes. Villagers now want to build minarets, which the older mosques do not have. “The Gulf has become our reference point in terms of architecture. We call it the ‘Dubai elsewhere’ phenomenon,” says Dr M H Ilias, professor at the India-Arab Cultural Centre in New Delhi. Proponents for Kerala’s Islamic architectural heritage have responded by campaigning for the preservation of the old mosques. Read more...
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