Vellala Pillais trace their lineage back to Kumbhakonam in Tamil Nadu.

Vellala Pillais trace their lineage back to Kumbhakonam in Tamil Nadu. It is believed that they migrated to Kochi from Kozhikode. It was a feud between the Zamorin, the ruler of erstwhile princely state of Kozhikode, and Muthaliyar that led to their migration to Kochi. The community members believe that the present day Pillais are the descendants of those who migrated to Kochi with Muthaliyar. 

Historically they were farmers and landowners. But in Kochi, and also in Travancore, they were mostly confined to clerical jobs. The special relationship that they shared with the king landed the Pillais in influential posts. They were also renowned as skilled traders and the proof for their expertise still remain.

Printing is one area where they were the pioneers and Janaki printing press, established in 1928 is a proud bearer of this legacy. Even though their ancestors are from Tamil Nadu, the community has become culturally indigenized. Tamil is no more their mother tongue. They have adopted the culinary habits of the place and the Tamil roots are slowly but steadily fading off into the oblivion.

PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION BY BIJU IBRAHIM: COMMUNITIES OF KOCHI

Places have souls and Mattancherry in the city of Kochi has a mystic one. Biju Ibrahim discovered this while documenting the lives of Kochi’s 38 communities through black and white pictures. Distinct in layers of identities – caste, faith, language, ethnicity and region – these communities have been welcomed over centuries and have, in turn, infused Mattancherry and Kochi with a rare and rich heritage. Historically, it has been home to Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus. The sea and port attracted sailors, traders from Arabia and Gujarat, preachers of Semitic faiths, colonisers such as the Dutch and Portuguese, political refugees and migrant labourers. A cross-section of India lives here in a radius of 5 kilometers. 

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AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER

BIJU IBRAHIM

He captures the essence of rustic geographies, the people who are now becoming archive of the earth, the mythic & mystery of spaces & places, alleys of now filled with the density of then or before.

ART ORGANISATION

URU ART HARBOUR

URU art harbour is a cultural hub situated at Kochi. URU seeks to be a space for collaboration and a continual hub for artistic, cultural, and intellectual exploration. Founded by Riyas Komu and Zoya Riyas.

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