This Kerala village wakes up to the centuries-old drum beat for Ramzan dinner

newsimageThe Attazham Muttukar goes around the village waking up residents with his unique drum beat, and reminding them to have dinner and prepare for the day’s fast. Residents in Thazahthangadi, a small village in Vadakara town of Kozhikode wake up for their Ramzan dinner to the unique drum beats of Muhammed M. This tradition, they say, has been observed by their fathers and forefathers. “If it is Muhammed now, I have heard from my parents that earlier it was his father and before that his forefather. It is a unique centuries’ old tradition still followed in our village during Ramzan,” Shameer PTK, a resident in Vadakara told TNM. He adds that Thazahthangadi is the only place in Kerala and perhaps India that this unique wakeup call exists. Quoting a Hadith by the Prophet Muhammad, Shameer said, “Bilal calls the adhan (call to prayer) in the night, so eat and drink until Ibn Umm Maktum calls the adhan.” While history says that the tradition first appeared in Egypt, where people like Muhammed roam the streets of Cairo beating a drum with a wooden stick, this wakeup call is also practiced in Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The drummer was often accompanied by a child holding a lamp to light the way and echo his distinctive calls. While, in Arab countries, people call these drummers Mesaharati, in Kerala they are called Attazham Muttukar (Dinner Drummers). 46-year-old Muhammed has been beating the drums during the holy month of Ramzan for the past 31 years. “At the age of 15, I joined my elder brother with a lamp to show the way for him while he moves from one house to other. Later, he migrated to Gulf. Then, I took up the responsibility. Now, I am 46. I have not stopped since then. I will continue this until I die,” said Muhammed adding that he is doubtful whether his children will follow the tradition or not. Shukoor Mehafil, another resident, believes this tradition may have come into being from the days when there were no watches or alarms to wake up people during Ramzan. “For us, the Ramzan dinner between 1am and 3:30am is the final one. Then our fasting begins with prayers. So, it is good that there is still a Muhammed who takes the pain to wake us up and remind us to have our dinner and be prepared for the fast,” Shukoor added. Thazahthangadi has only two Attazham Muttukar - one is 85-year-old Ali Kabar and the other being Muhammed. “Both have their own territories. They see this drumming as a holy ritual,” Shukkoor explained. Muhammed starts his daily routine at around 1am and continues till 3:30am. Based on historical accounts, in the Arab countries, the Mesaharati would call out the name of each house owner as he passes by. At the time, women would wrap a coin in a paper and set it on fire so the Mesaharati would be able to find it in the darkness. It is said that each of these countries has their own Mesaharati traditions and songs or prayers that they chant as they walk the neighbourhood to wake people up. The Mesaharati in Syria, for instance, used to have strong connection with his community. People trusted him to deliver food and money to those whom he knew were in need. “When Ramzan comes to an end and the celebrations of Eid Al Fitr start, Muhammed receives gifts of money and food from people to express their gratitude for his services during the month,” Shameer said, while noting that the services of the drummer is purely voluntary.