Athankarai Pallivasal, Radhapuram, Thirunelveli
Athankarai Pallivasal is located in Radhapuram Taluk in Thirunelveli District of Tamilnadu. It is located in between Tiruchendur and Kanyakumari. The shrine has two domes of Sufi saints Syed Ali Fathima and Hazard Sheik Mohammed who were believed to grant all desires of devotees. During the festival held in September, thousands of devotees gather here to pay their homage and seek blessings. Hazrath Sheik Mohamed Aulia and Bibi Syed Ali Fathima, along with a few other Islamic missionaries from a place called Bajjal in Arabia, came to India about five centuries ago to spread Islam.
After visiting various parts of the country, they came down south in a ship. The ship got caught in a storm, following which the missionaries camped in a nearby jungle in Tirunelveli district and continued their work. After the death of Hazrath Sheik Mohamed, his body was buried on the bank of a river. Fathimasa Bibi continued to stay in the jungle. She undertook the spiritual work and earned the goodwill of all sections of the society. The Muslims, who had accompanied the couple, extended all assistance to her. Soon the message regarding her selfless service reached the people of the nearby villages, who started visiting her in large numbers to get her blessings.
After a few years Fathimasa Bibi passed away and her body was buried next to her husband's grave. Legend has it that Fathimasa Bibi appeared in the dream of a few devotees the same night and requested them to raise walls covering the tombs of both and also construct a mosque adjacent to it. The saint directed them not to construct a roof above the tombs, so that the tombs would be exposed to sunlight, moonlight, wind and rain. Initially, due to financial constraints, devotees could only raise mud walls and cover them with palm leaves. Praying at the tombs, relieved them, they believed, from misery and pain. Soon people from nearby areas, representing different faiths, began visiting the Dargah, despite inadequate road facilities.
According to V. Nayaz Ahmed Bijili and H. Habeebur Rahman Bijili, hereditary trustees of the Dargah, their ancestors who were residing in Pulimankulam village, about four km from Athankarai Pallivasal, later decided to construct a pucca Dargah on the tombs. When the construction work was in progress a boulder was about to fall on the workers, when people heard a loud voice crying `Athangarai Nachiyar Amma' and at once the boulder stopped moving. This incident saved the lives of many innocent people and since then Fathimasa Bibi is also called Athangarai Nachiyar Amma.
The Athangarai Pallivasal was maintained with the help of donations from devotees. Later a good approach road was laid. With the laying of the East Coast road abetting the Dargah, people have started thronging it throughout the year. Another salient feature of the Dargah is the feeding of the poor in large numbers every day, with the offerings made by devotees in fulfillment of vows. The management has made special arrangements for the food to be cooked at the Dargah premises itself.
From the income received, rest rooms, drinking water etc., have been made available in the Dargah. Thursdays are days of special worship. In connection with the annual Urs festival on June 19 and 20, the Dargah management created additional facilities for the benefit of the visiting people. The descendants of the Muslim families which accompanied the Sufi saints later came to be known as Bijilis, a name derived from their native place Bajjal. The highlight of the Urs festival is the procession of pots containing sandal paste taken out from Pulimankulam to the Dargah and applied on the tombs. Even though the Dargah belonged to the Muslim saints, a majority of the visitors are from other religions.
The life history of these Sufi saints itself is a shining example of communal harmony. Athankarai Pallivasal is located at about 36 Kms from Valliyur, 20 Kms from Radhapuram, 40 Kms from Nanguneri, 14 Kms from Thisayanvilai, 90 Kms from Thoothukudi, 71 Kms from Thirunelveli, 240 Kms from Madurai and 120 Kms from Thiruvananthapuram. Nearest Railway Station is located at Nanguneri and Valliyur. Nearest Airport is located at Madurai, Thoothukudi and Thiruvananthapuram.