The Keyi's of Malabar

Keyi family is one of the oldest Muslim family in Kerala. This landlord's family of Malabar has produced a lot of prominent members, who have served the society in various ways. The family, which once controlled the spices trade in India, has prospered during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and has been led by illustrious personalities like Aluppy Kakka and his nephew Moosa Kakka. Aluppy Kakka is considered as the founder of Keyi family.The family prospered during the period of Moosa Kakka. He was a great visionary and philanthropist, who contributed generously towards the development of economically weak and poor people in the society. He died in 1806. The other members of the family also contributed for the development of modern education, religious and cultural activities in Kerala.


The family history dating back to the eighteenth century when a small time spices trader Mr. Aluppy Kakka moved his residence from a village called Chovva in Kannur to the nearby port town of Tellicherry in search of green pastures. The Dutch were controlling the trade at Tellicherry during that period and he made an agreement with them to start spices trading at there. He was assisted by his nephew Moosa Kakka. Their hard work and business acumen has resulted in robust growth in their business within a short span. After the death of Aluppy Kakka, Moosa Kakka took over the business. He was an honest and able businessman with an unquestionable integrity and transparency in his dealings. In those days the main customers were Arabs and Europeans who comes to this oldest seaport to buy spices. Moosa Kakka saw a great opportunity in trade with the arrival of British East India Company to Tellicherry. He started dealing with them, which has brought him to the forefront of spices trading, and he was able to control the spices market and market prices. By this time his fame has reached beyond the shores and more and more traders from world over came to him for buying spices. There are references about Moosa Kakka in Sir William Logan's Malabar Manuel and Malabar Gazetteer and also in old malabar records with Tubingen University, Germany.

The word Keyi means owner of ships. The family has owned large number of Dhows (small sailing ships used in olden days) to transport spices to other part of country as well as to Arabian Gulf. Moosa Kakka has built a canal in Alappuzha for anchoring his ships at there, which is known as Moosa Kakka Kayal. He was having a lot of customers from the north Indian state of Gujarat. This has prompted him to shift his main business center from Tellicherry to Mumbai to extend his business to north India.The members of the keyi family invested large amount of money for buying properties in various part of the country.

The family owned properties in Mumbai, Calicut, Alappuzha, Trivandrum and Mangalore. The large area of land belongs to the family at Mangalore was taken over by Government of India in 1960 to build the present Mangalore port. The family owned some islands in Lakshadeep, which was brought from the Arrakal Royal family in1879. Keyi family owned a lot of warehouses and big mansions in Tellicherry.

The family members were shown a lot of interest in religious activities. Religious leaders of all faiths always frequented the houses of keyis. The first translation of Arabic Malayalam version of Holy Quran was brought out by one of the prominent member of the family Mr. Valiyapura Mayan Kutty Elaya. The family has four mosques in Tellicherry and One in Mumbai. These are mappila masjid in Mumbai, Odathil Palli, Mogdar masjid, Jamja keyi mosque and Thayal palli in Tellicherry. The Odathil Mosque in Tellicherry is very famous. The word 'Oda' means garden in Portuguese language. The land where the mosque situated was once a sugarcane garden belongs to the Portuguese. Moosa Kakka brought this land from East India company and build a mosque at there according to the Kerala architecture. Its roof was made with copper sheets and it has four golden minarets. Teakwood is used in this mosque, which was donated by the King of Travencore as an appreciation for saving the lives of Kolathiri King and his relatives,when they were attacked by the Dutch. Moosa Kakka helped the Kolathiri King and others to move to a safe location and later send them to Travencore in his ships. The King of Travencore also gave land and money to him to start business in south Kerala.

The keyi family is one among the three families in India after the Nizam of Hyderabad and Nawab of Arcot,Tamil Nadu, to own properties in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. The Keyi Rubath was built in Makkah for the members of the family and other Keralites to stay there during Hajj pilgrimage. This building was later taken over by Saudi Arabian government for the expansion of Holy Ka'aba. The government offered compensation for the same but the family not yet accepted this and requested the government for alternate site or building.

Keyi family has made lot of contributions in the field of sports and games. The famous cricket players like Mr. C.P.Poker keyi and Kunhipackey keyi were played against British Cricket teams in olden days. Mr.Kunhipackey keyi was known as 'sixer kunhipackey' during those days.

Prominent Members

Keyi family has given importance to education long ago due to their interaction with Europeans and Arabs with whom the family has business dealings. The heads of the family always took initiative to send their childrens to best institutions in the country. The family comprises of Civil Service Officers, Judges, Doctors, Lawyers, Government officials, Politicians, Social Workers etc. Some of the prominent members of the family are:

Mr.C.O.T.Kunhipackey Keyi Former Director, Dept of Education and Member of Public Service Commission.
Khan Bahadur Mammad Keyi
Mr.C.K.P.Cheriya Mammu Keyi, Former President, INL, Kerala State.
Mr.C.O.T.Ummer, Former Public Prosecutor and Chairman TRAVELCO Ltd, Kerala State.
Mr.C.P.Abdulla Keyi, Retd. District Judge
Mr.C.O.K.Ummer, Retd. Director, Dept of Industries, Tamil Nadu.
Dr.C.O.Ummerkutty, M.B.B.S
Dr.C.O.T.Mustafa, M.B.B.S
Mr.C.P.Ummerkutty, Advocate

An agreement made in 1885 has divided keyi family into four families known as Chovvakaren Orkateri, Chovvakaren Keloth, Chovvakaren Valiyapura and Chovvakaren Puthiyapura. Orkateri again divided into Cheriya Orkateri, Thayath and Parakkat.

Published on  23/07/2006


Anonymous said...

Nice work. Being a member of the Keyi family, I take immense pride in the history and accomplishments of our ancestors back in the heydays. On the other hand it is truly sad to realize how all that has dwindled to the minimal status the Keyis have in modern times. Just another example that goes to prove that success and wealth is a cyclical phenomena in the continuing saga of time. Moreso when less ambitious future generations squander away hard earned wealth and social status.

Anonymous said...

The contributions made by the Keyi's towards the social development of North Malabar is laudable.
Anzar, Dubai

Sirju said...

I'm proud that our ancestors did lot of good thing for the society, but it is sad to say that the family is divided and many of us do not know each other.