Saturday, March 04, 2006


Arasi Marikar Wapchi Marikar 1829-1925

About the year 1016 A.D., a few Arabs, among whom were expert physicians and master masons, settled in Ceylon. One of them was called Sheikh Fareed. They were welcomed by the natives and settled themselves in different vocations. Their history was maintained orally until about the year 1770. In the "Thombu" of 1770 (the Government record), there is reference to one Paridoe. It is a custom of the Muslims to carry the name of theor ancestors in the line of genealogy and this Paridoe is the name carried from Sheikh Fareed.

There lived a wealthy lady, possessiung vast extents of land at Ambagahawatte, in the lineage of this Fareed. When she passed away, Arasi Marikar Wapchie Marikar, was the heir left behind to inherit this property.

After collecting his own share, Arasi Marikar Wapchie Marikar bought the shares of several other heirs of this land and donated a portion of it to build a mosque and later built another mosque called the Fareed Thakkiya. He had started off his career as an apprentice working under expert builders. His flair for Islamic architecture can be seen in the many arches used in his architecture. He mastered the building profession and undertook the erection of buildings independently as a building contractor.

So long as brick and mortar endure his name will be long remembered as the builder of the General Post Office in Colombo, the Colombo Museum, Colombo Customs, Old Town Hall in Pettah, the Galle Face Hotel, Victoria Arcade, Finlay Moir building, the Clock Tower, Batternburg Battery etc. The Old Town Hall in Pettah, which is now a busy market, was built on a contract for the sum of 689 Streling Pounds.

In January 1877, the completed building of the Colombo Museum was declared open by His Excellency, Governer Gregory, in the presence of a large crowd, amongst which there were many Muslims present. At the end of the ceremony His Excellency asked Arasi Marikar Wapchi Marikar what honour he wished to have for his dedication. The same question was asked by His Excellency from the carpenter who assisted Wapchi Marikar with the wood work of the Museum who desired a local Rank and was honoured accordingly. Wapchi Marikar, noticing the large number of Muslims present, feared that they would spend their time at the Museum on Friday during the Islamic congregation prayer, and requested that the Museum be closed on Fridays. This request has been adhered to by all authorities in charge of the Museum to this day.

When the throne of the last Kandyan King was to be exhibited at the Museum, the then Prime Minister, Mr. D.S.Senanayake, obtained the consent of Sir Razik Fareed, Wapchi Marikar’s grandson, to keep the Museum open on the intervening Fridays only.

Endowed with wealth, Wapchi Marikar contributed to the development of his communities wefare, religious, economical, social, and educational needs and searched for more avenues and opportunities to help them in every way possible. He resided in the vicinity of Marakkala Palliya Watta, the present Maradana Mosque grounds and patronized the mosque. His family residence was acquired by the state for railway extensions thus compeling him to build a large house at Vauxhall Street where he moved in subsequently. He continued to contribute towards the development of the Maradana Mosque by being a prominent member of the congregation. He also joined hand with and financed M.C.Siddi Lebbe, from Kandy, who started the Muslim educational movement in 1880.

Siddi Lebbe, in his "Asrarul A’lam" on page 199 writes,

"I have two friends in Colombo, one who takes great interest in educational matters, opening up schools and spending liberally his money is Arasi Marikar Wapchi Marikar philanthrophist, who comes forward to spend in all good causes. The other is Ghulam Mohiyadeen Sahib Bahauddin of Tanjore (Kashwat Alim)".

Wapchi Marikar and Siddi Lebbe set about looking for a place to establish a school for the Muslims and eventually selected the abandoned portion of the Maradana Mosque grounds. Since Wapchi Marikar was, at that time, the Vice President of the Management Committee of the Maradana Mosque, he urged the committee to grant a lease of the land in order to build the school.

A society, called the "Jamiyathul Uloom" (Muslim Educational Society) was thus formed.
Wapchi Marikar, at his own cost, erected a building for the school and also built four houses that would be rented and the income utilized for the maintenance of the institution.

During this period, Wapchi Marikar was involved in the construction of Masjid-E-Careem at 4th Cross Street, Pettah, for Carimjee Jafferjee. At his request Jafferjee contributed money for an additional building at the Maradana Mosque grounds for the cause of Muslim education.
When the Kuppiyawatte burial grounds was given to the Muslims (Crown grant 3325 dated 18-8-1879), a condition was laid down by the Government that a boundary wall must be erected within three years of that date. The Mussalman’s United Assembly had insufficient funds and approached Wapchi Marikar who negotiated with Careemjee Jafferjee for building the wall in exchange for a portion of land for use of burial of the dead of the Borah community.

When the Muslims of Ketawallamulla needed a mosque they approached Wapchi Marikar who bought a house at Clifton Lane and converted it into a mosque. A.L.M. Meera Lebbe Marikar, who lived opposite the mosque, was made the Trustee. M.L.M. Ahmed, JP of Ahmed Brothers, 3rd Cross Street, Pettah, is the son of A.L.M. Meera Lebbe Marikar.

The school building was finally completed and Madarasahul Zahira ( Zahira College) began to function. Arabi Pasha conducted the opening.

The houses constructed for the purpose of revenue for running the school were acquired by the government in 1906. Using the compensation received from the acquisition, Wapchi Marikar built a row of houses facing Darley Road, presently T.B.Jayah Mawatha.

Wapchi Marikar was also the Treasurer and Manager of the Colombo Muslim Educational Society.

In 1907, Wapchi Marikar was relieved of the burden of management and Advocate Abdul Cader was appointed as Manager of Zahira College. However, Abdul Cader had to relinquish his position on account of relocating himself to Batticaloa in the Eastern Province.

An address presented to Wapchi Marikar by the Moors (Muslims) of Colombo in 1907 reads as follows:-

The late Manager of the Muhammadan Boys’ Maradana School, Colombo.


We, the members of the Colombo Muslim Educational Society, have the pleasure of conveying to you our warm appreciation of the work done by you, with zeal and energy, in managing the Muhammadan Boys’ Maradana School for the last fourteen years; and of expressing to you, on your retirement from the said managership, heartfelt and sincere gratitude, on our own behalf and on behalf of the Muhammadan Community of Colombo, for the said work as well as for the pecuniary assistance generously rendered by you for establishing the said school to impart religious abd secular education to the Muhammadan youth of this country; for your liberal endowment towards its upkeep; and for your enthusiastic cooperation with which we have so long controlled and conducted the affairs of the said institution. While announcing our hope that you will find health and strength to continue to cooperate with us for long, as a member of the Treasurer of our Society, in conducting the said afairs for the future, we beg to state that we have resolved to place in the upper storey (which will, in the future serve the purpose of a Muslim Reading Room or Library and Lecture Hall) of the new wing of the Madrasah, which has now been constructed through your eterprise, an enlarged photograph of yourself as a memento of your benevolent acts.

In conclusion we pray that Almighty Allah may be pleased to grant you long life, good health, happiness and prosperity.

Yours affectionately,
Cassim Lebbe Sheikh Abdul Cader Marikar
President Colombo Muslim Educational Society
(Uncle of the late N.D.H. Abdul Caffoor)

1. Muhammad Ismail Abdul Rahman Mudaliyar (Trustee Maradana Mosque 1902) (Father of A. Cader A. Raheman)
2. M Abdul Cader, Advocate, Jaffna
3. Colande Marikar Meera Lebbe Marikar (VP & Treasurer, Maradana Mosque) (Father of M.L.M. Reyal)
4. Idroos Lebbe Marikar Abdul Azeez (Trustee Maradana Mosque 1903-1913) (Father of Rishard A Azeez)
5. Sulaiman Lebbe Noohu Lebbe (Trustee Kuppiyawatte Burial Grounds, 1903) (Grandfather of M.U.M. Saleem)
6. Ismail Lebbe Marikar Muhammad Usoof Alim (Katheeb, Maradana Mosque) (Father of M.Y.M. Hamza)
7. Oduma Lebbe Marikar Ahmed Lebbe Marikar Alim (Father-in-Law of W.M. Hassim, JP)
8. Wapu Marikar Abdul Jabbar (Treasurer, Maradana Mosque) (Father of A.J.M. Jameel)
9. Assena Lebbe Muhallam Segu Lebbe (Katheeb, Maradana Mosque) (Father of S.L.M. Hashim)
10.Aboobucker Lebbe Marikar Oduma Lebbe Marikar (President, Executive Committee, Maradana Mosque) (Brother of A.L. Ibrahim Lebbe)

The descriptions of the signatories are later interpolations for better understanding of the persons involved in relation to presently known persons amongs the Muslim Community.
In 1907, Wapchi Marikar built, at his own cost, an extension building to the existing first school building. A section of the Educational Society collected a sum of Rs. 12,750 and entrusted it to Wapchi Marikar for the construction of houses along the street adjoining the New Olympia Theatre in Maradana. Unfortunately, the Colombo Muslim Educational Society did not function for very long and it became incumbent on Wapchi Marikar to manage the affairs of Zahira College all by himself as a single individual using his own personal finances and the welfare of some other Muslim philanthrophists.

Finding the income from rents of the Darley Road properties insufficient to manage the school he offered the income from his own properties at Wellawatte to augment the revenues of Zahira College. In 1921, being physically unfit to attend to the daily affairs of Zahira College, Wapchi Marikar discussed the matter with two of the members of the now defunct Education Society and handed over the management to the Maradana Mosque.

He was a devout and pious Muslim who built, served and developed mosques spending liberally for all religious affairs. His maxim was "cut ones coat according to the cloth". He passed away on May 14, 1925 at the ripe old age of ninety six. His only son was the Hon. W.M. Abdul Rahman, M.L.C. and his daughter was Mariambu Natchar.


At 8/03/2010 01:28:00 PM , Blogger salim said...

Gentlemen - My name is Abdul Salam Marikar and I am from Kerala,India currently working in Kuwait. I am writing this with an intention to find our roots in Srilanka.Our great grand father T.C.H Marikar born in the year 1852 at Kandy as the second son of Thampi Cannu Marikar. He established a good business in India and it become a very big family in India. but did not have any connections with our ancestors land, a few connections were developed during the past but those are not direct Marikar blood. If any one knows about the roots, I would appreciate to recieve the informations. Another chance is to track the records, I am ready to travel and spent few days in Srilanka and I herewith request the brothers and sisters to take this matter as serious to restore our severed relations.

With Salams,

Abdul Salam Marikar


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