President: Dr. Rehana Shakur
Secretary General: Arif G. Kadwani
The arrival of Cutchi Memons in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) dates back to 1840, and was necessitated by their need to feed and foster their trade with Burma (now Myanmar), Java, Singapore, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Mauritius where they were established in business since the early thirties of the eighteenth century.
During the whole of the eighteenth century and until the early nineteenth, Cutchi Memons reigned supreme as importers and exporters of general merchandise to and from Burma (Myanmar), Java, Singapore, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Mauritius. In their sphere of trade and commerce, they were without any parallel, and were important in local and overseas markets. In some commodities, they were considered "kings", especially in imported rice and sugar. They established great business concerns, and ensured that their name and fame was known well in foreign markets. They were fully trusted in all their business dealings.
As we are all aware, Cutchi Memons originated in Cutch in Western India, and were full-blooded Indians. They were converts from Hinduism, and carried the same business acumen and trading mentality as the Hindu Lohanas, their "source" stock.
Cutchi Memons were called "Nakhodas", the seafarers. A story exists of a Cutchi Memon captain and his schooner (sailing ship). The ship was full of intended Hajj pilgrims going to Jeddah. A storm struck the seas, and the passengers were alarmed. They begged the captain to save them. The captain replied that he was a "Na-Khuda" meaning "not God", and asked them to pray to Allah for succor. From that time, Cutchi Memon captains came to be known as "Nakhodas".
The great Muslim saint, Syed Ahmed Shahbuddin Jeelani Qadri in approximately 731 hijri, converted Cutchi Memons to Islam. History says that the saint called the new converts "Momins" (the blessed ones); this term was later changed to "Memons", and has remained so to this day.
In Calcutta, Cutchi Memons kept up their ascendancy in business and trade right until the early nineteenth century. As "every ascent has a decent", Cutchi Memons took a gradual steep fall. Now, only a few business houses have retained the remnants of their old name and fame, a mere shadow of the original.
Good deeds proclaim past glory and splendor even after people depart this earth. True to their being the "blessed people", Cutchi Memons did many great deeds in Calcutta during their heyday. They built the great Nakhoda Masjid at Zakaria Street at a cost of Rupees Fifteen Lakhs in the year 1934. This great and imposing edifice is now over crores. It is located in the nerve center of Calcutta’s Muslim locality, and presents a splendid spectacle at festivals such as Eids, Fridays, and during the holy month of Ramadan. It is the biggest mosque not only in West Bengal but also in the whole of Eastern India. A committee manned wholly by the members of the Cutchi Memon Jamat manages it.
The other landmark is the Cutchi Memon Jamat kabrastan (cemetery) at Upper Circular Road, which is open for burial of both Cutchi Memons and other Muslims subject to trustees' permission.
Cutchi Memons lived upto their tile "Memons - the blessed ones" wherever they went. Masjids, madrassas, musafirkhanas, cemeteries scattered all over proclaim from housetops the acts of philanthropists. However, their fall was due to several reasons, the main one being the unfortunate partition the country in 1947 into India and Pakistan. This resulted in the compulsory migration of great many Cutchi Memons to Pakistan. Those that have remained behind in India have only to play their part in the reconstruction of their motherland, and have to contribute their mite towards greater prosperity of the community in particular and the country at large.
[This report appeared in the All India Cutchi Memon Federation’s souvenir published in 1993 on the occasion of the World Conference. We encourage Cutchi Memons of Kolkata to review the above information, and bring it up to date by contacting me - Arif G. Kadwani]