Ossan are one of the Muslim communities of Yemeni origin found scattered and isolated in the state of Kerala, India. They migrated to Kerala during the 17th century along with Thangals who migrated from Yemen for expansion of business. They became traditional Muslim barbers of the Malabar Coast. The pure form of the word 'Ossaan' is Otthaan, derived from the Arabic word Khatthaan meaning an expert practitioner of circumcision. Their ladies were experts in pre- and post-delivery care of pregnant women (midwifery).
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Their original settlement was at Kasaragod on the Malabar Coast. The community then spread to cannanore and Calicut, where there was intermarriage with local women. They speak Malyalam, and like other Kerala communities follow the Shafi`i sub-sect of Sunni Islam. The Ossan are found mainly in Mallapuram and Calicut districts. They are largely an urban community, found in the towns of Chettopadi, Kodokhod, Vallikunnu, Panikotum Padi, Chelary, and Vellimadantuna. Ossan Kunhali of Nilambur was a famous mercenary during the Malabar Rebellion.
The Ossan are traditionally involved with the occupation of barbering and the traditional circumcisers of Kerala. Unlike other Muslim artisan groups, they have not seen a decline in their traditional occupation, and most are still involved with barbering. They have set up a state wide association, the All Kerala Barbers Association, which acts as a pressure group for the community.
The Ossan belong to a matrilocal society, and descent is traced from the mother (see matrilineality). They are strictly endogamous, and marry close kin.
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