Kilakarai, Kilakkarai or Keelakarai (Tamil: கீழக்கரை) is a municipality in Ramanathapuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Kilakarai is an ancient coastal town and a port, located in the southern Tamil Nadu. It was a flourishing sea port and a gateway to places as far as Madurai till the early 20th century . The famous pearl belt known as the Gulf of Mannar in the Bay of Bengal is dotted with small islands Appa Tivu, Nallatanni Tivu, Shuli Tivu,Uppu Tanni Tivu, Talari Tivu and Musal Tivu. The coastal line of Kilakarai is formed by series of small bays and finest coral reefs sheltering the town from the perils of the ocean.
The prime occupations of the people were pearl, conch, Sea trade and transport. Mid 20th century saw a decline in the occupations of the people of Kilakarai, with the advent of the surface transport the Merchant Navies faded away and Kilakarai aka Killikare ceased to be a harbour and port. The cultured pearl industry choked the once robust pearl trade or Muthu Salabam. The Conch and Coral industries declined due to new regulations and restrictions.
Kilakarai is renowned for its Communal Harmony. The majority of the population here is Muslim with people of other faith Hindu, Christians living together. The communal harmony that always existed is best exemplified by the famous 1 Rameswaram and Jumma Masjid (Vallal Seethakathi is interred here) at Kilakarai, while the architecture is the same the workforce was provided by the erstwhile ruler of Ramnad and most of the materials for both the edifice were supplied by the Kilakarai merchant navies. The town is reminiscent of Spanish Moorish architecture is close to the temple town of Rameswaram.
It has one of the oldest Mosque in Tamil Nadu and has unique Islamic heritage more than 1,000 year old.Some legends say that people from Arab countries such as Egypt or Syria migrated to kilakarai and some other villages in south India
The migration of the people after the decline of the marine trade and industry resulted in people exploring the other parts of the globe. Kilakarai has a large expatriate population and a very highest literary rate. This enable the people of Kilakarai now span the globe and are active merchants in the Gulf, far east, Us and European markets. The younger generation is now gainfully employed a departure from its predominant merchant/trader mindset.
Hameedia High School founded in 1940s besides the 300 year old Arabic Madrasa Aroosiya Thaika, was a catalyst to more graduates from Kilakarai. With the arrival of Mohamed Sathak Engineering College and then the TBAK Women's College the number of graduates from this traditional town has seen a steady rise.