The Three Mosques of Kuttichira

May 01, 2017 | Vol 09 | Issue 03
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Among the ancient architectural forms in Kuttichira in Kozhikode town (Kerala, India), the three mosques worth mentioning are Juma Palli, Mucchundi Palli and the Mishkal Palli. 

Kuttichira in Kozhikode has a distinct culture of its own. Kuttichira Muslims have unique dress, customs and culture.  It is noted for the ancient sprawling tharavads (ancestral homes) of the affluent Muslim families. Among the ancient architectural forms, the three mosques situated here are worth mentioning- Juma Palli, Mucchundi Palli and the Mishkal Palli. All the three mosques are still in use by the devotees.

The Juma Palli

It is sprawling and can seat a thousand devotees on the ground floor. The entry into this mosque is by granite steps and a balustrade befitting a prestigious place. The wood work on the roof at the entrance is etched with beautiful calligraphy in Arabic and on its side are the motifs of flowers and other designs as in ancient temples of that time. Huge wooden pillars support the roof at the entrance and inside. It is a solid work in timber which has withstood the ravages of the monsoon for long.  The washing place is on the left side of the entrance. It was around 1345 that the first Khazi, Muslim priest started officiating here.

Muchundi palli

This mosque is so called as three small lanes (Chandu in Tamil means narrow way or lane) meet where this mosque is situated. A black granite stone was found a few years ago which described in Vattezhuthu (ancient script of Kerala) and Arabic that the land along with a small adjoining area was given for the construction and maintenance of the mosque. It was a donation by the Zamorin, the rulers of the erstwhile Kozhikode Kingdom and dates to 13th century. Here also there is elaborate wood craftsmanship in the front courtyard. The prayers are conducted only on the ground floor though there is a second floor.

The Mishkal Palli

This mosque is built in the later 13th century and is named after the rich Yemen trader who built it. It resembles a ship primarily with four main floors with a mizzen floor. Other than the ground floor, the floors are supported by timber. The technology is believed to be from the Chinese, because it must have been built after the arrival of the Chinese trader Zheng in 1404. The connection to the Chinese architecture is evident in the dragon/crocodile shaped wooden figures in the Mukhappu (front top most portion).

When Vasco de Gama landed in the suburbs of Kozhikode, he was invited to the Muslim dominated area called Kuttichira. The only tall building he saw there was the Mishkal Mosque built by a Yemen trader.  Gama glimpses all around and quips “all houses are as tall as my horse, done up with wooden rafters and palm leaves. “ Only the five storied Mosque was oppressive to his eyes and soon he requested the Zamorin for a piece of land to build a church in the vicinity. He was given a place almost 800metres north; both almost have an equi-distance from the sea.

According to history in 1510 the Portuguese burnt down some parts of the mosque, but the charred portions still remain. All the three mosques have slopping roof to withstand the monsoon.

[The author Mohan K is the former Convener of Calicut Regional Chapter of Indian National Trust for Art & cultural Heritage (INTACH)]

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