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Enchanting Kerala


ISSUE: 193



The small country town of Kodungallur is situated 35 kilometres south of Thrissur. Kodungallur situated on the west coast, was once a great port during the time of the Chera rulers of Tamil Nadu. It was known to the Greeks as Muziris and is a place immersed in rich history.

Kodungallur or Kodungalloor, surrounded by backwaters and the sea was also known as Cranganore and has an illustrious past, to tell. The ancient port here at Kodungallur was a busy port in the first century BC and was the gateway for various religious faiths like Christianity, Judaism, Islam and others. Cargo vessels from West Asia, Mediterranean and East Africa used to drop anchor at the Port of Muziris. St.Thomas, the apostle of Jesus Christ is believed to have set foot in Kerala through the Muziris port and so did the Islamic missionaries. It is here that India’s first church, St. Thomas Church and the first mosque, Cheraman Juma Masjid, are located.

Since the 15th century, the region began to come under the influence of foreign powers, starting with the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch and the British.

Today, Kodungallur and the surrounding regions have various representations from a past that eventually had a say in the socio-cultural and religious aspects of the region. You could visit some of the locations in Kodungallur that still bear symbols of a historic Kodungallur.

Cheraman Juma Masjid: This mosque located in Kodungallur follows the architectural style of Hindu temples. Built in 629 AD by Malik Bin Deenar, it is considered as the oldest mosque in India and the second oldest mosque in the world to offer Jumah prayers. The mosque, originally constructed of wood, later underwent changes that brought concrete minarets, though the interiors remained wooden. Inside the mosque, there is a Kerala oil lamp right at the centre, always kept burning. This lamp is of great significance to people of all religions and people bring oil for the lamp on auspicious family occasions.

Kodungallur Bhagavati Temple: The Goddess Bhagawati temple at Kodungallur is very popular throughout Kerala. The temple is believed to have been constructed during the reign of Chera King – Cheran Senkuttuvan. Famous festival occasions here are the Bharani and Thalappoli festivals. The Bharani festival at the Kodungallur Bhagawati temple is one of the grandest in Kerala. The month-long festivities here commence from the Bharani asterism in the month of Aquarius to 7 days after the Bharani asterism in the month of Pisces. During this occasion, one can also witness the largest congregation of oracles, not seen anywhere else in Kerala. The social historian of Kerala, William Logan observed in 1887 that after Onam, the national festival of Kerala, Kodungallur Bharani was the most important celebration in the state.

The Bharani festival also witnesses the offering of worship to the deity in the innermost sanctum by those belonging to castes other than the priestly class. During the festival, the Chandanapodi Chartal or the application of sandal paste on the deity is also an important ceremony.

St.Thomas Church: St.Thomas, the apostle of Jesus Christ is believed to have landed in Kodungallur in 52 AD. The St.Thomas Church established by him here houses ancient relics. Many a church in West Asia considers him as the father of its faith. At Kodungallur, he established the first Christian church in India and is the architect behind other Churches in Kerala: Kottakkavu, Palayur, Kollam, Kokkamangalam, Niranam and Nilackal.

Ruins of Kottappuram Fort:
This fort built by the Portuguese in 1523 A.D. is also known as Cranganore Fort. The Dutch took possession of it in 1661 and later it came under the control of Tipu Sultan. The Dutch wrested it back from Tipu Sultan, but the fort eventually came under the control of Tipu, who destroyed it in the following year. The remains of the fort show that the original fort wall was 18 feet in thickness. The ruin is also known as Tipu’s fort. The fort is about 2 km from the town of Kodungallur.

Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Temple:
One of the oldest Shiva temples in south India, the Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Temple is located in the Methala village, south of Kodungallur. The sixteen-pillared Namaskara Mandapam in front of the sanctum sanctorum has the temple renovation year engraved as 1801. This temple hosts a rare event in Kerala. It is the Anayottam or the elephant race, which is held as part of the annual temple festival. The occasion of Shivaratri is also celebrated in a grand way here.

Getting there
Nearest railway station: Irinjalakuda, about 20 km.
Nearest airport: Nedumbaserry International Airport at Kochi, about 31 km.

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