Cheraman Juma Mosque
|Cheraman Juma Mosque|
The renovated Cheraman Juma Mosque
|Length||61 m (200 ft)|
|Width||24 m (79 ft)|
The Cheraman Juma Mosque is a mosque in Methala, Kodungallur Taluk, Thrissur District in the Indian state of Kerala. Built in 629 AD, it is the first mosque in India and the oldest mosque in the Indian subcontinent. It was built by Malik bin Dinar, Persian ex-slave and a companion of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, on the orders of Cherman Perumal, the Chera King of modern-day Kerala. It is believed that this mosque was first renovated and reconstructed in the 11th century AD. Many non-Muslims conduct initiation ceremonies to the world of letters of their children here.
Legend has it that Cheraman Perumal ("Cheraman Perumal" being the title held by Chera kings) witnessed the splitting of the moon, a mythical event mentioned in the Qu'ran as a miracle performed by Prophet Muhammad when asked for one by Meccan unbelievers. The bewildered King confirmed with his astrologers that the incident had taken place, but didn't know what to make of it. Arab merchants who had arrived at a Malabar port, a bustling global marketplace, sought audience with the King to have his permission to visit Ceylon. In conversation with them, the King learnt about Muhammad, made his son the regent of his kingdom and travelled back with the Arab merchants to meet the man himself.
The story goes that Cheraman Perumal arrived in Arabia with a gift of ginger pickles for the Prophet and his companions and converted to Islam "at the feet of Prophet Muhammad". The King then sent Malik bin Dinar, companion of Prophet Muhammad, with a letter to Kodungallur with instructions to convert an unused Buddhist temple into a mosque.
The oral traditions of the legend differ greatly, another story goes that Cheraman Perumal was visiting the King of Maldives and they discussed the splitting of the moon, both men deciding to visit Mecca to find out the truth. S. N. Sadasivan, a social historian, believes that it wasn't the Cheraman Perumal of Malabar in the tale at all, but instead the King of Maldives, whose capital city "Mali" was confused for "Malabar". However, the capital of Maldives is not "Mali", which is an African country, but Malé.
According to historian M.G.S. Narayanan, "there is no reason to reject the tradition that the last Chera king embraced Islam and went to Makkah (Mecca), since it finds its place not only in Muslim chronicles, but also in Hindu brahmanical chronicles like the Keralolpatti, which need not be expected to concoct such a tale which in no way enhances the prestige of the Brahmins or Hindu population."
The history of the mosque have given it many architectural quirks including that since it was a repurpose abandoned Buddhist shrine, until its reconstruction in 1000 A.D. the mosque faced East instead of towards the Kaaba. Even today the mosque still includes some remnants of the shrine, including a traditional pond and a lamp that is said to have been burning for a thousand years, with oil that is brought for it by visitors and pilgrims of all religions.
The ceremony of Vidyarambham (Vidya means "knowledge", arambham means "beginning'), held typically on Vijayadashami, is a Hindu tradition to initiate their children into learning under the supervision of a learned person like a priest. At Cheraman Masjid, this ceremony is performed by the mosque's Muslim Imam, who traces the alphabet drawn in the sand on a child's tongue, indicating an invocation to Saraswati, the goddess of learning.
Appointment of the Aven (Priest)
The aven (priest) of Shobhaparamba Sreekurumba Bhagavati temple in Tanur, Malappuram, is appointed a member of the Pazhayakath family, a local Muslim family. According to Chellikkattil Sundaran, president of the temple trust, the temple's aven had been traditionally appointed by a member of the local Thiyya family, a Brahmin family of Pazhayakhath Ilom. The family disintegrated over the years and its remaining members converted to Islam but both the temple authorities and the family upheld the tradition. The temple's Hindu priest is appointed in a special ritual once every 12 years, presided over by a Muslim member of the Pazhayakath family, who makes the formal announcement. Locals ascribe this camaraderie to Cheraman Perumal.
Maharajahs of Travancore
The legend of the "Makkattupoya Perumal", or "the King who went to Makkah (Mecca)" has lived on in Keralan memory and apparently, the Maharajahs of the Princedom of Travancore in pre-Independence India would say at their swearing in, "I will keep this sword until the uncle who has gone to Makkah returns".
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