Tucked away in the small town of Methala (Kodungallur municipality) north of Kochi, is a two-storied mosque with tiled sloping roofs, typical of the local architecture here. It isn’t opulent and does not look very old, thanks to a fresh coat of paint it sports, but what makes this quaint little mosque so unique, is that many believe this is the oldest mosque in India. Dating back to around 629 CE, this mosque could well have been built in the lifetime of Prophet Mohammad himself!
This Mosque could have been built during the lifetime of the Prophet himself! This indicates just how old the Islamic influence is, in coastal Kerala.
The claim that this is indeed the ‘oldest mosque in India’ is hard to verify, as the mosque has been renovated several times over the centuries. Only the inner core of the mosque and its original roof with stylized sharp edges, give any indication that this structure could have been standing here since the 7th century CE, as claimed.
This mosque, built almost 500 years before the earliest one from the Sultanate period in North India, indicates just how old the Islamic influence is in coastal Kerala. This sliver of coastal paradise was the gateway of western faiths into India. Christianity, Judaism and Islam reached and thrived here for centuries before they spread to the other parts of India.
The local King Cheraman Perumal converted to Islam and traveled to Medina to visit Prophet Mohammad. He died on the way and is buried in Salalah, Oman.
It was the Arab traders who first brought Islam to Kerala. Suleiman-al-Tajir, a 9th century Arab traveller- who wrote the Silsilat-ut-Tawarikh (Account of India & China) in 851 CE, mentions in his chronicles that there was a small population of local Muslims in Kerala. Ibn Haukal, a tenth century Arab traveler and geographer, refers to mosques where Muslims offered prayers. The discovery of a Muslim inscription from 782 CE at Pantalayini, in Kollam, near Quilandy, in Kozhikode district, corroborates this. According to literary records, the mosque architecture in Kerala reached its zenith between 13th and 16th centuries, which was also the period of Arab supremacy in the maritime trade with Malabar.
Malik-Ibn-Dinar, an Arab trader who frequently visited the Kerala coast for trade, is said to have built this mosque as well as eight others on the coast. He was granted land by a local king . Local Muslims in Kerala believe that King Cheraman Perumal after whom the mosque is today named converted to Islam and traveled to Medina . He died on the way back and was buried in Salalah, Oman where a dargah is dedicated him even today.
LHI TRAVEL GUIDE
Methala is a town in the Kodungallur municipality of Kerala. Irinjalakuda railway station is the nearest railway station from Methala, at a distance of 10.8 kms. Cochin International Airport is the nearest airport, at a distance of 23.5 km.
In the heart of Goa, near Panaji, is a charming neighbourhood whose colourful homes and quaint alleys were, oddly, the result of a rush to develop a new capital city for the Portuguese. Catch the story of Fontainhas, which is delightfully trapped in time.
Get access to weekly Live events, experiences and an exclusive repository of films, articles and books