• Benny Kuriakose

THE STORY BEHIND THE FIRST EVER MOSQUE OF INDIA CHERAMAN JUMA MASJID AND ITS RESTORATION (2021)


Cheraman Juma Masjid, located in Kodangallur, in Kerala’s Thrissur district is believed to be the first mosque in India and is one of the oldest in the world. Although the Masjid is said to have been built in AD 629, historians attribute it to the 11th century. It is known by various other names also such as Cherman Perumal Masjid, Cheraman Palli, Cheraman Mosque. The Masjid stood as a testament to Kerala's ability to assimilate different cultures, beliefs, and traditions under one roof. The restoration of this historic mosque is being carried out under the guidance of Dr. Benny Kuriakose as part of the Muziris Heritage Project.


Table of Contents


Cheraman Perumal Nayanar and the Story Behind India’s First Mosque


Cheraman Juma Masjid history dates back to 6th century. There are numerous regional and tribal variations of the story of the last Chera king who abdicated his throne, converted to Islam, and his subsequent pilgrimage to Mecca. The gist of this legend known to almost all in the region of Kodungallur is as follows.


Cheraman Perumal, the reigning King of the Chera Empire, with Kodungallur as its capital, had experienced an unusual dream in his sleep. He dreamt of the moon being split into two halves. He consulted astrologers far and wide and none could give him a satisfactory explanation until a group of Arab traders passed by. They explained that the dream was the celebrated miracle of Prophet Mohammed. Because of this explanation, Cheraman Perumal decided to visit Mecca. He divided his Kingdom and handed over the different territories to local chieftains. He then left for Mecca. After meeting the prophet, he embraced Islam. While returning home, after spending a few years there, he fell ill and died in Oman.


Before his death, he wrote letters to the local chieftains. When Malik Bin Dinar and his followers reached Kodungallur, the letters were handed over to the local chieftains. They got permission to construct a mosque in Kodungallur and the first mosque in India built here. The mosque was constructed in Kerala's traditional style. Malik Bin Dinar was the first Ghazi of Cheraman Masjid. After a while, his relative Habib Bin Malik became the Ghazi at Cheraman Masjid. He established mosques in different parts of Kerala. Cheraman Juma Masjid also called as Cherman Perumal Masjid was the first in the series. The old tombs at Cheraman Masjid are believed to be that of Habib Bin Malik and his wife Khumarriah.


An Old Photo of the Cheraman Juma Masjid
An Old Photo of the Cheraman Juma Masjid

The History and Legacy of Cheraman Juma Masjid


The mosque is very historic. E. Ismail, former Head of the Department of History at Sir Syed College, Kannur University, writes that “Kerala can be considered as the earliest Islamic frontier in India.”

the

He explains that the legend about the construction of Cheraman Juma Masjid in 629 C.E. was that it happened during the last years of the life of Prophet Mohammed. He concludes that these mosques built along the coastal areas were originally meant for the Arab merchants who visited the coast often. (Taken From “Bringing back structural past of a religious monument” Article of The Hindu Newspaper)


Now, Cheraman Masjid has grown to be the place of prayer even for hundreds of people who were substantially from the non-Muslim communities. The Masjid authorities have encouraged this and the secular credentials of the mosque are dearly preserved. During the month of Ramzan, Iftar offerings are being made by the non-Muslim communities. Many people from other religions are conducting "Vidhyarambham” of