The oldest masjid in India is the Cheraman Juma Mosque, located in Kodungallur of the Thrissur district in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
It is believed to have been built in 629 AD, during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, by Malik Deenar, a companion of the Prophet who came to India to spread Islam.
The mosque has undergone several renovations over the centuries and still stands as a significant landmark in the history of Islam in India.
The cultural and religious significance of this Oldest masjid in India is deep-rooted in the hearts of the residents of Methala.
The structure of the mosque can be easily mistaken for a village school if not for its’ white dome and minarets. In this blog, We will take a brief look through the window of time and learn all about the oldest Masjid in India.
Cheraman Juma Mosque: The Oldest Masjid in India
The Cheraman Juma Mosque, located in Kodungallur of the Thrissur district in the southern Indian state of Kerala, is believed to be the oldest mosque in India. According to historical accounts, the mosque was built in 629 AD, during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, by Malik Deenar, a companion of the Prophet who came to India to spread Islam.
The Structure of the mosque
The Cheraman Juma Mosque is a simple yet elegant structure that reflects the basic principles of Islamic architecture. It is designed to provide a functional space for worshippers to pray and to create a sense of community among the faithful. The mosque is a testimony to the rich history and cultural diversity of Kerala and serves as an important symbol of Islamic heritage in India.
The mosque has a rectangular layout with an open courtyard in the center. The courtyard is surrounded by a covered verandah or a pillared arcade, which provides shade and protection from the sun and rain. The verandah has a series of arches, which give the mosque a distinctive Islamic architectural style.
The prayer hall or the musalla is located on the western side of the courtyard. The hall is rectangular and has a simple, unadorned design.
It has a thatched roof made of coconut leaves and bamboo, which allows natural light and air to enter the hall. The hall has a mihrab, which indicates the direction of Mecca, towards which Muslims face while praying.
The mosque also has a minaret or a tower, which is located at the northeastern corner of the courtyard. The minaret has a cylindrical shape and is about 70 feet high. It is made of laterite and has a spiral staircase inside, which leads to the top. The minaret is a later addition to the mosque and was built during a renovation in the 1970s.
The mosque also has a small library or a maktab, which contains Islamic books and manuscripts. The maktab is located near the entrance of the mosque and is open to the public. The mosque also has a separate area for women to pray, which is located at the back of the prayer hall.
History of the Oldest Masjid in India
The mosque’s history dates back to the 7th century when the Prophet Muhammad was alive. It was built by Malik Deenar, one of the Prophet’s companions, who had traveled to India to spread the teachings of Islam.
Legend has it that the mosque was built at the site where the King of Malabar, Cheraman Perumal, met with the Prophet and converted to Islam. According to historical accounts, the King had gone on a pilgrimage to Mecca and was impressed by the teachings of the Prophet.
He embraced Islam and decided to build a mosque in his kingdom. He requested Malik Deenar to build the mosque and gifted him a piece of land to construct it.
Malik Deenar arrived in Kerala with a group of Arab traders and scholars and began the construction of the mosque. He used local materials such as wood, bamboo, and clay to build the structure, which was simple and functional.
The mosque had a thatched roof and an open courtyard, which could accommodate a large number of worshippers. Over the centuries, the mosque underwent several renovations and extensions.
The mosque has great historical significance as it is believed to be the place where the first Muslim in India, Chera King, accepted Islam after meeting Prophet Muhammad in Arabia.
It is also a symbol of religious and cultural harmony as it is said to have been built with the help of local Hindus, who donated land and materials for its construction.
The mosque has undergone several renovations and restorations over the years to preserve its rich cultural and religious heritage. In 1979, the Government of India declared the mosque a protected monument.
The mosque hosts an annual festival called Nercha, which is celebrated in memory of the King who accepted Islam. The festival is attended by people from all religions and is a symbol of communal harmony and unity.
Renovations of the Masjid
The earliest renovations of the mosque date back to the 11th century when it was rebuilt in stone by the Chera dynasty, which ruled over Kerala at that time. The new structure had a rectangular prayer hall with an open courtyard and a thatched roof. The prayer hall was supported by wooden columns, and the walls were decorated with intricate carvings and calligraphy.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, the mosque underwent significant renovations and extensions under the patronage of the Zamorin of Calicut, who was a patron of Islamic art and culture. During this period, the mosque was enlarged to accommodate more worshippers, and new elements were added to the structure.
The most notable addition during this period was the minaret, which was built on the eastern side of the mosque. The minaret was a tall, slender tower with a spiraling staircase that led to the top.
From the top, the muezzin would call the faithful to prayer five times a day. The minaret was decorated with intricate carvings and geometric patterns, which were typical of Islamic art during that period. The base of the minaret had a pointed arch entrance, which was adorned with calligraphy and verses from the Quran.
During the colonial period, the mosque came under the control of the Portuguese, who destroyed most of the Islamic monuments in the area. However, the mosque survived, thanks to the efforts of the local Muslim community, who protected and maintained it.
In 1921, the mosque was renovated and restored to its original form by the Muslim community with the help of the British government. The mosque was once again renovated in 1974, and a new minaret was added to the structure. The new minaret was built on the western side of the mosque and was taller than the original minaret.
The new minaret was also decorated with intricate carvings and calligraphy, and the base had a pointed arch entrance similar to the original minaret. The mosque was also fitted with modern facilities such as electricity and plumbing, which made it more comfortable for worshippers.
How to Visit Cheraman Juma Masjid?
If you are interested in visiting Cheraman Juma Mosque, here are some guidelines that may be helpful:
- Dress Code
As with most mosques, visitors are expected to dress modestly and conservatively. Men should wear long pants and a shirt that covers their shoulders, while women should wear clothing that covers their entire body, including their arms and legs, and may need to wear a headscarf or hijab.
Shoes should be removed before entering the mosque. Most mosques will have a designated area where you can leave your shoes.
The mosque is usually open to visitors during non-prayer times. It is a good idea to check with the local community or mosque authorities to determine the best time to visit.
Show respect to the mosque and its worshippers. Avoid making loud noises, using your phone, or engaging in any behavior that may be disruptive or disrespectful.
Photography is generally not allowed inside the mosque. Check with the mosque authorities to determine if photography is allowed.
It is recommended to hire a guide who can provide you with more information about the history and significance of the mosque.
- Non-Muslim Visitors
Non-Muslim visitors are welcome in the mosque, but it is important to be respectful of the religious practices and traditions of the mosque and its worshippers.
It is always a good idea to check with the local community or mosque authorities to determine any specific rules or guidelines that may apply to visiting the Cheraman Juma Mosque. By being respectful of the mosque and its worshippers, visitors can have a meaningful and respectful experience when visiting the mosque.
Wrapping It Up
Today, the Cheraman Juma Mosque is a significant landmark in the history of Islam in India. It is a revered site for Muslims, who come here to offer prayers and pay their respects to the Prophet and his companions.
The mosque also serves as a symbol of the cultural and religious harmony that has existed in Kerala for centuries, as people of different faiths have coexisted peacefully in the region.
Here I tried to give a descriptive account of the oldest masjid in India, I hope you enjoyed reading the blog. What’s the thing that you find the most interesting about the oldest masjid in India?
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