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Preserving History: Thazhathangady Juma Masjid a Testament to India’s Rich Cultural Heritage

12 Apr. 2024

Nestled 3 kilometers from Kottayam town in Kerala, Juma Masjid at Thazhathangady stands as a testament to India’s rich cultural and architectural heritage. Believed to be over 1,300 years old, this mosque, situated along the scenic banks of the Meenachil river, is revered not only for its age but also for its stunning architectural beauty.

Thazhathangady, once the bustling commercial heart of old Kottayam, is celebrated for its communal harmony. Here, amid this historic locale, stands a unique triad of religious structures – an ancient church and temple alongside the venerable Juma Masjid – testifying to the spirit of coexistence. Legend has it that the mosque’s inception is credited to Malik Bin Dinar, who journeyed to Kerala centuries ago for Islamic missionary endeavors.

The mosque itself is an imposing two-storey edifice spanning an impressive 4,200 square feet. Its interior is cleverly divided into Akampalli and Purampalli sections, a design that facilitates natural air circulation, ensuring a cool refuge even amidst the sweltering Kerala heat.

Renowned historian MG Sasibhooshan sheds light on the absence of a minaret, explaining that this architectural deviation is common in Kerala’s historic mosques, possibly influenced by the local topography. Sasibhooshan further draws parallels with mosques in Southeast Asia, like those in Sumatra and Java, which similarly eschew traditional minarets.

Historical records suggest that the mosque owes its creation to the benevolence of the erstwhile king of Thekkumkoor, who aimed to foster trade in the region. Kottayam, his capital, became a melting pot as he invited Muslims, Christians, and Gaud Saraswat Brahmins to settle down in Thazhathangady, supporting the mosque’s construction with timber and funds.

One of the mosque’s intriguing features is the ‘mukkutty saaksha’, a unique triple-latch lock system securing the main prayer hall. It is said that the mosque was built with foresight, featuring double walls with a secret passage between them – possibly a defensive measure against potential trade rivalries or conflicts, although no historical attacks have been documented.

Women are welcomed into the mosque, except during Ramadan, while adhering to guidelines of sanctity and hygiene. Imam Shafiq Falil Mannani emphasizes the respect accorded to all visitors, allowing them to marvel at the interior of the neighboring church.

Upon entering the mosque’s precincts, visitors encounter a 2,000-liter tank, hewn from a single rock and filled with water from an external well. Worshippers and guests must cleanse themselves here before proceeding – a ritual that underscores the mosque’s commitment to tradition and purity.

Imam Mannani proudly shares that the mosque’s committee diligently upholds its original construction style, coordinating closely with the archaeological department for maintenance and renovations. While the mosque was poised to receive heritage status, the committee opted against it, preferring to preserve its role as an active religious center rather than becoming a static museum.

For worshippers and visitors alike, the Juma Masjid at Thazhathangady embodies a blend of history, architectural splendor, and enduring cultural significance – an invaluable gem standing the test of time.

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