The coastal stretch North of Cochin is where a lot of history sleeps beneath the earth. During an era when the earth was too big than one could imagine, there was an old trade port named Muziris. It was this flourishing port town which gave way to two major religions of the world to India – Islam and Christianity. There was Hinduism which already existed in the land. Christianity and Islam were introduced into the Indian Sub continent through sea.
Arrival of St Thomas at Muziris and the first seven churches built way back in 52 AD
It is believed that St Thomas the disciple of Christ travelled to India in a trade Vessel from the Roman empire. He arrived at Muziris of the Malabar Coast in AD 52. The saint travelled extensively within the local kingdoms performing miracles and preached The Way. He baptized seven Brahmin families and founded the first Church at Palayur which is forty kilometers north of Kodungallur where the Port town was supposed to have been located. He erected a cross and built a small church of wood and laterite stone which was available locally. Further he travelled south and established seven churches, some people believe he was unable to complete the eighth church and so it is seven and a half churches. Then on Nazarani or St Thomas Christians have been in Kerala and parts of South India. The Saint travelled through the coast line towards east preaching the gospel. St. Thomas Mount (Close to Chennai) atop a hillock he was killed with a spear by local fundamentalists.
The palayur church was the first one to be established. In the fifteenth century – Fr. Fenicio, a Jesuit priest, identified the church and sought permission from the local Samudhiri king to rebuild the church. It was granted and that is the base structure of the palayur church which exists today. There is a black Cross surrounded by fixed oil lamp structures at the end opposite to the altar of the church. This is believed to be built by St Thomas. Behind the church a five minute walk away is supposed to be the pond where the first baptism in the land took place. Opposite to the church is a museum which displays old Bibles, church equipment, statues, parts of the old church like huge granite stones.
What made the King Cheraman Puramal embrace Islam and initiate the decision to build the first mosque in India?
Perumal is a title given to the Cheraman King which means “God”. During the Muziris era, the then Perumal had a dream where the moon splits itself into two halves and rejoins. He wasn’t able to understand the meaning of his dream, neither were his courtiers were able to give him a convincing answer. A group of sailors form Arabia who were on their voyage to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) stopped by at Muziris. They heard about the king’s dream and sought permission to see him. They explained that the dream would have been the miracle Prophet Mohammed performed in Arabia.
Cheraman Perumal decided to sail to Mecca to meet Nabi Mohammed and there he embraced Islam and renamed himself Tajudin. On his way back to Muziris, he fell sick at Salalah (Oman) and passed away. Before his death, he wrote letters to his ministers back home to build a Mosque in his kingdom. The Perumal sent the letters through Malik bin Dinar and he built the first mosque in India. Read more about Cheraman Juma Masjid and the story of the Perumal
Written by Benjamin John