Kerala occupies hardly any place in the history of Indo-Islamic architecture.
There are innumerable mosques in Kerala none of them shows any grand architectural
form so conspicuous in the imperial and provincial styles of the Indo-Islamic
architecture through out the sub-continent. Kerala came in contact with
Islam, perhaps earlier than in many parts of India. It is said that one
Malik-Ibn-Dinar was the first Muslim to land at Crangannur (Cannanore)
along with his family. He built the first mosque there, followed by eight
more along the coast. The extant mosque at Crangannur, a lofty two-storied
building with tiled roofs, does not disclose any feature that may be dated
to the seventh century AD. Its outer walls are built on an abhisthana,
similar to any Brahmanical temple. There are corridor's on all the four
sides of the central hall mean for prayers, with a mihrab on the western
wall. In many respects this is a common plan of mosque in Kerala.
The Arab traders, introduced Islam to Kerala, during
the eighth or ninth century.
The mosque architecture in Kerala must have considerable
heights between the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries-the period
of Arab supremacy in the maritime trade with Malabar. In the graveyard
called Para Palli at Kollam district and Kozhikode are to be seen a number
of epitaphs of the thirteenth century. There are at least two graves in
the compound of the Jami-Masjid at Madayi belonging to the same period.
The mosque known as Kollampalli at Quilon has an inscription on the mihrab
registering its gift by Amir Agmad, son of Abul-i-Fath of Kazrum
in AD.1326. A bilingual inscription from the Muchchandipalli, Calicut,
ascribable to the thirteenth century, clearly states that the mosque and
the quarters for the main and muadhdhin were built by shihabid-Din Raihan,
a freed slave out of his own money.
Some epigraphically evidences on the renovation of mosques
are also available. The Parpil Muhyiu'd-Dins mosque at Calicut was built
in AD 958 (AD.1551) renovated in AH 1197. The Kannamkulangara at chaliyam,
at Kozhikode district has yielded an inscription giving AH 756 (
AD 1335) as the date of reconstruction of the mosque. An inscription from
the Jami-Majid at Quilandy, Kozhikode district, speaks of the construction
of the mosque in AH 999(1590-91) and its reconstruction by the people
of the town in AH 1186 (AD 1772-73).
The mosques in Kerala are generally covered structure
comprising a large prayer hall in the centre with covered verandhas on
all the sides. They resemble the storeyed residential buildings and have
their walls made of laterite blocks. Many mosques in Kerala share the
same features as the ones noticed there in the Brahmanical tradition.
The mosque at Patalayini Kollam had its dome covered, like the Brahmanical
temples, with sheets of copper. The Jama-Masjid at Tannur, district Malappuram
has a gate or gopura covered with copper sheeting. Of more than two dozen
mosques at Ponnani, at Malappuram district, the most important is the
Jama -Masjid, three storeyed building with tiled roofs. Like the stupis
of the Brahmanical temples, it is also crowned by five pinnacles. A small
structure known as Makhdums house, within the complex, has its roof covered
with copper sheets and is also pinnacled. But the mosque was constructed
in AH 956 (AD,1549-50) and perhaps renovated in AH 1167 (AD1753-54). Like
the mosque at Cranganur it has abasement similar to the abhisthana of
the Brahmanical temples. Pillars near the main entrance, like those in
the Brahmanical tradition, show alternatively square and octagonal sections.
At the same time, some of the mosques unlike the temple tradition show
the employment of arches. The outer walls of the Jami Masjid at Ponnani
are pierced on all the sides by doors while the inner walls have several
Wood has been extensively used in the super structure
and in the construction of ceilings. But the wooden pulpits (mimbar) in
mosques are the best examples of wood-carvings associated with the Islamic
architecture in Kerala. There are a few inscriptional evidences also about
the construction of and repairs to pulpits. An inscription on a wooden
plank on the pulpit (mimbar) in the Jami-Masjid at Baypore at Kozhikode
district, records its construction in AD 1132 (AD1719-20) by a ship-master
(nakhuda). The one at the Mithqual mosque at Calicut was built in AH 1088
(AD 1677-78), while the pulpit in the Jami-Masjid at the same place was
repaired by a ship-master in AH,1094 (AD 1682-83).
Compared to the pulpits, the mosques themselves are unpretentious
monuments and completely utilitarian in character. The closed prayer hall
and sloping tiled roofs have been used to combat the phenomenon of heavy
rainfall but this alone does not fully explain their austere architectural
features. In other parts of India, the Indo-Islamic architecture drew
its main inspiration from the Persian and Turkish traditions, unsurpassed
in the architectural wealth and artistic vision. This trend never reached
the shores of Malabar, where the Arabic tradition of simplicity of structural
form had combined itself with the indigenous style of Kerala, there by
giving rise to a new type of mosque architecture.