Friday, May 29, 2020

Arts and Architecture


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 arched openings.

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.