A journey to Chaliyam, Beypore and Kozhikode

Impressions of the historical interplay of religious infrastructures, local geographies and trade networks in Chaliyam, Beypore and Kozhikode on the Malabar coast in India. The footage was filmed in March 2022 by Prof. Dr. Susanne Rau from Erfurt University as she travelled the Malabar coast for archival research and a series of co-operation events with Farook College, Kozhikode. The research trip was undertaken in the context of the Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” and funded by the German Research Foundation (FOR 2779). The film was edited by Lukas Severin Damm.

More on the “Religion and Urbanity” group: www.uni-erfurt.de/go/urbrel

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Research results from the group are published on the open access platform Religion and Urbanity Online (ISSN: 2750-8080, de Gryuter): https://doi.org/10.1515/urbrel

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Spoken Text

We are here in the south of India, in Kerala on the Malabar coast. In Chaliyam, not far from the Arabian Sea, we find this very old mosque. „Malik-Ibn-Dinar Masjid“ is written on the plate at the entrance gate, „one among the ten masjids constructed by Hasrath Malik-Ibn-Dinar and his twelve disciples along the Arabian Sea Coast in Hijra 22” – that is in the 7th century of our era.

Malik Ibn Dinar was a Tabi’in [Tabein] and one of the first known Muslims to come to India in order to propagate Islam in the Indian subcontinent.

Like most mosques, this one too has a well, perhaps 5 metres deep, where one finds groundwater. A few steps further on, you can see Vadakkumpadu River, which then flows into the main stream of the Chaliyar River.

After crossing the Chaliyar we come to Beypore. The Chaliyar river is almost 170 km long. It originates in the Western Ghats and meets the Lakshadweep Sea at an azhi (or estuary) at Chaliyam and Beypore. Like the other major rivers in the Malabar region, it has been an important transport route since the Middle Ages for crops, especially spices, which grew in the hilly region, but also for timber. 

A little further north, after crossing the Kallai River, we come to Kozhikode, also known as Calicut. The Zamorin’s family and court, who had previously lived in Eranad, settled in the city in the 13th century, built a palace and nearby a shaivite temple known as a “Tali temple” dedicated to lord Shiva. The location was strategically cleverly chosen: on one side the sea, on the other spices, minerals and clay. Both connected by the river Chaliyar. Since that time, the city has also developed into a commercial centre.

The temple structure is still visible. It dates back to the 14th century. Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple complex. The two-storied sancta sanctorum has the shape of a chariot and is adorned with decorative mural paintings on the walls and granite sculptures of lord Siva’s retinue, as well as birds and animals, mentioned in the puranas, old texts of Hinduism and full of symbolism.

In the immediate vicinity there is a steep temple tank ... and a smaller, probably privately owned, Ganapathi Temple. The temple is accessed by a colourful gopuram or entrance tower.

In direct connection to the Tali temple is a second important Hindu temple, dedicated to the goddess Bhagavathi. This temple existed already before the arrival of the Zamorin. It was important not only for the ruling family, but also because, according to ancient chronicles, Bhagavathi became the patron goddess of trade in Kozhikode, in which Muslims also played an important role.

And this is a tree with a very special fruit and intensely smelling flowers: a cannonball tree. The local people call it Nagalinga or Nagapathi which means hood of the snake.



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