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Kozhikode (Calicut)

Formerly one of Asia’s most prosperous trading capitals, the busy coastal city of KOZHIKODE (Calicut), 225km north of Kochi, occupies an extremely important place in Keralan legend and history. It’s also significant in the chronicles of European involvement on the Subcontinent, as Vasco da Gama landed at nearby Kappad beach in 1498. After centuries of decline following the Portuguese destruction of the city, Kozhikode is once again prospering thanks to the flow of remittance cheques from the Gulf – a legacy of its powerful, Moppila-Muslim merchant community, who ran the local ruler’s (zamorin’s) navy and trade.

The recent building boom has swept aside most monuments dating from the golden age, but a few survive, notably a handful of splendid Moppila mosques, distinguished by their typically Keralan, multi-tiered roofs. The three most impressive specimens lie off a backroad running through the Muslim quarter of Thekkepuram, 2km southwest of the maidan. Start at the 1100-year-old Macchandipalli Masjid, between Francis Road and the Kuttichira Tank, whose ceilings are covered in beautiful polychrome stucco and intricate Koranic script. A couple of hundred metres further north, the eleventh-century Jama Masjid’s main prayer hall, large enough for a congregation of twelve hundred worshippers, holds another ­elaborately carved ceiling. The most magnificent of the trio of mosques, however, is the Mithqalpalli (aka Jama’atpalli) Masjid, hidden down a lane behind Kuttichira tank. Resting on 24 wooden pillars, its four-tier roof and turquoise walls were built more than seven hundred years ago.

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