Kutichira: Ancient Pally by the Pond

Mishkal Pally, Kutichira, Calicut. View from the west. Originally five-tiered. Reduced to four stories after the 1510 attack by the Portuguese resisted by the naval force of Kunjali Marakar.

The place is named after the Chira or big pond.  Kuti Chira literally means the pond of a Kuti.  The words Kuti, Kottam and Vattam refer to a Pally or a non-Hindu holy place.  In Kerala places related to Jain, Buddhist and other Pallys are tagged with the term Kuti.  Kutipuram, Kanjirakuti, Karukuti, Kutikal etc. prove the Pally connection.  Kutichira is a south western suburb of Calicut city or Kozhikode close to the Arabian sea.

Chira or the great pond of Kutichira. Mishkal Pally in the backdrop. 15 August 2012

The place houses ancient mosques or Pallys that attract admirers from all over the world.  There are at least three monumental mosques around the big pond or Chira of Kutichira.   Some of them like the Koonan Pally have lost the old charm in restructuring.  The four-tiered Mishkal Pally is the biggest and tallest.  Juma Pally to the south of the tank is exquisite with its wood carvings and arches.  Muchundi Pally south of Juma Pally is an architectural marvel in itself with a tall facade, raised verandah and big pillars.

Juma Pally, Kutichira, Calicut

The Pallys are built in 14th century according to legend and inscriptions.  The architectural style of the middle ages with elaborate wooden work and carvings is distinct on all these monuments.  The proximity of these heritage buildings to the Jain temples are also remarkable.  The Jain temple complex is slightly north to Kutichira and that region is known as  Trikovil lane.

Juma Pally, Kutichira, Calicut.

It is interesting to note that the places south west of the Valiyangadi is associated with the Pallys of various non-Hindu religions.  It can also be assumed that Jewish and Buddhist Pallys also adorned this coastal region up to the middle ages.  Place names like Trikovil and Kutichira articulate the non-Hindu antiquity of the place, and Calicut itself.

Carved wooden panels in Juma Pally, Kutichira

It is also important to remember here that Muslims are also called “Baudhar” in certain texts and literary discourses in Kerala.  This convention significantly connect them to the Chamana tradition before the coming of Islam to the west coast of India, chiefly through the pioneering efforts of West Asian traders and early missionaries like Malik Dinar.  Mishkal Pally itself is named after the Arab trader who constructed it. In this perspective it could be assumed that before the 8th century Kutichira and its Pallys could be of Chamana origin.  The place name undoubtedly record this Chamana antiquity forever.  After the ruin of Buddhism by infiltrated Brahmanism in the 6th to 8th centuries the Chamana people embraced Islam that provided security and equality to them from the parasitic and casteist hierarchy of the twice-born obscurantism.

Muchundi Pally, Kutichira, Calicut

It is also apt to remember here that Kozhikode itself  is a colloquial form of Kovilkode. People still say Koyikode in common speech.   It means the corner land of the Kovil as Kasarakod is the corner of Kasaram or Kanjiram trees.  The word Kovil was also used to refer to the Chamana Pallys in ancient Tamil.  The Pallys of Kutichira face east like The Kodungallur Cheraman Pally, Kasarakod Malik Dinar Pally and Thazhathangady Jumath Pally in Kottayam.

Mishkal Pally, Kutichira, Calicut. View from the south. Built in the 14th century by an Arab trader Mishkal according to legend.

The ancient mosques of Kutichira that are more than 700 years old must be preserved for posterity and the futuristic legacies of Kerala.  It is indeed a great enlightening experience and pilgrimage in the holy month of Ramadan to visit Kutichira as I was fortunate enough on 15th August 2012.  Devotees gather here from all over Malabar to break their fast and find peace and solace in the soothing evening breeze from the Arabian sea.

Doorway of an old Muslim house in Kutichira

8 thoughts on “Kutichira: Ancient Pally by the Pond”

  1. In C.V.Raman Pillai’s Marthandavarma also Mohammedans/Muslims are referred to as Boudhas by one of the character in the novel

  2. Great information.Having roots in kozhikode, I never knew that calicut was actually kovilkode ,was wondering till today how it became kozhi(hen) kode!!

    Need to read more on this history part as well as on your post of age old travancore rules and taxes and customs.it is enlightening ..but at the same time sad to know how much the system sadistically and brutally demeaned humans……so much for our culture which we proudly boast now and then to others

  3. Your observations here are interesting. It is also important to see that the Muslim dargas are definitely a continuation of the stupa architucture of budhism and were places were funereal remains of saints were kept. The kavus also were remnants of buddhist and jainist holy spaces which couldn’t be totally subsume by brahminism

    1. It can also be seen that place names like Pallippurathu kaavu (Kodimatha, Kottayam District) definitely point towards this. Vennimala in Kottayam was also an ancient Jaina space. The worship of nature, as seen in various places were also connected to buddhism. Further, it was definitely the egalitarianism of these ancient traditions which was unacceptable to brahminism, As the story of the earthly paradise of Mahabali , ravan or kaliya demonstrates, brahminism was totally antagonistic to those egalitarian ideals. The question of whether the aryans had come or not, because there had been migrations from one place to another all around the globe at all times is not very significant, because it could have been the capillarity in certain hegemonically oriented power systems combined with the forces from elsewhere that had shaped this heirarchic model of anti egalitarianism. If we also look at the fact that Ajanta itself, Khatotkach etc., were abandoned for long it will definitely point towards authoritarian power’s role in rendering these connections obscure. Cleared Mangrove forests as in Dahisar(Mumbai), cleared with mud from excavations elsewhere, also point towards large scale buddhist presences in that area.

  4. It is also notable that certain notions of brahminism were instrumental in the founding of Nazism itself, which was basically anti-egalitarianism at its worst. Tthe power structure of Brahminism, which was foundational in the politics of segregation and specialisation everywhere was a most cruel form of micro- fascism which was ever practiced in history, and could have contributed to the Kantian notion of ‘immanence’ which wanted to seperate and establish philosophy as a ‘disciplinary’ form of knowledge as seperated from theology, which would make possible an ethical and spiritually connected view about all things and not just what is considered to be the ‘essential subject matter’ by so called disciplinary ‘philosophers’. It should also be noted that it could have been the Kantian impossibility of addressing the question of slavery which made these segregations necessary and that secularism as we know it is an off-shoot of this. ‘Nagas’, who were also an ancient Indian presence (the Mahabharata of the Bhil tribe is centred around ‘Nagaloka’ -see the connection also to Naka loka- paradise and the story of takshaka and the nagas) and have remained so in the north east was an indigenous egalitarian tradition which was also connected to practices of community which the brahminists tried to take control over through suppression, co-option and misrepresentation. This was also a tradition found all over the subcontinent and was also connected to the worship of sun, fire, falcon etc which comes from various traditions including Zourashtrianism, egyptian traditions of the sungod Ra whose symbol was an integrated representation of the sun, snake and falcon. Brahminism tried to introduce heirarchy into these traditions by pitting the garuda (from the northern highlands as in Garud near almorah) against the nagas. ‘Ananda’ the snake was a symbol of the infinite which brahminism tried to bring under control by making it Vishnu’s bed. The relations of brahminism to the sungod was also antagonistic, as we can see in the story of Karna, son born to the sungod. Fights were also introduced between the sisters Kadru and Vineetha and their children, also pitting them against the ‘Rakshasas’ (jatayu and Ravan). Aruna connected to the sungod was also a half- formed entity. The story of Palazhi mandhan also shows the story of continuing co-existence which was destroyed by Vishnus ‘mohini’ stealing the Amrut, and the greek story of the stealing of fire, shows various instances of the cunning manipulation of resources by authoritarian power structures.

  5. The falcon is also an ancient bird presence which we come across in various Dalit folk songs- (in Kerla we come across a large variety of instances in which the Falcon- Chembarunthu figures from the very first songs taught in Malayalam text books(Raakiparakkunna chembarunthe) (Appanille… thinthaara njangalkkammayille thinthaaraa- also showing a certain oppressive present) the songs of Chengannooraadi, in songs like (aan pambum penpaambum ninnaadana kande) in the tamil and Sreenarayana gurus songs like Aadu pambe punam thedu pambe, in A .Ayyappan’s Maalamillaatha paambu etc. The worship of snakes in Mannaarsala which is on an inauspicious day according to brahminism-Aayilyam points to the remnants of these practices attempted to be taken over by brahminism. Sivas position with regard to the snake, to bhootha ganas, to the cremation ground (chudala)etc. and his negative image as a god of destruction point to its more earthly tradition.Ayyappa, a prophetic’Buddha presence in Kerala, was also connected to the indegenous tribes- the camphor light on the occasion of makaravilakku is burnt by them, and to muslims- he was directly connected to Muslims as the connection to Vavaru pally amply demonstrates, though these were also partially co-opted to brahminical heirachies later on. A friend of mine wasthe other day also mentioning the early Syrian connections of Christianity to Buddhism.

  6. Dear Benoy, thanks for commenting. There is a slight error in terming Chembaruntu as falcon. It is actually the Brahminy Kite. Chakki Paruntu is called the Pariah or Black Kite. Your observations and comments are really valuable and significant. Keep adding inputs.

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