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