The classic beauty and humble style of the "Cherman Juma Masjid", dating back to 629 AD, was restored after a painstaking renovation and conservation process spread over nearly 30 months under the state-run Muziris Heritage Project (MHP).
Located at Kodungallur taluk in this central Kerala district, the heritage structure was recreated in tune with its original character and aesthetics, at a cost of Rs 1.14 crore, P M Noushad, Managing Director of MHP, said.
Besides the renovation and conservation initiative started in May 2019, a two-story Islamic Heritage Museum was also constructed in the mosque campus spending nearly Rs one crore and its internal refurbishment is going on now, he noted. After submitting the letter of completion to the government, the MHP authorities are now awaiting Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's date to reopen the oldest mosque for visitors.
“It is expected to happen any day.. We are waiting for a convenient day of the Chief Minister for the inaugural function. If the COVID-19 situation is completely under control, it may happen within the next two week," Noushad told PTI.
According to Oral tradition, Cheraman Perumal, as the king, went to Arabia where he is said to have met the Prophet (PBUH) and embraced Islam in the early 7th century.
From there, he had sent letters, along with Malik Ibn Dinar, as a Persian scholar who travelled to India.
Dinar is believed to have built the masjid in 629 AD, five years after the king's death.
Noushad said they focused more on conserving the existing portions of the old structure and recreate its appearance in the past based on the old photographs.
"We demolished the additional concrete structure added to the main building in 1974. We recreated the old structure of the mosque with a tile roof as seen in the old photographs," he said.
Luckily, several portions of the basic structure were found retained as such, he said, adding that such portions had been renovated and conserved.
Besides the MHP's conservation effort, a multi-crore construction project is also underway at the masjid under the aegis of the mosque management.
An underground prayer hall, being constructed, is envisaged to accommodate at least 2000-3000 devotees.
A total of Rs 15-20 crore is expected for the same, the MD explained.
"Its structural work and internal plastering is over. Flooring and beautification work is pending and expected to be completed soon," he added.
The MHP, entrusted with the heritage management by the state government, had initiated discussions with the mosque committee and entered into an MoU with them for implementing the renovation and conservation initiatives.
After the renovation, the MHP is now awaiting the node to include the Cherman Juma Masjid in the Union Ministry of Tourism's 'National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD).