First Mosque, Christian Church, and Jewish Church in India
India is one of the countries in the world with many religions. There are many historic religious spots in India that have got a legend behind them. Kedarnath, Tirupati, Varanasi, Madurai, Shirdi, Sabarimala, Ranakpur, Amritsar, Haridwar, Badrinath, Rishikesh, Bodh Gaya, etc. are some of them. But can you believe the fact that the first Muslim mosque, Christian church, and Jewish church of India are in Kerala? Yes, it is true. The first mosque in India is the Cheraman Juma Masjid situated in Kodungallur, Kerala. The first Christian church in India is the St. Thomas Church situated in Palayur, Kerala. The first Jewish church in India is the Paradesi Synagogue situated in Kochi, Kerala. In this blog, let’s have a look at these three historic spots in a brief manner.
Cheraman Juma Masjid:
The Cheraman Juma Masjid located in Kodungallur, Thrissur, Kerala is the first mosque in India. It is believed that the mosque was built in 629 CE and is still in use. The mosque was built as per the orders of Cheraman Perumal, the reigning king of Kerala with Kodungallur as its capital. One day while sleeping, the king experienced an unusual dream where the new moon being split into two halves at the horizon. After experiencing such kind of a weird dream, the king was totally in a state of confusion. No one could give him a correct explanation for this unusual dream. After some days, the king met a group of Arab traders on their way to Ceylon. The king then mentioned about his dream to the Arabs and finally, he got a satisfactory explanation. The Arabs told that this may be the miracle performed by Prophet in Arabia and this event is also mentioned in the holy Quran. Cheraman Perumal was impressed and convinced after knowing this and he ultimately decided to embrace Islam. Soon, he went to Mecca, met the Prophet and embraced Islam. To ensure smooth governance, he divided his land and assigned different territories to local chieftains before leaving for Mecca. The king spent some years over there and finally, he decided to return home. But, unfortunately, he fell ill and passed away in Dhufar, Oman. Before his death, the king wrote some letters and these letters were handed over to the local rulers of Malabar. In the letters, the king wanted to construct mosques in various places. Hence, the first mosque in India was constructed at Kodungallur, the capital of the great king Cheraman Perumal and the mosque was also named after him. But in 1504, the mosque was destroyed by the Portuguese led by Lopo Soares de Albergaria, the third governor of Portuguese India when they attacked the port of Kodungallur. The mosque was then rebuilt after this incident and the main corridors and halls were built in 1984.
St. Thomas Church:
The St. Thomas Church also known as St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Church is the first Christian church in India and is situated in Palayur, Thrissur, Kerala. This Syrian Church was constructed in 52 AD by St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. The first baptism in India was performed by St. Thomas in this church and hence this church is called an apostolic Church credited to the apostolate of St. Thomas who preached and also introduced Christianity to the people here. Legend says that Thomas travelled from Muziris (Kodungallur) and landed at Palayur by boat through the backwaters. Palayur was a stronghold of the Brahmins and Jews at that time. St. Thomas came to Palayur to visit the Jewish merchants at Judakunnu and to preach the Christian gospel (message). There he saw some Hindu Brahmins offering prayers by chanting mantras to the Sun god in the form of Tharpanam. They were performing this activity in a local tank by taking water in their hands and throwing it up. St. Thomas was amused by seeing this sight and he decided to challenge the brahmins. He told the brahmins that the water they were throwing was not accepted by the Sun god and the water was going back to the tank itself. He then told the brahmins that his god would accept the offer of water if he threw it up exactly in the same way the brahmins did but the water will not fall back. He also added that if this occurs, then his god is superior and the brahmins have to accept Christianity. He performed this miracle and witnessing such a wonder, the brahmins embraced Christianity. He led many Brahmins and Jews towards Christianity using this miracle. Then he baptisted the converts in a nearby water tank which is now known as “Thaliyakulam”. Thaliyakulam is known as the “first baptism pond” and it is also known as the “birth place of Christianity in India.” This is how Christianity spread across Kerala and as a result many churches were constructed and the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Church was the oldest among them.
The Paradesi Synagogue is the first Jewish Church in India. It is also known as Mattancherry Synagogue and is located in Mattancherry Jew Town, Kochi, Kerala. The Synagogue was built in 1568 AD by Sephardic jews including Samuel Castiel, David Belila, and Joseph Levi who had been exiled from Spain and Portugal decades earlier. In the mid 16th century, the consolidation of Portuguese power in Western India affected the Jewish community very badly and the officials tried to eradicate the religion and eventually the Synagogue was destroyed by fire in 1662. But the following year witnessed a Dutch settlement in the surrounding Malabar Coast and this brought glory back to the Jew community and the Synagogue was reconstructed. The Synagogue is a white-walled rectangular building consisting of a tile roof and wrought-iron gates and is decorated with the “star of David” (the star shaped Jewish symbol). In mid 18th century, a Dutch style clock tower with four clocks having four different numeral styles- Hebrew, Roman, Malayalam, and Arabic was constructed by Ezekeil Rahabi, the Dutch East India Company’s principal merchant in India. The Synagogue comprises of gold and silver decorated Torah scrolls, an intricately carved teak ark, a rug gifted by the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I, paintings showing Jewish history, Belgian Crystal Chandeliers, and decorative lamps in silver, brass, and glass. A scintillating feature of the Synagogue is the hand-painted tiles paving the floor which were exported from China.
Check your knowledge
Answer. The Cheraman Juma Masjid located in Kodungallur, Thrissur, Kerala is the first mosque in India.
Answer. The St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Church is the first Christian church in India and is situated in Palayur, Thrissur, Kerala.
Answer. The Paradesi Synagogue is the first Jewish Church in India.
Answer. Ezekeil Rahabi, the Dutch East India Company’s principal merchant in India.