Put on the world map by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498, Kozhikode today is a centre of flourishing domestic and international trade in Northern Kerala. A thriving city as it is, Kozhikode is embellished with a strong rustic charm, beholding century old customs and art forms with poise. Popular for its historical sites, unique culture, yesteryear yet friendly ambience, Kozhikode can be engaging enough!
Kozhikode was once the capital of the Malabar region and was ruled by the Zamorin Kings prior to the British and Portuguese invasion. It was founded in the 13th century A.D by the Udaiyavar of Ernad after fighting a vicious battle of 48 long years with the Pollithiri King. The Europeans called Udaiyavar Zamorin. Kozhikode was a trading port in spices like black pepper, cardamom, paper, textile, lac, ginger, myrobalans, cinnamon and zedoary. That is why it was called the ‘Jewel of Malabar’.
The popular tourist hangouts in Kozhikode are the Beach Road, Mananchira Square, the Mother of God Cathedral and the Tali Temple. The beach road area is a perfect spot to wander around in the evenings and choosing assorted snacks and eatables from the vendors off this boulevard. There is also a marine aquarium at the northern end of this beach, quite during the heat of the day, it attracts a few visitors.
The Mananchira Square is the shopping hub of Kozhikode. It lies in the heart of the city and is surrounded by important landmarks like a pleasing brick and tile public library, bust of S.K Pottekkad, a famous Malaya writer and a way to the SM Street that is swarmed with shoppers from morning to night. SM Street literally means the ‘sweet meat’ Street is a haven for those who have a sweet tooth. It is known specially for ‘Halva’, a local glutinous sweet dish. Moving through this area, it is hard not to lay hands on stuffs sold here.
The 18th century Gothic cathedral, the Mother of God Cathedral was built by Jesuit missionaries. A 200 year old portrait of St. Mary imposingly adorns its walls and it has an elegant façade. This building is a living tribute to the Italian and Indian skills of architecture. It also reminds of the peaceful coexistence of the Christian fraternity in Kozhikode since ages, just another example complimenting Kozhikode’s unique culture.
Manavikraman, a Zamorin King built the Tali Temple in the 14th century equipped with intricate carvings on wooden roofs. This temple hosts an annual cultural and intellectual event, Revathi Pattathanam. Located about one and a half kilometers east of the Mananchira square, this temple is worth a visit.
Apart from the temple and the cathedral, Kozhikode has two historical and architectural landmarks in the form of the Mishkal Mosque and the Muchundipalli Mosque. The Mishkal Mosque was constructed by a rich Arab businessman and ship owner Nakhooda Mishkal nearly 700 years ago. It is built entirely out of wood, supported on 24 carved pillars and has 47 doors. There are intricate carvings on the ceilings and doors. The Gopuram style entrance arches and the absence of minarets evokes the influence of Kerala’s temple architecture on its construction.
The Muchundipalli Mosque is the oldest mosque in the city. Built in the 13th century this mosque has a inscription on a stone slab in ancient Vattezhuthu script (Ancient Malayam) that narrates the story of a Zamorin King who donated land. The outer walls of this mosque have elaborate and beautiful wood carvings on its ceilings.
A Planetarium and a Science Centre and Pazhassiraja Museum and Art Gallery also dot Kozhikode. The Planetarium is situated at the city’s Jaffar Khan Colony and must not be missed. This Planetarium can occupy 250 people at once and has a Zeiss projector installed which conjures up perfectly, the night sky. Huge working models of garden insects, bugs and arthropods in the entomology section called ‘Giants of Nature’ at the Regional Science Centre are popular amongst tourists.
The Pazhassiraja Museum was built in 1812 and has a rare collection of copies of excavated earthenware, models of temples and megalithic monuments like the rock cut caves, crypts, umbrella stones and burial urns and ancient murals, bronzes, old coins. The Art gallery, lying next door to the Museum exhibits extra ordinary collection of paintings painted by Raja Ravi Varma and his uncle Raja Rama Varma. Those who have an eye for art should not miss this place.
Carrying its history on its sleeves, Kozhikode has a modern air due to its never eluding business buzz. Though not entirely a tourist’s retreat, it has its own subtle yet somehow vivacious charm that can behold a tourist for some time.