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A mosque from a Hindu king

           Kodungallur (Kerala): An ancient mosque here stands testimony to the strong bonds between Hindus and Muslims in the largely secular state of Kerala.

          The Cheraman Juma Masjid was built by Malik bin Dinar, one of the 13 followers of Prophet Mohammad who reached the ancient port of Musuris on the spice route in Malabar in 629 AD. Legend has it that Cheraman Perumal, a Hindu ruler of Musuris (modern Kodungallur), embraced Islam at the behest of Dinar, abdicated his throne and left for Mecca to meet the prophet. Perumal is reported to have died at the port of Zafar, Yemen, where the tomb of the "Indian king" was a major attraction to Muslim pilgrims for many centuries.

          Syeed Mohammad, chief priest of the mosque, said that Perumal's followers built the mosque after returning from Arabia. "Cheraman Perumal gave a letter saying that the land should be given to build a mosque here. That is why it is known as Cheraman Juma Masjid. He died when he was abroad, that is in Oman, capital of Muscat. He gave a letter to Malik Dinar who had accompanied him. He said if the letter was given to the ruler, the land would be allotted and that a mosque should be built," Mohammad said.

          Unlike any other mosques in India, the Cheraman mosque uses a traditional brass oil lamp, mostly found in Hindu temples. The pulpit from where the chief priest gives Friday sermons is made of rosewood with carvings similar to those in temples. The archetecture also resembles Hindu temple style. There are two tombs, that of Bin Dinar and his sister inside the mosque, where Muslim priests light incense sticks, yet another Hindu practice.

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