KNOWN AS MUZIRIS to the Greeks, and Cranganore to the Europeans, Kodungallur was the historic capital of the Cheraman Perusals, monarchs of the Chera empire. Situated at the mouth of the Periyar river, this was the Malabar Coast’s main port until a flood tide in 1341 silted up the harbour. After this catastrophe, Kochi became the main port.

The town is today a major destination for Hindus, Christians and Muslims alike. The Bhagavatl Temple, in the city centre, is the venue of a three-day festival of erotic song and dance. This temple was originally the shrine of a Dravidian goddess. It was then taken over by either the Buddhists or the Jains . The festival marks the reclaiming of the site for the goddess.

St Thomas is said to have landed here in AD 52. The Mar Thoma Pontifical Shrine houses a sacred relic that was brought from the Vatican in 1953 to celebrate the anniversary of the saint’s arrival 1,900 years earlier. The Cheraanan Mosque, 2 km (1.3 miles) from the city centre, was built in AD 629 by Malik Bin Dinar, who introduced Islam to Kerala. Perhaps the first mosque in India, it resembles a Hindu temple.

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