We at ED Times were fortunate enough to get a chance to speak to Mr. Denny P. John, a Research Assistant with the Muziris Heritage Project, and find out a little more about this unique venture that has been taking social media by storm. 

The Backstory

Thousands of years ago, Kerala was deeply involved in the spice trade, exchanging all kinds of indigenously grown spices with traders from far and wide. 

The port town of Muziris was one of the most important ports in Kerala, and was a global gateway for cultural exchange with Buddhists, Arabs, Chinese, Jews, Romans, Portuguese, Dutch, and the British.

However, this town vanished off the maps around 3,000 years ago, thanks to the decline of the Roman Empire and natural disasters like flood or earthquake, and seemed to be lost to history… however, rains in the unassuming town of Pattanam in present-day Kerala uncovered the remains of this once vibrant, pulsating port town.

There were clues that Pattanam had a hidden past- children would discover glass beads and shards of pottery while playing, and the name Pattanam itself means something similar to ‘port’ in Prakrit.

About the Project

The Government of Kerala aims to revive the culture and heritage of Muziris through a series of cultural and architectural restoration programmes.

Some highlights of the project are as follows:

  • It is the largest heritage conservation project in the country.
  • It is the first Green Project undertaken by the Government of India.
  • It involves the convergence and cooperation of multiple government departments.
  • More than 25 museums have been plotted to uphold the glorious Muziris heritage.
  • A research and academic institution is involved in supporting this project.
  • Major improvements are being made in terms of infrastructure.
  • There is integration with local communities through native resource people, who help with data collection, survey, etc. 

Kerala’s First Green Project

The Clean Muziris Green Muziris project is part of the Green Carpet Initiative, which was introduced by the Department of Tourism as a first of its kind multi-agency participatory project that aims at building a sustainable destination management system in Kerala through participation and partnerships.

The Muziris Project was one among the destinations chosen from Ernakulam District, out of a total of 79 prominent tourist destinations selected from all over Kerala. 

On 2 Oct 2019 (Gandhi Jayanti), 70 saplings were planted in the project area with the help of the NSS wing and teachers of the Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Parur. 

The Kottapuram waterfront is taken as a model for other projects, with its waste bin culture and well-cared for trees as its highlights.

Read More: Kerala Floods Helped Rediscover The Ancient City Of Muziris, From The Ramayana Era

The Multi-Religious Connect

The vibrant port town of Muziris is home to important parts of Islamic, Christian, and Jewish heritage in Kerala.

Islam: The first mosque built in India is in the project area, and is currently under conservation. 

Christianity: The church of St. Thomas, the first disciple of Christ, also comes under the project zone. 

Judaism: There are 3 synagogues (Paravur, Chendamangalam, and Mala) and 2 cemeteries (one in Mala and one in Chendamangalam) in the project area.

The Jewish heritage of this place goes back to 1420 when Jews from Kodungallur or Palayur came to Chendamangalam and built a Synagogue for Malabari Jews. 

Located near Kottayil Kovilakam hill, this Synagogue was built in the model of the Temple of Jerusalem which was destroyed in a fire, and has seen rebuilding and renovations over the centuries. 

The Chendamangalam Synagogue Museum is a gem to this community. It showcases the lives and rituals of Kerala Jews in an authentic manner.

Originally constructed in the 17th century, the Synagogue has been renovated and restored by the Government of Kerala, and houses a small museum on early Jewish life in the state, as well as important historical artefacts such as the tombstone fragment of a woman who died in 1264 AD. 

God’s Own Country Indeed

The Muziris Heritage Project is doing an invaluable service by restoring and documenting these important historical sites and facts which would otherwise have been lost to time. 

The project has received an enthusiastic response from youngsters in Kerala- both as visitors and volunteers. 

Do put it on your travel list, and experience the rich history of this small town in God’s Own Country!

Image Credits: The Muziris Heritage Project, Mr. Denny P. John

Sources: MuzirisHeritage.org, Muziris Heritage Project, Email interview with Mr. Denny P. John

Find the author online @samyukthanair_

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