Hailed as the ‘Jewel of the Malabar’, the old port town of Kozhikode is derived from koyil (palace) kotta (fortified), after a 16th century fort built by the Samoothiri rulers. Seafarer Vasco da Gama landed at nearby Kappad beach on May 27, 1498, discovering a direct sea route to India. It marked the entry of European powers like the Portuguese, Dutch, French and the British to Kerala’s coveted spice coast, who waged bitter trade wars. Today, the old warehouses, ancient temples, mosques and churches dotting the city, coupled with exceptional regional cuisine, make Kozhikode a fascinating getaway.Getting here is convenient with the Kozhikode airport that serves all the major cities within the country and internationally.
Kozhikode tourism has a lot to offer everyone. Take the Beach Road to Kozhikode Beach lined with pushcarts and beachfront eateries. Continue past the Thikkoti Lighthouse to the Marine Aquarium and Research Museum run by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI). Sailors to Kozhikode recognized the fabled port town by the lofty dome of the Madre de Deus (Mother of God) Cathedral, visible from afar. It is the only Latin cross-domed church in neo-Roman style built by the Portuguese in Kerala. Worth noting here are the images of the Virgin Mary and the Crucifixion. Also check out the 1860 St Mary's English Church and the CSI Church near DTPC office, set up in 1842 by the Basel Mission – don’t miss the lovely pipe organ from England. Thanks to Kozhikode corporation that has kept the old charm of years old buildings, still intact.
At the heart of town is Mananchira Square, named after the large chira (spring-fed tank) built by the last Zamorin Mana Vikrama. The Kozhikode Public Library and Research Centre, made of laterite, Malabar tiles and glass, has a charming façade that blends with the entrance arch of the Mananchira maidan, guarded by Tipu Sultan’s cannons. Just across is the Commonwealth Handloom Weaving Factory (COMTRUST), dating back to 1844, when pioneering German missionaries from Basel Mission set up tile, brick, weaving, printing and other industries in the Malabar region. With 400 looms in two weaving units, COMTRUST is the single largest handloom centre in India. Among the other places to visit in Kozhikode, is the Pazhassi raja Museum and Art Gallery, named after a legendary local chieftain who fought the British, was built in 1812 as the British Collector’s residence. Ancient murals, bronzes, coins, excavated earthenware, models of temples and megalithic monuments like crypts, dolmens, burial urns and umbrella stones are on display. The art gallery next door exhibits paintings by Raja Ravi Varma and his uncle Raja Rama Varma while the nearby Krishna Menon Museum, dedicated to late diplomat, VK Krishna Menon, displays his personal belongings, memorabilia and souvenirs gifted by world leaders.
Kuttichira or ‘little pond’, is the heart of the Muslim settlement where locals sit on laterite benches for chats besides 200-year-old Koya houses. Overlooking it is the five-storeyed Mishkal Mosque built in 1300 by a rich Arab ship owner Nakhooda Mishkal. Originally a seven-tiered structure (two floors were destroyed by the Portuguese), it was once the tallest building in Kozhikode and the city’s historic landmark. Built in traditional Kerala style, the laterite superstructure is supported on 24 solid wood pillars with 50 doors. Walk to the city’s oldest mosque Muchundi, constructed 1,100 years ago. Kuttichira Juma Masjid, another thousand-year-old mosque, has intricate wood panels on the underside of the ceiling and verses from the Quran etched in Arabic on the rafters. The 14th century Valayanadu Devi Temple and the Tali Mahadeva Temple at Chalappuram, are much revered Hindu shrines; the latter perfectly blends wood and laterite and has elaborate carvings. The eight-day Tali festival in April is marked by flag hoisting and processions of the temple deity. Revathi Pattathanam, a seven-day cultural event in Oct-Nov, features panchavadyam performances, Vedic chanting and special pujas.
Kozhikode boasts an exciting Malabari cuisine—Kozhikode biryani, neyichoru (ghee rice), nadan kozhi (country chicken) curry and local specialities like unnakaya, mutta mala, ari kaduka (rice and green mussels, steamed and fried) and pazham nerchadu (stuffed banana).
Kozhikode is not really known for its nightlife though there are some places where you can party. Bottoms Up bar at the Malabar Palace Hotel has a nice ambience and a lovely view of the lawns. It hosts regular DJ and theme nights. Copper Folia and The Cosmopolitan Club, both hotels, are popular venues for music shows and events. Another hotel The Raviz Kadavu Resort and Spa has hosted big-ticket EDM gigs like Sunburn. Or drop by for a quiet drink and snacks at Logan’s Lounge at the Gateway Hotel.
These are some of the best hotels in Kozhikode you can take abode in: Beach Hotel, Beach Road: The oldest hotel in Kozhikode, it was built in 1890 to house the Malabar English Club. Set against a beautiful lawn, it has just six rooms with sea views so book in advance. The multi-cuisine restaurant Salkara serves a mean Kozhikode biryani.
Kozhikode’s markets bustle with shopping options. Every visitor to the city cannot go without buying its famous banana chips—the best place for it is Kumari Chips on Kannur Road or Sankaran Bakery on SM Street. Another must-buy is the Kozhikode Halwa, a soft glutinous brownish black delicacy made of flour, molasses and oil. SM Street, once an avenue of sweetmeat shops, has several stalls stacked with multi-hued lumps of halwa where friendly shopkeepers cut up slices for a free taste. Choose from 20 flavours – orange, banana, pineapple, tender coconut, date and dried fruits – at Malabar Bakery on SM Street or Cochin Bakery, Bank Road. The COMTRUST Showroom at Mananchira has a wide range of furnishing products in cotton, woollen and linen—turkey towels, bed sheets, napkins, aprons, bags, rugs, all at affordable rates. For silks, saris and ready-made textiles, visit Kalyan Kendra, Silky and Kalpaka Bazar. Buy handicrafts from Kairali, Nutan Handicrafts, Mriganayani and Surabhi. Oity Road is packed with brass shops while Olavanna is a good place to pick up pottery.
Despite being a trading town, there’s a fun side to the city. Enjoy boating at Kalipoika, go to Kadalundi to spot birds from a country boat and visit the boat making centre of Beypore to watch dhows being made or to pick up miniature souvenirs. Drop by at Tasara Weaving Centre, named after the Sanskrit word for ‘shuttle’. A unique centre that offers training in painting, designing, weaving and block printing, Tasara is a meeting point for artists and produces handloom rugs, dhurries, wall hangings and bedspreads. Catch a kalarippayattu performance at CVN Kalari at Nadakkavu, which offers hour-long performances every morning and evening showcasing the fighting techniques of this ancient martial art. Visit the Ethnological Museum run by the Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development Studies (KIRTADS) on Golf Link Road where tools and ceremonial paraphernalia of various tribes offer insights into the region’s ancient communities. Before you go, try local specialities like Nannari Sherbet (sarsaparilla root extract) and Dweep Unde (coconut jaggery sweet wrapped in palm originally from Lakshadweep).
|Padinharathara, Malappuram district, Karipur, Kerala 673647||CCJ|