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March 17, 2020 Tuesday 11:26:00 AM IST

Muziris the Lost City

Cover Story

The Muziris Heritage Project is a one of kind heritage conservation project, which invites adults and children alike, to learn about and develop interest in the life and times of our ancestors. The Muziris was an international trading port, which had established strong trade relations with many countries across the globe, especially Rome.

Which among these pictures do you think depicts Kerala’s heritage? The fact is that all of them can be representative of Kerala’s heritage. We usually associate the word ‘heritage’ with buildings or artifacts which are tangible, that which we can touch and feel. But, is that only what constitutes ‘heritage’?

When you participate in a festival, heritage comes in the form of a sense of belonging. There is a synthesis and coming together of imagination, cultures, ideas, objects, experiences, and a systematic communication process where people interact with a sense of unity. Thus, heritage can be tangible or intangible.

Heritage is not just about the past but actually involves practices which are fundamentally concerned with assembling and designing the future. It involves working with the tangible and intangible traces of the past and creating a comprehendible resource for the future. This is the difference between heritage and history.

This summer consider a trip to The Muziris Heritage Project. It is the largest heritage project in India, and also the first Green Project of the Government of Kerala. The Muziris, is a lost city believed to be in the Kodungallur- North Paravur region. This heritage trail traverses through a number of monuments, regions of various art forms and craftsmanship. It runs along the National Waterway 3, near the mouth of the sea, where the Periyar flows into the Arabian Sea. There are two concepts of PUSH and PULL in tourism. One stands for pushing the tourists to go out and find places that can fulfill their needs, the other is about pulling them towards a destination based on the knowledge that they have. The Muziris Heritage Project falls in the category of the PULL. A little study about the projects and one is compelled to pay a visit to the lost port.

The lost Port of Muziris

Muziris, a legendary port, was considered to be the heart of the historic Spice Route; it vanished off the grid over 3000 years ago. In the first century BC it was one of India’s most important trading ports, whose export was especially black pepper. The port finds its earliest mention in ancient texts such as the Sangam literature in Tamil.

Muziris remained a legend till archaeological excavations in Kerala, starting in 2004, sparked reports of the evidence of a mysterious lost port. The Centre for Heritage Studies (CHS), Thripunithura, conducted trial excavations at Pattanam. The Kerala Council of Historical Research (KCHR) conducted explorations both in Kodungallur and Pattanam in 2006. The site yielded evidence of contact with different parts of the Indian Ocean littoral and with the hinterland, in the form of ceramic glasses, botanical evidence and other artifacts such as semi-precious stone beads.

The peak activity period of the site corresponded to the time when port Muziris was believed to have been active. It had been generally assumed that Muziris referred to the port of Kodungallur, which had been put out of commission by devastating floods in 1341.

The Heritage Trail

The Muziris trail covers an area with a number of historical and religious monuments, waterways, circuit tour facilities and craft and artisanal practices from the region. Muziris was famous for welcoming people from different religious faiths especially Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Muziris is home to the first mosque in India; the Cheraman Juma Masjid and one of India’s oldest churches; Kottakkavu Mar Thoma Syro-Malabar Pilgrim Church, North Paravur. Some of the oldest European monuments in India, such as Pallipuram Fort and Vypee Kotta Seminary, are also here. One of the first printing presses of India was established in 1581 by the Portuguese at the Vypee Kotta Seminary, also known as The College of Chennoth at Chendamangalam. The heritage trail also comprises many museums and monuments referring to the different phases of colonial rule in the region, namely the Portuguese, Dutch and English. Chavittunatakam, a theatrical tradition has roots here in Gothuruth.

Taking the past to the future

The Muziris Heritage Project makes an excellent site for children to visit. There are special Circuit Tours designed to suit the interest of students. Students learn historical facts, but also get an outlook to understand contemporary issues with their own approaches. The children get a glimpse of a part of Indian History, which will not be easily available in any of their text books. Walking through the Paliam Palace or the Kottapuram Fort, transports the visitors back to the time of its might and glory. The Synagogues, Churches or temples situated close to each other are reflective of a time that not only maintained religious harmony but also was a time of unbiased acceptance of diversity.

Visiting such sites can also be a great lesson for children in heritage conservation and why it is absolutely necessary in this day and age. The relevance of History will not be lost on them. Students from abroad also visit the trail to understand the trade history of India through the famous Spice Route which connected India, to many foreign countries. Artifacts from many countries such as China, Rome and Greece are a part of the exhibits across the many museums of the Heritage Project.

One can also get a virtual tour on their phone

For more information on the Circuit tours visit

Denny P John

The writer is a Tourism Researcher in  Muziris Heritage Project.

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