Muslims of North Malabar refer to Ponnani, Malappuram district, as the “Mecca of Malabar”. The presence of a number of mosques, each more than five centuries old, in this little town, entitles it to this honour. It was the venue of a notable assembly of adepts in artistic and religious fields, and the second most important centre in the domain of the Zamorins of Calicut.
The story of the Valiya Palli in Ponnani is part of the lore of the land. This is the story of the Valiya Palli.
The Carpenter Thangal: The Thangal Makhdum the First of Ponnani had an expert carpenter as a friend. He was working on top of a wall, when he happened to look westward. He had a vision of the K‘aba in distant Mecca, resplendent in a holy light. The carpenter fell off the wall and died. His remains have been buried in the mosque at Ponnani, at the “Grave of the Carpenter Thangal”, a place which the faithful honour.
Vilakkattirikkal (Sitting before wick lamp): The Carpenter Thangal was a great architect – this is evident to anyone who has seen the great mosque at Ponnani. The woodwork on the upper stories, the lofty gables, little windows ensuring ventilation, grave-yard with memorial stones – all these are sufficient evidence. The “hauz” (holy tank) is towards the west. The building housing the Ma’unath is nearby. Children from all over come to Ponnani to learn the religion. They gather round an oil-lit wick-lamp. This ritual is known as Vilakkattirikkal.
Along the Banks of Cannoly Canal: The Cannoly Canal (named after an old British Collector of Malabar) bisects the town. The bridge over it was traditionally called “Appi Palam”. The bus stop beyond used to be called of old “Kinar Stop” (“Stop at the well”). One can see the gate of historic Mukhdam Mosque, befitting its glory, from here. Ponnani is linked with legendary historical personalities from Malik Dinar onwards. A book by Hussein Randathany helps readers to have an idea of the fifty and more mosques here.