The mosque is built beside the tomb of Hazrat Jamesha Waliullah, a Muslim preacher who died sometime in the 1850s. His tomb, which is now a darga on Big Bazaar Street is on the southern side of the mosque, and is worshipped by even non-Muslims.
Jamath authorities say that they donated Big Bazaar Street to the Corporation, much before independence, as Town Hall area had developed into the city’s main business district. The quaint little darga is in the middle of the street. People are blessed in the darga and amulets are tied around their necks to ward off evil spirits.
Jewellery shops now people the southern wall of the mosque.
Construction of the mosque began in 1860 and was completed in 1904. According to Jamath sources, it was built with lime and mortar and polished with egg white. The local architect who designed the mosque has been forgotten, though a similar mosque exists in Keeranur, near Palani, one is told.
The façade is covered with cusped arches surrounding the open courtyard where the prayer halls stand. There is a covered ablution pond in the south-eastern corner and a small library on the eastern side.
There’s also a kitchen that prepares kanji (rice soup) for devotees. Hawkers line the entrance with their colourful amulets and items of worship.
According to the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the two minars, with domed roofs, on the northern and southern sides, are 85 feet high. This pair of silver domes stands out in the skyline of Town Hall area.
The Jamath comprises of the descendants of the 52 families from Tirunelveli that moved to Coimbatore in 1850. According to Jamath secretary M. S. Abdul Rasheed, there are now 1355 members. The Jamath’s elected executive committee manages the mosque, Hazrat Jamesha Avuliya Darga on Big Bazaar Street, Hazrat Jungal Pir Darga on Trichy road and the Cemetery Mosque beside Coimbatore Junction.
The committee also runs three schools in the area with a total strength of 1200 students, say Jamath authorities.
What’s interesting is the democratic election process of the Jamath, which has a voter’s lists and even requires signatures of the electors before polling. Court records show that this electoral process dates back to 1920.
The test of time
Up to 2000 worshippers gather here for Friday prayers. During Ramzan and Id, crowds flock to the mosque and the darga beside it. This magnificent white structure maybe crumbling now, but it has stood the test of time and witnessed the city’s history.
In its calm shadow bask its sentinels — the pigeons and the police, and thousands of shoppers that walk by.