Built in 1384, Calvetti Juma Masjid is one of the oldest mosques in Kochi and its history is closely knit with the history of Kochi itself. Kochi became popular as a port only after the massive flooding of the river Periyar in 1341. The presence of the port drew many traders from all parts of the world to Kochi. They came to Kochi for trade, particularly spice trade. Arabs were believed to be the first traders to come to Kochi.
N.K.A. Latheef, a local historian, opines that the word ‘Calvetti’ is derived from the Arab word khalvath, which means open space. The name of local area and the Calvetti bridge may also be the sources from which it derives its name. “With the emergence of Kochi as a port, Calvetti evolved as an Arab settlement and the lanes, bylanes, and settlement pattern in Calvetti still show some typical Arabic designs”, says Latheef. This is one of the first areas of settlement of the Moplah Muslim community in Kerala.
Arab traders in Kochi found an open space to pray at Calvetti. They settled here and gradually, with local support, they built a Masjid here as well. There are records in the mosque which show that a trader named Makkar gave the mosque its present structure. With the passage of time, many structural changes were made to the mosque.
It is interesting to note that the mosque has typical Kerala-style architecture. It is built on a 2 acre plot of land surrounded by many rare trees. Many of these trees were planted by Imam Maroh Mohammed Ali Musaliar, a renowned and respected scholar and follower of Islam during the 1940s. The compound also has a cemetery which is open to all sects of the Muslim community.
It houses the graves of eminent personalities of Kerala, such as Makki Thangal, and of contemporaries such as T.K. Pareekutty, Abdul Rahim Kutty Moopan, Poovath Hassan, V.K. Hamza, Mohammed Koya. Thangal is renowned for his literary works. The premises also houses the tomb or mausoleum of Islamic preacher Faridudeen Aulia. Special prayers are offered here on Thursdays and Sundays in his memory. Till recent times, this famous mosque was managed by the Poovath family. Today, Jamath Pally manages this mosque. The Mosque is well maintained and followers come here daily to offer prayers. Calvetti Masjid, with its roots in the Arab trading community, is one of the many threads that make up the multicultural tapestry of contemporary Fort Kochi.