The Jewish Synagogue in the Jew Town of Kochi is a popular attraction in Kerala. More than a hundred years old, the synagogue houses many rare antiques. The place of worship of Jews is remarkable for its interesting history, architecture and charm that attracts visitors. It is built on the place gifted by the erstwhile King of Cochin. It lies adjacent to the Mattancherry Palace. A visit shall definitely mesmerize you.
The Jewish Synagogue is one of the oldest of its kind. Built in the year 1568, almost 1500 years back, it is the origin of the Jewish connection with Kerala. The land for the holy place of worship was given by the then King of Cochin to the Jew community. The name ‘Paradesi synagogue’ also has an interesting history behind it. The word Paradesi means foreigner in many Indian languages. It refers to the white Jews, the early settlers in Kochi where a mixture of Jews from Kodungalloor, Middle East and Europe.
Architecture and Displays
The Jewish Synagogue is an interesting landmark. Owing to its spectacular display of artifacts and rare treasures, visitors are left in awe of the place. Enter the building and the marvelous construction of the synagogue arrests your attention. The large main hall is designed with splendid pillars. The display of rare antique objects add to the grandeur.
The large open windows are an intriguing design. The light coming through the windows adds to the wonderful sight of chandeliers and lamps. The spectacular glass chandeliers dangling from the ceiling belong to the 19th century and were imported from Belgium.
The floors are itself an attraction. These ceramic tiles were brought from Canton, China. In the 18th century Ezekiel Rahabi, a renowned Jewish businessman contributed these magnificent pieces to the house of worship. The floors are a paving of hand-painted blue willow patterned tiles. Each tile is different from one another in its design. It never fails to capture the admiration of the visitors.
A pulpit with brass rails is built in the center of the room. An exclusive gallery for women with gilt columns, a carved teak ark etc can also shares space in the synagogue. The teak Ark treasures four scrolls of Torah (the first five books of Old Testament) encased in silver and gold. Also two gold crowns presented to the Jewish Community by the Kings of Kochi and Travancore are kept here.
Another prized possession of the synagogue is the copper plates belonging to the 4th century with inscriptions in Malayalam. The inscriptions describe the privileges granted to the community granted by the then ruling Cochin king. It is written in kannadiyezhuthu script also known as mirror image writing. An oriental rug gifted to by the last Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie is also kept here.
Due to the diminishing population of Jews in Kochi, it is difficult to complete the holy ceremonies. A minyan (the number of men required to sustain a synagogue) is often not possible. The synagogue service is conducted only when the minimum of ten male members are present.
The synagogue is open every day except Fridays, Saturdays and Jewish holidays.
Timings: 10 am to 12 noon, 3 pm to 5 pm.