Photo Credit : Lian Chang
The Jewish synagogue built in Jew Town in 1568 is a beautiful structure. This place of worship attracts numerous visitors every year because of its impressive furnishings. There are splendid Chinese tiles and impressive Belgian chandeliers that have been used to decorate throughout the entire synagogue.On top of the exquisite decorations in the synagogue, giant scrolls of the Old Testament can be found here. Even though it seems a little unusual for a Jewish place of worship to be found in India, Jews actually started to live in the area beginning in around 700BC. This particular Jewish synagogue can be found near the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry.
The prosperous Jewish trading community built the Jewish Synagogue in 1568 whose links with Kerala begin in Kodungallor (Cranganore) in the north of the state. The oldest synagogue in India, it was partially destroyed in the war of 1662 and was rebuilt by the Dutch. In the mid-18th century the clock tower was added and the floors paved with exquisite hand-painted blue willow tiles from China.
Two hundred years old, no two tiles are alike. The interior offers more beautiful surprises: a Belgian chandelier, the great scrolls of the Old Testament, and the copper plates on which were recorded the grants of privilege made by the Cochin rulers to the Jewish community in the 4th century. There are also five finely wrought gold and silver crowns gifted to the synagogue by various patrons. The rabbi will normally give visitors a full account of the synagogue and the history of the Jews in Kerala. Although this ancient community of Cochin has now dwindled to a few families, strong elements of their culture and tradition as well as the Hebrew language remain in Jew Town, which is what the area surrounding the Mattancherry Synagogue has come to be called. The by-lanes that wind around Jew Town offer charming sights of houses built in Dutch, Portuguese and British styles.The Jewish Synagogue, Kochi is one of the exemplary sightseeing spots in Kerala. For public viewing, the synagogue remains open from 10 am to 12 noon and again from 3 pm to 5 pm every day except Saturdays and Jewish holidays.