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Jewish Synagogue, Kochi

Kerala, also known as God’s own country, has been an important trade center of India. Kerala and the Indian subcontinent has been a chief producer of spices and valuable metals, which were in huge demand in the Middle-eastern and European countries. Since medieval ages, traders and explorers have come here to establish trade relations with this every fertile land. Many of them settled in this fabled land of gold and jewels, and the process brought in their culture and heritage along with them.

Among these settlers, the Jewish community is probably the oldest. They came to India during the 4th century for trading purposes, and later on, established India as their home. Cochin’s Jewish community built the gorgeous Pardeshi Synagogue – the only active synagogues of the Commonwealth – frequently visited by tourists.

The old-school building, coupled with its unique hand-painted tiles and elaborately decorated fixtures, is a symbol of communal harmony and peaceful co-existence practiced in India since time immemorial. Also referred to as Mattancherry Synagogue or the Jewish Synagogue, Cochin, the place is delightful.

This guide would help you uncover some of the charming facts about this ancient temple.  

Quick Glance

Jewish Synagogue
Jewish Synagogue, Kochi
Address: Synagogue Lane, Jew Town, Kappalandimukku, Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala – 682002

Opening time: 10.00 am to 12.00 pm and 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm (Closed on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Jewish holidays)

Entry Fee: 5 INR

Built-in: 1568

Not to miss attractions: The stunning architecture and ancient antiquities 

Best time to visit: October to December

Important ceremonies:

Since the Jewish community is dwindling in numbers in Cochin, it is sometimes difficult to organize services.Usually, services are organized when at least ten male members of the community come together.

How to reach: The landmark is easily accessible from different corners of Fort Cochin. Visitors can hire a cab or avail public transport to reach the destination. 

Glimpses of Jewish Synagogue, Kochi

The only active synagogue of the region, the temple was built in the 16th century by the newly migrated Cochin Jews. Also referred to as Pardesi Synagogues, the temple was once an important part of the community. The Jewish Synagogue, Cochin is the part of the seven synagogues of the Malabar Yehudan or Yehudan Mappila (Jews of Malabar).

According to historical records, the monument was partially destroyed by the Portuguese in the late 17th century. However, after the Dutch annexation of Cochin, the synagogue was rebuilt and redecorated. Probably, the massive Belgian chandeliers and glass tinted lamps were added during the later period. Apart from these, this temple has beautifully painted tiles, a pulpit with brass railings, and an eye-catching architecture.   

History of the Jews and Jewish Synagogue

Jews have been coming to India since the 4th century A.D. for trading and commercial purposes. Different reasons, including political unrest or mass exodus in the native lands, forced several Jews to settle in India. After the Judaist community shifted to Cochin, they built this stunning synagogue.

The initial structure of the synagogue was destroyed by the Portuguese to persecute the Jews living peacefully in the region. However, the current structure of the synagogue was repaired and rebuilt by the subsequent years, under political protection.

Interestingly, the informal name Pardesi Synagogue (Synagogue for the foreigners) remained linked with this Hasidic establishment since the building was commissioned by the Spanish speaking Jews. In the later period, the Sephardim Jews of the Iberian Peninsula immigrated to Cochin and began living in the region along with the already existing set of Malabari Judaists. These people used the building for praying and other community gatherings and meetings.           
Jewish Synagogue, Kochi
Jewish Synagogue

The Architecture of the Synagogue

The Mattancherry's synagogue has stunning architecture and painstakingly beautiful interiors. Encompassing a large compound wall, the entire temple complex contains four buildings. The beautiful chandelier decked central hall and glass lit lamps bestows the place with a soothing atmosphere. According to many, the interiors of the Jewish Synagogue, Cochin were inspired by the Indian, Chinese, European, and Middle-Eastern influences.

One of the main highlights of this Hasidic temple is its elaborately decorated floor work. According to official records, these 18th-century hand-painted tiles were done in bright blue color to complement the sea outside. The scrolls of Tora encased in precious metals and copper inscriptions adorning the walls of Synagogue are some of the popular exhibits of this institution.

Things to Remember before Entering the Synagogue

Jewish Synagogue
Tips for Visiting Jewish Synagogue
Before entering the Jewish Synagogue, Kochi, guests are requested to remove their footwear before entering the complex. Additionally, women and men are seated separately in different sections of the praying hall. Additionally, photography is prohibited inside the temple premises.

There are no restrictions on clothing, but to avoid onlookers and staring gazes it is recommended to wear comfortable dresses that cover shoulders, neck, and knees.

What Else?

After an interesting trip to the Jewish Synagogue, Cochin, you can head over to explore the stunning Jewish neighborhood. Here are some of the traveler-approved destinations that you must include in your Cochin itinerary:

1. Mattancherry Palace

The beautiful Mattancherry Palace is a stunning mansion built by the Portuguese as a gift to then Ruler of the Cochin estate. The Dutch renovated and extended the palace, and some of the local features for beautification purposes. The monument contains some of the fine examples of Hindu Temple art. A must-visit for history buffs.

2. Fort Cochin

The quaint fishing village of the area is well-known among tourists for its colonial architecture and relaxed way of life. The place is quite popular among tourists looking to soak in some old-school charm in Kerala.

3. Jew town

One of the popular shopping districts of the region, it is the place for antique and curio shopping. This place comes highly recommended for shutterbugs and shopaholics.  

Kerala is a beautiful state enriched with an enchanting history and cultural diversity. The region has been the home to people belonging to different religious backgrounds and nationalities. The Pardeshi Synagogue built by such immigrants, showcase how people from different ethnicity and cultural background could survive peacefully in this region.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head over to this fabulous destination.