Capturing the Flavours of Jew Town, Kochi

by Rashmie Jaaju on July 15, 2010 · 14 comments

in My Travelogue

———————————————————————– It's been sometime since I did my last Kerala (Kochi) post. Contrary to what I promised – this Jew Town post is rather late. Ever since, I have done a few posts on other subjects (Vitamin D3, upcycling old book for Kids's craft, reusing an old box for storing pens) but, I have to admit – this Jew Town post has taken for ever.. :( But then, however cliched it may sound – better late than never. So, folks, I hope you enjoy this post and the pics. And pls don't forget to leave a comment so I know how you felt :) Before I take you through a narrative journey, how about a visual treat? :) Take a walk through this photo gallery to enjoy the flavours and colours of this historical little place called Jew Town.

—————————————————————————- ——————————————————————————– ————————————————————————————- ————————————————————————————- ————————————————————————————- ——————————————————————————————————- Why Jew Town? In my previous Kerala post, I wrote about the awesome Cherai Beach Resort where we spent 4 heavenly days (and nights!). The first day that we were there, we just wanted to explore the natural beauty of that place. The next day, we went out into the Kochi town with plans to visit some specific landmarks. The Jew Town was one such which was on my mind even when I planned the Kerala trip. I am a suckler for antique, vintage, rustic and earthy. And I had read up that the Jew Town is soaked in all these flavours and a history dating back to the Biblical times, some scholars say. The Arrival Of Jews in India It's said that in Kochi (known as Cochin earlier), the Jews have peacefully coexisted with the Hindus for centuries. India offered a safe haven to the Jews during the World War II. Much before that, it was around 70 AD that the Jews of Cochin, also known as the Malabar Jews, came to Kerala from Spain, Middle East and South Africa. They settled in the town of Kudungallur (formerly Port city of Cranganore), and the local Hindu emperor even granted them a principality. In the 15th century the Crananore Jews had to flee when the local emperor attacked the principality in 1524, accusing the Jews of gaining an edge in the lucrative pepper trade. They sought refuge with the Raja (King) of Cochin, who vouched to protect them and also granted them land near his own palace, which came to be known as (and is still known as) Jew Town in Cochin. But, when the Portuguese gained control of Cochin, the Jews had to suffer persecution in their hands until 1660, when the Dutch displaced the Portuguese. The 'Pardesi' Synagogue – One of the Oldest in the World Under the Dutch patronage, the 'Pardesi' (foreigner) Synagogue was built in the Jew Town in 1568, adjacent to the Mattancherry Palace temple, on the land gifted by the Raja of Kochi, Rama Varma. The Mattancherry Palace temple and the Mattancherry synagogue share a common wall. Dwindling Jewish Population Once a thriving trading community, now the Jews in Kochi are numbered. A Washington Post article, way back in 2007 declared that there were 11 Jews living in Kochi. They emigrated when Israel declared independence in 1948. When reading up about the Jews in Kochi, I stumbled upon this blog post that talks about the life, tradition and practices of the Malabar Jews. ——————————————————————— The Synagogue Lane – A Museum by itself! When we went, we could not see a single Jew. The curio shops on both sides of the stone-paved narrow lane leading up to the Pardesi Synagogue were owned by Kashmiris, locals, Rajasthanis and more. True – not a Jew around and no one spoke the language, but the Jew town still has a distinct appeal – very different from the rest of the Kochi city. To me, the whole street lined up with these unique curio shops (once these were houses lived in by the Jews) with Jewish names, did not seem any less than a museum in itself. These shops/houses painted in bright blues and yellows and greens with slanting tiled roofs had an old world charm about them and a look that spoke of the people and the times. ———————————————————————- Inside the Curio Shop in the Synagogue Lane ———————————————————————— Enjoying tea outside the curio shop as evening sets in.. —————————————————————————- Charged Up! —————————————————————————- Traveling the World – is my KEY to happiness! What's yours? :) —————————————————————————- A huge stone sculpture of Ganesha! What is it about Ganesha that's beyond religion? We all like to keep a Ganesha or two or may be more in our house, on work station, in car…! He sure is Omnipresent, but his art-form is even more ubiquitous the world over! —————————————————————————– Noteworthy Aspects of the Synagogue Scouring through the shops, clicking photographs and looking for a steal (which was elusive as the knick knacks were priced aimed at the foreign tourists!), we reached the end of the street where the Synagogue stood. But, it was a tragedy of luck. The synagogue, that usually remains closed on Saturday and other Jewish holidays, closed unexpectedly that Tuesday for an out-of-turn prayer. We could not get to see its much-talked-about and striking interiors. They say, the interiors make for a stunning piece of architecture. The elaborately carved teak arks, the arched brass pillars, Belgian crystal chandeliers and Torah gold crowns adorned with dazzling gems are splendid views. The floor is made of hand-painted white and blue porcelain tiles bought from China and each tile exhibits a different pattern. But we did see the Clock Tower that stands tall at 45 ft displaying the 4 dials with numerals in Hebrew, Latin, Malayalam and Arabic. Here, I would like to add some info if you ever plan to visit the Pardesi Synagogue. 1. The devotees or visitors are expected to enter the Jewish Synagogue barefeet. 2. The strict dress code requires men to be in trousers and full shirts and women to wear long skirts extending below the knee while visiting this place of Jewish worship. 3. Video cameras are not allowed. Days and Time: Remains Open from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and 3 pm to 5 pm, The Synagogue is closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays. ————————————————————————– ————————————————————————— ——————————————————————————————- Celebrating India's Diversity With this jaunt down the lane of history it left some nice, warm, proud feelings inside me. The Jew town is a testimony to the fact that India has always encouraged the synthesis of different religions, races and communities. No wonder then that the Jews who lived here considered themselves as Indians first. Here, they spoke Judeo-Malayalam (Malyalam is the local state tongue). In Mumbai, where there is still a cluster of Jewish population, the Jews speak a diluted version of Gujarati (another Indian language). Living in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual land, we grow up to respect and appreciate the beauty of diversity. :) —————————————————————————- ——————————————————————————- ——————————————————————————- All photos in this post are copyright Rashmie Jaaju. Pls do not copy or print in any media form without my explicit permission. Thanks for your cooperation.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

vitoria antar July 17, 2010 at 12:20 am

Dear Rashmie, thank you for these postings, I traveled all around with this Virtual Tour, so good to see Avie and Pari, and I think I saw you but not on traditonal Indian clothing. Is that so? Go girl! Thanks for sharing all these Beauty of our Planet and the Countries in it. I traveled today thru your eyes. Love to all, Vitoria

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Hayden Lockamy July 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm

It is always great to read good quality material like this.

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modern pendant lighting July 26, 2010 at 3:14 pm

  Good article, Each and every point is good enough.Thanks for sharing with us your wisdom.

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Brenna Mattlin July 28, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I truly consider this post exemplifies a lot of what I have been mulling over for a while. On the one hand, I agree with what you’re mentioning yet at the other end of the spectrum, can we not possibly attempt to see these circumstances from the perspective of the people who are involved, more so than merely observing it from our own ignorant view. Regardless of the places you visit on this earth you will experience people and events you like, and things you are not too . The key is to merely sit and accept it just the way it is and not to be drawn in to all the media hype that envelopes it. I believe in this particular case, that is precisely what has come to pass, although I may be wrong. I’d certainly like to get other peoples’ perspectives on this post.

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エラー修復 August 3, 2010 at 11:20 am

Man this is why i just love the internet…it gives us free valuable information..and when i see posts like this …

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Divya@soundhornplease October 3, 2010 at 12:04 am

Hey Rashmie,

Thanks for dropping by Soundhornplease, because I got to discover your blog! I can’t believe how professional it is! I loved this post and I’m off to explore more.. Do drop by more often :)

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Rashmie Jaaju October 4, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Divya, thanks for your lovely words! I liked your blog as much and have subscribed to your feeds. So, will keep visiting :)

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Sonali March 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Hi Rashmie, great pictures!

I’m looking for images of synagogues across India and like the ones from Kochi that you have put up here.
I am writing a story for JetWings magazine, and need images of Indian synagogues. Would you pl send me low resolution versions of your synagogue photographs at sonali.spenta@gmail.com.

Thanks!
Sonali

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Ambika April 21, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Wonderful post! Loved the pictures and the commentary.

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Rashmie Jaaju April 25, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Thanks, Ambika. Really appreciate your kind words…

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Emreen April 26, 2011 at 8:52 am

Hi Rashmie, Thanks for dropping by my blog… I have been here before when I was a kid… But never knew that there are so many curio shops around – Guess itz’ time for another visit soon ;-) ;-) ….!! Love the colorful lanterns…. !!

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tracy September 3, 2011 at 11:58 am

Hi Rashmie thanks for you helpful information. We will be visiting Kochi, however it just so happens that we will be there on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Would you know if Jew Town will be open? Will all the shops and cafes be open?

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Rashmie Jaaju September 6, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Hi Tracy,
I am glad you found this article helpful. I am not sure about the exact timings and days. I read somewhere that it’s closed on Saturday and Jewish holidays.
Check out this link: http://www.mustseeindia.com/Kochi-Jewish-Synagogue/attraction/10408

Enjoy your holiday!

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tracy September 9, 2011 at 8:29 am

Thanks for your reply. The must see india is also a great sight to get info! Thanks

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