Saturday, April 13, 2024

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Jewish Synagogue




Fort Kochi, Kerala



It is the oldest existing synagogue in all the 53 member-countries of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Best Season


October to May


Fort Kochi, a heritage destination with its colonial buildings, warehouses, streets, churches, mosques, Jain temples and a Jewish Synagogue is perhaps a unique in the world due to its cultural representations and rare spectacles.

Set against the backdrop of the sea, it is located around 13kms from Ernakulam city. The Jewish Synagogue is the oldest existing synagogue in all the 53 member-countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is also known as various other names such as Jewish Synagogue, Cochin Jewish Synagogue and the Mattancherry Synagogue. This imposing structure was built in 1568 when the Jews settled in Mattancherry, after their expulsion from the Rahabi. The synagogue was built on a land gifted to the Malabari Yehuden community by Raja Varma, the then, Raja of Kochi and shares a common wall with the famous Mattancherry Palace temple. Since, the place shares its wall with the Mattancherry Palace it also got its name Mattancherry Synagogue.

Paradesi in Hindi language is known as 'foreigners'. The Synagogue was once used by the 'White Jews', a mixture of Jews from Cranganore, from the Middle East as well as the European exiles. So it's get its name as Pardesi Synagogue.

The Synagogue was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1662 and was rebuilt after two years by the Dutch.

As one approaches the synagogue on Jew Street, its white facade and a 18th century clock tower can be seen. The street leading to the Synagogue is full of shops with antiques and kerala handicrafts and shopkeepers.

This huge 45 ft Clock Tower with numerals in Hebrew, Arabic, Malayalam and Latin, displayed in four dials was built in 1760 by Ezekiel Rahabi a Jewish businessman. The clock has four faces , the one facing the maharaja's palace showed the time in Malayalam and the other three, the second faces the street, the third side the synagogue, and the fourth side facing the sea, has been kept blank.

A tablet shaped board, taken from a synagogue in Kochangadi is placed on its outer wall and has a beautiful inscription stating that the structure was built in the year 5015 according to the Hebrew calendar.

The entire Synagogue itself is elaborately decorated. It's crystal Belgian chandeliers and carved wood with blue and white ceramic hand painted willow pattern tiles brought from China are worth watching.

The Synagogue boasts impressive copper plates recording King Bhaskara Ravi Varma's 4th century decree that guaranteed the Jewish settlers domain over Cranganore (Kodungalore) as well as the Hebrew inscriptions on stone slabs, great scrolls of the Old Testament old copper plates that have souvenirs and records of the privileges bestowed upon the Kochi Rajajhas. These souvenirs include beautifully carved silver and golden crowns.

The synagogue is open from 10 am to 12 noon; 3 pm to 5pm and closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays. Photography is not allowed inside.