Location: Kochi City
Highlights: It has been rated as the oldest synagogue in all the
53 member-countries of the Commonwealth of Nations.
How to Reach: After reaching Cochin, you can hire a cab, taxi,
bus or auto-rickshaw to reach here.
The Jewish Synagogue in the port city of Kochi is the oldest synagogue
in all the Commonwealth of Nations. Thus, it comprises the topmost slot
in the itinerary of the tourists visiting the city. Malabar Yehudan
People, or Cochin Jewish community, constructed this synagogue in 1568.
It is also known by the name of Paradesi Synagogue and Mattancherry
Synagogue. Paradesi is Hindi meaning "foreigners". In this
case, the term was applied to a synagogue because it was once used by
the "White Jews", a mixture of Jews from Cranganore, from the
Middle East as well as the European exiles.
The Jewish Synagogue is located in what is today known as the Jew Town
in the Kochi city of Kerala. It is the only one of the seven synagogues
in the area that is still in use. 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. The Malabar Yehudan or Cochin Jews consisted of three sects of
people. White Jews were the high-class professionals and merchants and
they were full members of the Jewish Synagogue.
They were descendents of European and Middle Eastern Jews, who made
their way to India during the pre British times. Black Jews, comprising
traders and craftsmen were allowed only to pray and as such, were not
admitted to full membership. Meshuhrarim, a group of freed slaves, had
no communal rights and no synagogues of their own. They sat on the floor
or on the steps outside. Interestingly, in conformity with the Hindu and
Islamic traditions of Kerala, the worshippers here too entered precincts
of the Jewish Synagogue barefoot.
Learn about the Jewish Synagogue in Kochi (Cochin) city of Kerala. It is also called Paradesi and Mattancherry Synagogue.