The legendary history of Kerala’s Jews goes back to the time of King Solomon (10th century BC), when trade in exotic Indian items – peacocks, ivory, sandalwood and spices flourished. Having first landed centuries ago, Cochin’s Jewish community grew significantly during the 1500s with an influx of Sephardic Jews primarily from Spain, Portugal and Holland, escaping the Inquisition. But, after Israel’s formation in 1948, the Cochin Jews migrated to the Promised Land. Only a handful of Jews still live in Kerala today – however, their synagogues, cemeteries, houses and streets bear witness to their 2000-year old association with India.
In this Tour:
• Starting at 9:00 a.m., we drive for 1.5 hours through the scenic countryside to Kondungallur, the original trading port where the Jewish community arrived after the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
• Of Kerala’s eight Jewish Communities, the Malabar Jews included seven whose sensitively restored synagogue Chennamangalam we visit next. Here, get enchanted by the Kerala architectural style which was adapted to Jewish ritual and liturgical requirements.
• Visit another recently restored synagogue nearby in Parur.
• After lunch, drive to Fort Kochi, where we visit the ‘Jew Town’ area, where Cochin’s Jews were given land by the Cochin Raja, in 1524, after they were forced to flee because of conflicts with the Portuguese and Arab Moors. Here, they built their homes and trading houses.
• The Synagogue which we visit next belonged to the other group of Jews, the Paradesi (meaning newcomer/foreigner in Malayalam) Jews. It had been built originally in 1568 and is known for its hand-painted tiles and its quaint old chandeliers.
• Take a walking exploration through the narrow streets of this area, to absorb the atmosphere and to see the homes of Cochin’s Jewish community.
• Take a brief look at the Jewish cemetery, if interested.
Duration: Full day (8 hours)