A very famous Pardesi Synagogue in Kochi, also known as Jew Synagogue and Mattancherry Synagogue is the oldest existing synagogue amid Commonwealth countries. Paradesi is a word used in various Indian Languages, and the real meaning of the term is 'foreigners', which was applied to the synagogue because it was earlier used by 'White Jews', a combination of Jews from Cranganore, the Middle East, and the European exiles. It is one of the seven synagogues in the region that is in usage till now. It includes the upmost slot in the route of the tourists visiting Kochi. It was built in 1568 by Malabar Yehudan People or Cochin Jewish community on a land which was gifted by Raja Varma to the Malabari Yehuden community. Later on, in the year 1662, the Jew Synagogue was ruined by the Portuguese and then rebuilt after two years by the Dutch. This place has four buildings, built next to the Mattancherry Palace Temple. It is hundred years old Synagogue that houses a plenty of rare antiques.
Traditions and social composition
The Paradesi Synagogue had three classes of members including White Jews, Black Jews and Meshuchrarim. White Jews were full members and the children of Sephardim from Holland and Spain. The second member 'Black Jews' were allowed to worship but were not having full membership. The third member called 'Meshuchrarim' were a group of relinquished slaves who had no common rights and synagogue of their own.
Today, the Paradesi Synagogue has the only running Synagogue in Kochi with a minyan. According to Nasrani, Hindu, and Islamic traditions of Kerala, the devotees asked to enter bare foot in the Paradesi Synagogue.
Architecture and Antique Elements
Once you enter the Synagogue, you'll find the large main hall that depicts exhibits of rare antique objects adding charm to its interior. The light falling through the large open window in the Synagogue makes the sight of chandeliers and lamps more appealing and attractive. While on the other hand, the floor itself is another prime attraction which is adorned with hand-painted blue willow designed floor tiles. Each tile is different and unique in its design, which draws millions of visitors from different parts of the world.
The striking construction of the synagogue is unveiled in all its features and beautiful pillars. A pulpit with brass nails built in the middle of the room. A beautiful porch for women with golden columns and a carved teak Ark can be encountered in the Synagogue. You can find the teak Ark consists of four scrolls of Torah, covered in gold in silver. Not only this, two gold crowns of the Jewish Community which was presented by Kochi's king and Travancore are also displayed here. Other attractions of the synagogue are copper plates that belong to the 4th century displayed with inscriptions in Malayalam.
Time to Visit
It remains open every day except Friday, Saturday and on Jewish Holidays.
Timings- 10 AM to 12 noon and 3 PM to 5 PM.