Jew Town in Cochin? Are you sure?” was the 1st question that popped in my head. But this was before i did some research and read about Mattancherry and Kochi. We were there for little over 2days and on the last day, decided to make a quick visit to the Jew town, specifically to explore the Synagogue and area around, maybe even try speaking to one of the Jews living there.
The place has a certain charm. Narrow
lanes resembling a beautifully laid out cobbled street, with brightly
painted walls, stores brimming with antiques on either side lead us
towards the  one of the oldest Synagogues, heading to a dead end.   

Vehicles
are not allowed inside, unless it is a two wheeler.  The stores have
items literally spilling out into the streets, which leaves just about
enough space for people to walk on. It feels like we are in a different
country altogether, that is how different the atmosphere here is.

 

As I walked along the lane, I could feel a few eyes on us, probably thinking “ah, more tourists, wonder where they are from” Some smiled, while others just stared, as if looking straight through me.. kinda creepy!

 

Visitors were asked to leave all our
belongings, including mobile phones and cameras with the storage space
provided near the Synagogue and then enter the premises. The hall before
the main synagogue showcases a brief history of the place, through
photographs and content lining the walls. Built in  1568 by the Malabar
Yehudan people or Cochin Jewish community in the Kingdom of Cochin, this
is called the Paradesi Synagogue.  Situated in an area called Jew Town,
this is probably the only one of the 7 synagogues that is still in use.
In all, there are about 13 Jew families living in the area, and the
lady we met at the entrance shooed us away saying “we have had enough of
reporters and journalists prying into our lives, please leave us in
peace”  

 

The Synagogue complex in all has 4 buildings and has been built adjacent to the Mattancherry Palace temple, infact they share a common wall.Spent in all about an hour, the main synagogue is beautiful, decked with blue and white tiles, plenty of chandeliers hanging across the ceiling, and pristine… Luckily, there was not much of a crowd, but for a group who had come with a guide… And since i dint have my camera, there was no chance of taking any photographs inside the premises….

Just outside, in the path around the synagogue i spotted a few stones and pieces of wall with Jewish inscriptions on them. Wish i knew what they meant, there was no one around or no board that explained the words. And before i knew it, the lady at the entrance was beckoning me with her head, it was time to leave. I walked out with so many questions in my mind, but alas, they remain there…..

Photo courtesy: keralavillagehomestay.com
After gathering my bags and belongings from the storage locker, i strolled out of the street, wondering what history was hidden within these walls. As i reached the junction, i noticed that there were 2 paths ahead of me- one that takes me back to the palace, while the other heads towards the spice market and the Jew cemetery. And the latter is what i chose, keeping a watch on the time… 🙂