Once a Jews enclave, the Jews Street is now bereft of that community which left to Israel except one or two families. The Star of David inscribed variegated arches wear a worn-out look. The marvellous blue and green facades stand faded. The spice shops and curio souks – so interestingly developed by Jews are still thriving in Market Road.
In one end is a Synagogue with Malayalam (Kerala’s language) and Hebrew tomb-stones. There were 7 Synagogues, but now only this 400 years old Pardesi Synagogue. Interior with curved brass columns, intricately carved teak chest, Belgian crystal chandeliers and Torah crowns with gems set in gold look marvellous. Hand-painted porcelain tiles from Canton, each tile in different pattern, reinforced the flooring. Two copper plates with details of privileges bestowed on the Jews during the regime of Bhaskara Ravi Varman are preserved as invaluable. The 45-ft clock-tower warrants special attention as its 4 dials bear four different numerals in Arabic, Hebrew, Latin and Malayalam.
Once one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, but now many of the inhabitants have moved to Israel and the once bustling Jewish community has now largely shut up shop and the street is quiet.
The nearby Market Road still bustles with spice market and tourist curio shops dominated by Kashmiri shopkeepers selling mostly wood carvings, oil lamps, spice box, snake boats and some tempting coffee table books. In the heart of Jew Town stands the Kochi International Pepper Exchange, which has switched to online trading recently.
The synagogue is 400 years old and its interior holds curved brass columns, an intricately carved teak ark, Belgian crystal chandeliers and Torah crowns of solid gold set with gems.
The floor has hand-painted porcelain tiles from Canton, each tile different, depicting a love affair between a mandarin's daughter and a commoner.The 19th century, oil burning glass chandeliers hung from the ceiling were imported from Belgium.
An exclusive gallery for females supported by gilt columns is seen above the main entrance. An elaborately carved Ark that houses four scrolls of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament)encased in silver and gold on which sit gold crowns presented by the maharajas of Travancore and Kochi.
The most interesting object are the two copper plates dating back to 4th century with details of privileges granted to the Jewish community during the reign of Bhaskara Ravi Varman in the 10th century.
The 4 dials of the 45 ft clock tower have numerals in Hebrew, Latin, Malayalam and Arabic.
Entry Fee: Rs 2
Open: 10-noon, 3-5pm, closed on Fridays, Saturdays and Jewish Holidays
(No video cameras)
Cochin synagogue implements strict dress code
A new dress code for visitors at the 16th century Cochin Synagogue here, the only functional synagogue in Kerala. The dress code, enforced from April 27, requires men to wear full shirts and trousers and women to sport long skirts well below the knee.