Mattancherry in Kochi is most known for the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth, the Paradesi Synagogue. Built in 1568 this synagogue attracts numerous visitors to this day. It adds to the area’s quaint charm and is a great symbol of the love and harmony that exists in the community. ‘Paradesi’ literally translates to foreigner in most Indian languages. Many of the original members of the community hailed from Kodungalloor, the Middle East and Europe.
One step into its divine halls leaves a person enthralled with the rare antiques on display. The chandeliers and lamps sparkle alongside the natural sunlight that flows in through its large windows. These glass chandeliers date back to the 19th century when they were imported from Belgium. The hand-painted blue willow patterned tiles are architectural marvels in themselves. They were brought here from Canton in China by Jewish businessman Ezekiel Rahabi in the 18th century. Each tile is unique and one feels a distinct mystical aura emanating from the entire place.
The center of the room has a pulpit with brass rails. The Synagogue is also famous for its carved teak ark. It contains four scrolls of the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament) that have been encased in silver and gold. Two gold crowns, special gifts from the Kings of Cochin and Travancore, lie here as well. One can also view special 4th century copper plates gifted by the King of Cochin. These contain inscriptions in Malayalam describing the special privileges granted to the Jewish Community by the King. Another interesting artifact is a special oriental rug gifted to the community by the last king of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie.
The Synagogue is open every day except Fridays, Saturdays and Jewish holidays.
Timings: Forenoon – 10 am to 12 noon; Afternoon – 3 pm to 5 pm.