Constructed in 1568, the synagogue in Mattancherry suffered partial destruction at the hands of the Portuguese in 1662. However, it was subsequently reconstructed two years later when the Dutch established their presence in Kochi. The synagogue boasts an intricate brass bimah, stylish wooden benches, and exquisite hand-painted floor tiles adorned with the willow-pattern motif, imported from Canton, China, as part of a major renovation supervised by Ezekial Rahabi in 1762. Illuminated in grandeur, the interior is graced with resplendent Belgian chandeliers and colorful glass lamps. The elegant clock tower, dating back to 1760, bears inscriptions in Malayalam, Hebrew, Roman, and Arabic script.
An upstairs balcony was designated for women, who observed separate worship in accordance with Orthodox customs. While most of Kochi’s Pardesi Jews have since emigrated, the synagogue stands as a beautifully preserved testament to their heritage.
As you step inside the synagogue, your gaze is immediately drawn to the magnificent main hall, adorned with a captivating array of exquisite antique artifacts that enhance the overall splendor of the venue. The natural light streaming in through the expansive windows further enhances the charm of the chandeliers and lamps, casting an enchanting glow. These splendid glass chandeliers, suspended from the ceiling, date back to the 19th century and were meticulously imported from Belgium.
The very floor of the synagogue serves as a masterpiece, adorned with a meticulously hand-painted blue willow pattern on ceramic tiles. These exquisite tiles were transported from Canton, China during the 18th century, courtesy of Ezekiel Rahabi, a celebrated Jewish entrepreneur. Each tile boasts a unique and captivating design, never ceasing to captivate the admiration of its visitors. The remarkable craftsmanship of the synagogue is unveiled in all its elements, including the magnificent pillars that grace the structure.
In the heart of the room stands a pulpit adorned with brass rails. The synagogue further features a dedicated women’s gallery, replete with gilded columns and a meticulously carved teak ark. Within this teak ark rest four sacred Torah scrolls, containing the first five books of the Old Testament, elegantly encased in silver and gold. Additionally, the ark is home to two remarkable gold crowns, bestowed upon the Jewish Community by the monarchs of Kochi and Travancore.
Yet another prized treasure within the synagogue’s collection is a set of copper plates from the 4th century, adorned with inscriptions in the Malayalam language. These inscriptions detail the special privileges bestowed upon the community by the ancient Cochin king and are written in the distinctive Kannadiyezhuthu script, known for its mirror image writing. Additionally, the synagogue proudly houses an oriental rug, a generous gift from the last Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, bestowed upon the Jewish community.
The term ‘Paradesi’ translates to ‘foreigner’ in numerous Indian languages and specifically denotes the White Jews, who are a fusion of Jewish communities from Kodungalloor, the Middle East, and Europe.
Because of the declining Jewish population in Kochi, assembling a minyan (the requisite number of men for synagogue activities) has become challenging. Synagogue services are only held when the ten-member male quorum is fulfilled.
The synagogue welcomes visitors daily, with the exception of Fridays, Saturdays, and Jewish holidays.
Morning: 10 am to 12 noon
Afternoon: 3 pm to 5 pm
Please Note :
Visitors are kindly requested to enter the synagogue barefoot.
Photography is not permitted.
Paradesi Synagogue, Synagogue Lane, Jew Town, Kappalandimukku, Mattancherry, Kochi