Paradesi Synagogue aka Cochin Jewish Synagogue or the Mattancherry Synagogue (Malayalam: പരദേശി ജൂതപള്ളി) is a synagogue located in Mattancherry Jew Town, a suburb of the city of Kochi, Kerala, in India. It was built in 1568 A.D. by Samuel Castiel, David Belila, and Joseph Levi for the flourishing Paradesi Jewish community in Kochi.
Cochin Jews were composed mainly of the much older Malabari Jews and the newly arrived Sephardic refugees from the Portuguese religious persecution of Jews in Spain and Portugal. It is the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations. Paradesi is a word used in several Indian languages, and the literal meaning of the term is "foreigners", applied to the synagogue because it was built by Sephardic or Portuguese-speaking Jews, some of them from families exiled in Aleppo, Safed and other West Asian localities.
The synagogue is located in the quarter of Old Cochin known as Jew Town, and is the only one of the seven synagogues in the area still in use, though the Kadavumbhagam Synagogue (1544 A.D) and Thekkumbhagam Synagogue (1647 A.D)(extinct) are much older and are the three synagogues in Mattancherry. The complex has four buildings. It was built adjacent to the Mattancherry Palace temple on the land given to the community by the Raja of Kochi, Rama Varma. The Mattancherry Palace temple and the Mattancherry synagogue share a common wall.
Elamprakkodathu Mana, an ancient Namboodiri family which was landlord of the area, had the "Oorazhma" (ownership) of a lot of temples around including the Sree Poornathrayesa Temple and Pishari Kovil Bhagavathi Temple. Maramkulangara Krishna temple also was built by them.
Interesting Antique Objects
The Paradesi Synagogue has the Scrolls of the Law, several gold crowns received as gifts, many Belgian glass chandeliers, and a brass-railed pulpit. It houses the 10th-century copper plates of privileges given to Joseph Rabban, the earliest known Cochin Jew. These two plates were inscribed in Old Malayalam by the ruler of the Malabar Coast.
The floor of the synagogue is composed of hundreds of Chinese, 18th-century, hand-painted porcelain tiles, each of which is unique. A hand-knotted oriental rug was a gift from Haile Selassie, the last Ethiopian emperor.
The synagogue has an 18th-century clock tower, which, along with other parts of the complex, was restored between 1998 and 1999 by the architect Karl Damschen under the direction of the World Monuments Fund.
A tablet from the former Kochangadi Synagogue (1344) in Kochangadi, south of Jew Town in Kochi was installed on the outer wall of the Paradesi synagogue. The inscription states that the structure was built in 5105 (in the Hebrew calendar) as "an abode for the spirit of God.". This tablet was initially discovered inserted in the wall of the Kadavumbhaagam Mattanchery Synagogue during restoration work.
The Thekkumbhagom synagogue, located on Jews Street in the Ernakulam area of Cochin, was built in 1580 and renovated in 1939.
The Paradesi Synagogue is located next to Dutch Palace and the Mattancherry Boat Jetty is just 400 metres away from this place. The Jew Synagogue is very near to Ernakulum town and is well connected by ferries.
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.
Visitors are expected to enter the synagogue barefoot.
Contact Address: X755+2Q8, Synagogue Ln, Jew Town, Kappalandimukku, Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala 682002.