Paradesi Synagogue

You can easily notice the influence of mixed culture in Fort Kochi. As you enter the Jew Town walking through the colorful streets smelling of fresh spices, full of antiques and handicrafts you can see old buildings speaking the tales of Jewish heritage through its rich and soothing architecture.

As you enter the Jew Street which leads to Paradesi Synagogue the most prominent thing you will notice is the clock tower washed in white. Like any clock towers, this one too has four faces; the only difference being it shows time in different languages though it’s different faces. The clock facing Mattancherry Palace shows time in Malayalam which would have been used by the Royal family, the one facing the Jew Town shows time in Hebrew for obvious reasons, the one facing backwaters show time in Roman for the convenience of the traders and the last one has just the dials and no numerals. As you walk down the street you will notice many shops selling curios, embroideries, etc. On your left, you will notice a plain entrance to the Synagogue from where you can collect your tickets to enter the Synagogue. You are soon guided to the main area where you should leave your footwear before entering the place of worship. The foremost things you notice inside the building are its glass chandeliers which were imported from Belgium and its floor adorned by hand-made tiles in blue and white which was imported from China. To the center is the brass-railed pulpit that is accessible only to the priest.

Engulfed by the tranquillity of the place I sit on the adjoining bench in the Synagogue. There are stairs going up to the first floor – the area which is dedicated for Jewish women to offer their prayers. The premises is also known to house some of the precious gifts (like gold crowns) received by the community. However, I did not have access to see them.  Also, photography is strictly prohibited inside Synagogue.

With me, I take back the beauty and simplicity of the Jewish culture in my heart. The experience that Synagogue gave me is beyond words. The calmness of this place is most likely to leave a lasting soothing effect on your mind.

Historical Significance

This place of worship stands on the land that was donated by the then King of Kochi – Rama Varma. Kochi Synagogue was constructed in the year 1567 by the Cochin/ Malabar Jews who are known to be the oldest Jews in India. It is also the oldest active Synagogue across the Commonwealth nations. It is said that the first synagogue was built during 4th century at Kodungalloor (present Malabar Coast). Due to floods, the community moved to Kochi during the 14th century thereby building the Synagogue in Fort Kochi.

The Antique and Unique

Apart from the very evident hand-made Chinese tiles of the 18th century and Belgian glass chandeliers, there are many antiques and unique to Paradesi Synagogue. The very entrance to Synagogue holds a Hebrew inscription that dates back to 1344 A.D.  The Synagogue also houses gold crowns, 4th-century copper and an oriental rug which were gifted to the community by emperors from different regions.

How to get there

Kochi can be connected through air, rail, water, and road. The nearest airport to Jewish Synagogue (in Fort Kochi) is Cochin International Airport Limited (Nedumbassery), the railway station is Ernakulam Junction. You can also take a bus to Fort Kochi or opt for a serene boat journey from Boat Jetty.

Time to Visit

Paradesi Synagogue can be visited on all days other than Friday, Saturday, and any Jew Holidays. The visiting time is from 10.00 A.M.-12.00 P.M. and 3.00 P.M.-5.00 P.M.

Nearby Locations

  • Mattancherry Palace/ Dutch Palace
  • Jew Town
  • Spice Market
  • Chinese Fishing Nets
  • Fort Kochi Beach

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