Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mattancherry Synagogue

The Synagogue in Mattanchery was built by the Yehudan community in 1568 on a piece of land gifted to them by the Raja of Kochi . This is also called as the Pardeshi synagogue( Pardeshi meaning Foreigner) and the only Synagogue still in use. The synagogue from outside is just a simple building with an old clock tower which keeps ticking even now. The bell tower is above this.

This synagogue complex comprises of 4 buildings and there is a deepa sthambha just outside the main place of worship which reflects the adoption of Kerala culture by them. I am unable to bring you the pictures of the interior as the security is tightened, post 26/11 . So those who are desirous to have a look just click the Wikipedia link. to enjoy the beautiful interior, laden with hand painted colorful tiles and ceiling embellished with chandeliers. The religious texts of Jews in Hebrew in a scroll form, the brass pulpit and and crowns made of gold and silver presented by the king are the other interesting relics inside the synagogue. The Synagogue can be visited from Sunday to Thursday as Friday -Saturday are Sabbath days and the Synagogue remains closed . The Jewish community in India has dwindled and many have have left for Israel. At present only 30-40 may be present in Kochi. The Synagogue is situated in a place called Jew town and the streets there are lined up with antique shops which is frequented by foreigners and antique hunters. One can also see the beautiful houses built in European styles.

The synagogue shares a common wall with a temple and adjacent to lies the palace of Raja of Kochi which is referred to as the Dutch Palace . This was first built by the Portuguese and later renovated by the Dutch as a token of their gratitude. This palace at present serves as a museum with beautiful frescoes and antiques belonging to the erstwhile kings .The Palace is constructed in a Kerala- European style and houses a Bhagavathi temple known as Pazhayannur Bhagavathi and there is also a Siva's shrine inside this palace. Krishna's temple is outside this main building and this temple shares a common wall with the Synagogue, which shows the warm nature of Kochi people who welcomed Pardeshis with open arms.

How to reach : Kochi is well connected by air, road and rail. The nearest airport is Nedumbassery which is 50 Kms from Mattancherry. Ernakulam Junction is the nearest railway station which is at a distance of 10 Kms.
Cabs, autos and buses ply to Kochi . One can always board a Mattancherry bus from South bus stop in Ernakulam and get down at the last stop at Mattancherry. Jew town and Synagogue are at walkable distance.
Accommodation- For stay excellent hotels are available in Ernakulam and as well as Kochi

I have included pictures of Synagogue, Dutch palace, Jew town and the temple inside the Palace complex.
Pictures 1-10 is Synagogue,11-19 Palace and temple inside the complex.


  1. Looks like a lovely place and you licked the warning too!

  2. Lovely place, seems very nice and peaceful..

  3. Mridula,
    Thanks for the comment. Idea is to provise as much information as possible.
    This is World heritage monument and is situated in a serene atmosphere.

  4. Beautiful place.... there is only one synagogue I have seen, ad that too from outside, for we arent allowed inside...... i would love to go to this one....

  5. Anu,
    So when you plan see that you land there on days Sunday- Thursday, otherwise you would again see this Synagogue also from outside.

  6. Hey Chitra,

    Thanks for bringing us these photographs. I was here too and I had visited the shops in the streets. The antique pieces were mindblowing and outrageous, and so were the prices. We roamed about for half-an-hour before reaching this Synagogue and unfortunately for us it was a Friday. We were quite disappointed that we couldn't enter this place of worship. It would have been a tremendous experience to witness another culture and see their methods of worship, architecture and living style. Hopefully, there will be another chance for us to visit it again and on a day when we can enter. Nice pictures and description as always.

  7. Hi Chitra,
    I am sorry to point this out, but you have got all your facts wrong…
    The Mattancherry synagogue is one of the newest of the Cochin Jews…they had synagogues in Kodungaloor a long, long time ago = called Kadavumbagam and Thekumbagam, before a series of tragedies and wars forced them to settle in Mala, Paravur, Chennamangalam, Ernakulam and Cochin.
    There are two synagogues in Ernakulam which are older than Mattancherry = and the Kadavumbagam is much more grander…although the interior has been somewhat ripped apart – but you can still go in and take pictures of the beautiful chandeliers. The Pardesi Jews came only in the 16th century while the real Malabar Yehudan came to Kerala 2000 years ago.
    The Chennamangalam synagogue is older than Mattancherry and has been restored to its former glory including a tombstone dating to 12th century. It is open to the public.
    Also, before the Mattancherry synagogue was built, there was the Kochangadi Synagogue….And if you walk about 300 metres on Jew Street you can see the shell of the Mattanchery Malabari Kadavumbagam Synagogue.
    There is no rabbi at Mattancherry – there has never been a rabbi in any of the eight synagogues of the Cochin Jews ever…the services have always been conducted by the elders…
    The Dutch Palace was not built by the Dutch, it was built by the Portuguese and renovated by the Dutch…
    This should suffice for now..But lovely pictures anyway, Chitra.
    Bala Menon, Toronto

  8. I must appreciate for your lovely posts as it refreshes my memory of Cochin. I have been to all the places and started thinking about those days while reading your post. Very well written.

  9. Vittal das,
    Thanks for your comments. The antique shops are always frequented by tourists and this time I even found a shop charging Rs.25 for taking the pictures of the antique in the shop.

  10. Dear Bala Menon
    I loved your comment Bala. This is how we learn lot of things. It seems you have done a lot of research into the subject.

    Thanks for enlightening me and the readers of my post who would benefit a lot from your description of facts.

    I am not an expert or a historian and my expression is based on the inputs I am given to during my "Pilgrimage" . May be I would make a visit to the other Synagogues you have mentioned. Thanks once again. :). Based on your inputs I shall make changes.

  11. Looks very nice and very peaceful. Synagogues are targets of terrorist attack worldwide. I hope the Government of India gives full protection to this synagogue.

  12. SG
    Thanks for the comment. I too hope and pray that this monument is well protected

  13. As always, an interesting post!

  14. The pictures and description was awesome. Loved reading the post. Incidentally I was happy to learn that you are giving "Employment enhancing skill training" to students. It would be my pleasure to contribute, if needed, any inputs from my side.

  15. Thanks a lot Saras, for your comment and for the wonderful support your have offered. I read your interesting post today morning. Shall be in touch with you.

  16. 3d....
    Dear friend I don't understand your language but thanks for the comment.

  17. There you bought up all my good old memories of visiting Cochin 3 years back! Thanks for more detailed post. New here... look forward to be frequent here :)

  18. Welcome to my blog Mohan. I am happy you found my posts interesting. Please do visit when you find time.

  19. Ohhh I have seen a couple of episodes about this synagogue on Discovery and TLC. This is the only synagogue in India isn't it? They also talked about many Jews going off to Israel and hardly a couple of families remain!! I would definitely want to visit this place when I get a chance.

  20. Insignia,
    There are quite a few Synagogues in India . I was under the impression this was the first Synagogue in India and I was corrected by one reader who has mentioned about other Synagogues which were in existence much before this. Many Jews have left for Israel and very few are left.

  21. Oh oh, I'm late again.. :)You post at the speed of lightning!;)

    Have never been to a synagogue. Wanted to and I'm very curious to feel the experience.The location of this particular synagogue itself is a wonder right?!-temple & palace!! Also, I'm surprised they are closed on all Fridays, Sats & Jewish holidays. I mean, if it is a Jewish festival, where do ppl go if the place of worship is closed?! Maybe I should read more..Thanks for stirring my curiosity;-D

    Oh, I'll never tire of saying this-Incredible post!!!

  22. lostworld
    I post just one/week.Thanks for the comment and the heart felt compliment.

    Friday and saturdays are rest day for them . I also do not know how about the Jewish holidays. I am also reading some thing on Jewish history and customs .

  23. Oh my friend, as usual, I am illuminated by your posts. I had no idea of such a longstanding Jewish community and Synagogue in that area. How I love coming to visit, it deeply broadens my understanding of the world!
    P.S. thanks for all the sweet comments this week.

  24. Welcome Traci, We need to encourage each other is it not? Nice to know my post was informative.Thank You. Please do plan for a visit I am sure it would be a memorable one for you and your family.

  25. Thanks Chitra for this post. And also for the link to the exquisite pictures of the synagogue. The photography has been prohibited there even since before 26/11. I visited there in 2007 and the photography was prohibited even then. In fact this was a peculiar feature I found in Kerala - photography was prohibited in most monuments I visited.

    Jews have an interesting history in India. they faced the worst persecution in the history of world religions everywhere else in the world, but they received patronage in India and were able to live comfortably. This synagogue is a testimony to that.

    Please visit my new post on Judaism in India and write comment there -

    PS - please activate the Name/URL option for comment settings as it makes the commenting easier.

    Thanks Bala Menon for that information. I'll try to visit these other synagogues during my next visit.

  26. Lovely pics Chitra and nice info!

  27. Hi Chitra,
    Thanks for stopping by kothiyavunu and lending me to ur lovely space..:)
    Interesting post & Amazing pics..c u often.:)

  28. Archana,
    Thank you for your valuable comment.
    Like Bala I think you have a lot to share. This has kindled my interest to know more about history of Jews in India. Shall definitely read your post on the above mentioned post. In fact I get your up dates in my dash board.The Kadvumbagam Synagogue also looks attractive from the photo I saw after reading Bala's post.Must add that during my next visit.

    I shall activate the Name/URL setting. The thing is, I am still learning various aspects of blogging.

  29. Aruna,
    Thanks for the your comment.
    Thanks for the comment and see you soon.

  30. Archana
    I read your post. . I am finding it difficult to comment.The box wouldn't open at all. Please Look into it.

  31. Just what I needed, several visits to these awe inspiring places with my good friend Chitra. Good to be back, many thanks for your best wishes.

  32. My dear PW., Nice to see you back and that I feel is more important. I know you had a tough time but knowing you I am sure you would do well.all the best.

  33. Thanks sm for visiting and leaving a comment.

  34. Wish you and your family a very Happy Holi.

  35. Wish you and your family also the same Babli.

  36. Good informative blog

    you could try this

    01) make it a 3 column blog, as there is lots of information, which viewers will like it

    02) add a poll

    03) as you have taken care to add a few lines about historical detials of the pilgrim spots, it might be good to add a few lines about the major festivals celeberated at the specific pilgrim spot.

    04) different font colour for the 'how to reach the location', lines.

  37. Prasanth
    Very constructive suggestion. Let me explore the possibilities of incorporating the suggestions. Thank you.

  38. Hey Chitra!
    Nice post.. :)
    I love the way you give precise directions to get to the place. In that section, you could have included the option of a ferry ride. too.
    That way, you reach the place faster, and you excape the traffic! :)

  39. acidwoman
    Welcome to my blog.What you said is v.correct. the boat ride is faster and one can enjoy the scenery around and was planning to include in the post.But I felt it may create confusion hence decided to stick to other modes.

  40. Well Siraj, So we are from same place:).

  41. Makes me feel nostalgic...especially the pic of anavathil...mattancherry is a beautiful place....surprised not to see Palliarakavu temple i ur blog though...

  42. Palliarakavu is on the offing..I will surely post it, that is one temple I used to visit everyday.


Friends ,Thanks for Leaving your comment .I have enabled comment moderation.
This website is not for posting free advertisements.