Nestled in the heart of the bustling city of Kochi in Kerala, India lies a quaint and charming neighborhood known as Jew Town. Jew Town Kochi is a vibrant and bustling area, steeped in history and culture.
In this blog, I will take you through and beyond this rich cultural heritage and introduce the major attractions of Jew Town Kochi.
Major Attractions in Jew Town Kochi
Jew Town, Kochi is a fascinating place that tells you the story of multiculturalism and tolerance that existed in this land more than 500 years ago. The major attractions of Jew Town are Mattancherry Palace, Paradesi Synagogue, and Jew Street.
A little beyond Jew Town and extending the narrative of the multicultural heritage of Kochi is Jain Temple, Mattancherry.
Mattancherry Palace is a stunning example of a blend of the Portuguese, Dutch, and traditional Kerala architecture and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history and culture.
The palace, also known as the Dutch Palace, was actually built by the Portuguese as a gift to the Royal family of Cochin in 1545. Mattancherry Palace came to be known as “Dutch Palace” as a result of the many renovations done by the Dutch Dynasty later.
The palace served as the residence of the Rajas of Kochi and was an important center of trade and commerce. The palace was also the center of administration and governance for the region.
Today, Mattancherry Palace functions as a historical museum. One of the most striking features of the palace is the stunning mural paintings that adorn the walls. The murals depict scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and showcase the rich cultural heritage of Kerala. The murals are renowned for their intricate detailing and vibrant colors, and are considered to be some of the finest examples of traditional Kerala art.
Mattancherry Palace is home to a vast collection of antique furniture, weapons, and costumes, which provide a glimpse into the rich history and culture of Kerala. You can see ancient coins, jewelry, and other artifacts that are a testament to the region’s vibrant and diverse cultural heritage.
Mattancherry Palace Visiting Time and Entry Fee
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: 9:45 am – 1:00 pm & 2:00 – 4:45 pm
Saturday & Sunday: Closed
Entry Fee for Mattancherry Palace is just Rs. 2 for adults and free for children below 15 years.
Paradesi Synagogue Kochi: Discovering the Jewish Heritage of Kochi
The most prominent landmark in Jew Town is the Paradesi Synagogue, which was built in 1568. Here is some history you might find interesting.
Kerala has been home to Jews for almost 2000 years. The Jews who came to Kerala until the 16th century integrated with the native Kerala community and came to be known as the Malabari Jews. Then, in early 16th century, a ship of Spanish Jewish refugees landed in Kochi fleeing oppressive Portuguese rule in Spain.
These Jews were welcomed to the land with open arms by the then ruler of Kochi and allotted a plot next to the Mattancherry Palace to build a Jewish synagogue. In order to differentiate themselves from the much older and well-settled Malabari Jews, these Spanish Jewish began identifying themselves as “Paradesi Jews” or the “foreign Jews. This is the story of how a Jewish synagogue came to be built right next to a Hindu king and a Hindu temple in Mattancherry.
You can read a little bit more about the Paradesi Jews in this BBC article.
The synagogue is a stunning example of an amalgam of the Dutch, Kerala, and traditional Jewish architecture, with intricate carvings, colorful hand-painted Chinese tiles, and beautiful Belgian chandeliers.
One of the most striking features of the synagogue is the wooden pulpit, which is adorned with exquisite carvings. The pulpit was constructed in 1664 and is considered to be one of the finest examples of Jewish woodwork in the world.
Another fascinating aspect of the Paradesi Synagogue is the Jewish Museum, which is located on the premises. The museum is home to a vast collection of rare and unique Jewish artifacts. Visitors can also see old photographs and documents, and purchase books and photographs that provide a glimpse into the history and culture of the Jewish community in Kochi.
Paradesi Synagogue Visiting Time and Entry Fee
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Friday: 10:00 am–2:00 pm
There is no Entry Fee for Paradesi Synagogue
Photography is strictly prohibited inside the synagogue.
Jew Street: A Vibrant Street Market
Jew Street is a bustling market street stretching roughly between the Jewish cemetery and Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry. The street is a vibrant and colorful destination that provides a glimpse into the diversity and cultural tolerance in Kerala.
Jew Street is home to a number of shops and boutiques that sell a wide range of products, including spices, antiques, jewelry, and traditional handicrafts. You can explore the various shops and browse through the colorful and vibrant items on display. The street is particularly famous for its antique shops, which sell rare and unique items from different parts of the world.
Another major attraction in Jew Street is its wonderful array of boutique restaurants and café that serve Mediterranean, continental, and traditional Kerala cuisines. Mocha Art Café, Ginger House Restaurant, and Aah Restaurant are some great places to check out.
Jain Temple– Beyond Jew Town
If you thought the synagogue, the palace, and Jew Street are all, you will be surprised to find that less than a kilometer from Mattancherry Palace, there is a 100 year old Jain Temple, which in my opinion is an architectural marvel and a must visit on your trip to Jew Town Kochi.
The Shwetamber Jain temple in Kochi is a testament to the community’s deep roots in the religion and its commitment to preserving its cultural heritage.
Jain Temple, Mattancherry was built by the Jain traders from Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat in 1904. The larger temple in the complex has an idol of Dharmanatha, the 15th Tirthankara on the main alter. The smaller temple in the complex is dedicated to Chandraprabha, the 8th Tirthankara. The white marble floors and walls radiate a calm and serene vibe in the temple.
One of the most striking features of the temple is the stunning white marble staircase that leads up to the main hall. The staircase is adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures that depict scenes from Jain mythology and history. The staircase is a popular spot for you to take photos and admire the temple’s stunning architecture.
As soon as you enter the complex you are greeted the caretakers. If you are not dressed “adequately” they will provide you with a wraparound skirt and a shawl to cover your head.
Once you get past the ornately carved gate, you are greeted by one of the members of the Jain community who take you through a guided tour of the temple.
There is a fascinating aspect to Kochi Jain Temple. Every day around 12:00 pm, hundreds of pigeons flock to a cemented floor on the right of the temple, take feed, and fly away. You can feed the birds on your hand and even take a photo amidst this beautiful sight.
Visiting Time and Entry Fee at Jain Temple
Jain Temple Mattancherry is open from 5:30 am–7:00 pm for devotees. However, if you are visiting as a tourist, 11:00 am–12:30 pm is the visiting time.
Entry Fee: There is no entry fee
Photography is prohibited inside Jain Temple Mattancherry, however, you can take photos from outside.
Wrapping Up: Jew Town Kochi
Jew Town Kochi is a fascinating window into the rich history and cultural heritage of Kochi. Whether you are interested in history, architecture, or just want to experience the sights and sounds of a bustling Indian neighborhood, Jew Town Kochi is definitely worth a visit.
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