Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Kadavumbhagam Synagogue, Ernakulam, Kerala


Kadavumbhagam Synagogue,near Kochi - Ernakulam,Kerala.samgrubersjewishartmonuments.blogspot.in/

Kerala has been home to several synagogues and many of them are not in good shape. Nor are they  functional and intact except the one - Paradesi Synagogue, Mattancherry.  The Kadavumbhagam Synagogue, dating  back to early sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries ( age is a subject of debate) located  on Jew Street near broad way, Ernakulam  was poorly maintained and there had been an erosion of heritage value of this historical structure which once served Malabari Jews - mostly  called colored  Jews or Bagdadi Jews.
Kadavumbhagam synagogue jew street ernakulam exterior

Kadavumbhagam Synagogue,near Ernakulam -Kochi,Kerala. www.spiritofkerala.com

It is believed that the Jews resettled here to avoid confrontation with the Moors - Muslims from North Africa who were involved in the spice trade. The competing Jews were threats to them in the spice trade, they thought  and consequently the relationship between them  became soured. To avoid further trouble and violence Malabari Jews stepped out and moved over to a better location, abandoning the synagogues. They resettled around Ernakulam in 1154 under the patronage of local Maharajah. The synagogue fell into disuse owing to  local Jewish community's emigration to Israel, a new Jewish nation in the Middle East in 1950s and 1960s. By 1972 there was no service and later this place was closed for ever after the relocation of the Torah to
Kadavumbhagam synagogue jew street ernakulam interior

Kadavumbhagam Synagogue near Kochi.cochinsyn.com

The ground floor of this place occasionally used for social meeting and the rooms on the first floor were used for running a Jewish school. Mostly Jews lived around the synagogue. The former synagogue had been converted into a fish and flower store by a local merchant one  Elias Josephai  and now it is called “Cochin Blossoms”. He personally carried out some renovation work. A complete restoration requires lots of money. Earlier, the caretaker and others had no plans to hand over the synagogue to the State Government. However, as part of restoration of heritage sites and structures, the Kerala government in association with one Jay Waronker, a well-known conservationist, had a plan to preserve this Jewish prayer house by 2010.


Such artistically unique and distinctive historical structures need conservation and restoration, so that the future generation will get benefit out of it. Otherwise such great monuments may get lost over a period of time owing to vagaries of climate and time, not to speak of human neglect.