Jewish town, situated in Mattancheri in Kerala, is existent since the 15th century. Some of the Jewish families, which did not migrate to Israel, have been staying here. These families have adapted to the local customs without giving up their religion. The Cochin synagogue is a symbol of the religious freedom that the Jews got because of the erstwhile Kingdom of Cochin. These Jews also got protection and a place to settle down in Jewish town. Cochin Jews, also called Malabar Jews are the oldest group of Jews in India. The Jews in Jew town speak Judeo-Malayalam and are divided into White Jews and Black Jews.
The ancient houses that lined the alleys of Jewish town added charm to the place. Today, these houses are in a bad condition and their ground storeys have been converted into shops. These shops sell copper and brass articles, antique pieces of furniture and garments. The Jewish town and synagogue are a major attraction for tourists from all over the world.
Cranganore was a sea port on the southwest coast of India. In ancient times, Cranganore was the only sea port in India known to the outside world. From the 5th to the 15th century, Jews in Cranganore had their own Prince. Cranganore was a major trade centre and a haven for refugees who wanted protection from oppressors. It is said that the first Jews who arrived in Kerala were in King Solomen’s fleet.
The oldest printed book on Jewish history was written by a Dutch Jew. He visited India in November 1686 and said that 70,000 to 80,000 Jews arrived on the Malabar Coast of India in 370 AD, because they were being suppressed by Titus Vespasianus. The Hindu ruler here, allowed them to settle down in a different part of Kerala and some them settled in Cranganore. When the Portuguese arrived in Malabar in the 1500’s, they attacked the Jews. Many Jews fled to different parts of Kerala to avoid prosecution. The Hindu Raja gave shelter to these Jews and allotted them a territory known as Jew town. The Jews not only survived, but also prospered as a race here. The Jew culture is evident when one visits Jew town. With its long past and unique culture, Jew town is a lovely place.