The prosperous Jewish trading community built the Jewish Synagogue in 1568 whose links with Kerala begin in Kodungallor (Cranganore) in the north of the state. The oldest synagogue in India, it was partially destroyed in the war of 1662 and was rebuilt by the Dutch. In the mid-18th century the clock tower was added and the floors paved with exquisite hand-painted blue willow tiles from China. Two hundred years old, no two tiles are alike. The interior offers more beautiful surprises: a Belgian chandelier, the great scrolls of the Old Testament, and the copper plates on which were recorded the grants of privilege made by the Cochin rulers to the Jewish community in the 4th century. There are also five finely wrought gold and silver crowns gifted to the synagogue by various patrons.
The rabbi will normally give visitors a full account of the synagogue
and the history of the Jews in Kerala. Although this ancient community
of Cochin has now dwindled to a few families, strong elements of their
culture and tradition as well as the Hebrew language remain in Jew Town,
which is what the area surrounding the Mattancherry Synagogue has come
to be called. The by-lanes that wind around Jew Town offer charming
sights of houses built in Dutch, Portuguese and British styles.