5 Fascinating Facts about Jews in India
India’s Jewish community is thousands of years old. Here are five little-known facts about the role Jews have played in India through the ages.
Meeting Marco Polo
When Marco Polo traveled through India in the year 1293, he recorded a surprising encounter in his diaries about meeting Jews there who’d developed a thriving community on India’s southwestern coast. These early Jewish settlers were likely descended from Jewish traders who came from Yemen in the 700s and were welcomed by the local prince. To this day, the Jewish community keeps a set of thousand-year-old engraved copper plates record the welcome extended by the local prince to one Joseph Raban, a Jew who settled in the area.
When the Jewish community was threatened by attacks from South Arabian and Portuguese invaders in the 1400s, the maharajah in the nearby town of Cochin invited them to settle and even build their synagogue next to the town’s Hindu temple. A portion of Cochin soon became known as “Jew Town”, and the magnificent synagogue – with blue and white tiles from China on the floor and a crystal chandelier from Holland – serves the Jews of Cochin to this day.
As the area developed trade ties with the rest of the world, the Jewish community in Cochin reached out to their fellow Jews abroad, requesting Jewish books and connections. When a shipment of Torah scrolls, prayer books and other religious items Cochin’s Jews had ordered from Holland arrived in the town in 1686, Cochin’s Jews were so overjoyed they declared
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