Kadavumbagam Synagogue

Synagogue Attractions

In a most unlikely setting, the Kadavambagam synagogue in Ernakulam (a 45-minute drive away from Jew Town) sits in the midst of a crowded market, hidden behind a plant and aquarium shop called Cochin Blossoms that incorporates hamsas on its sign.

The current synagogue is the restored oldest synagogue of the Malabar Jews, with a Sefer Torah scroll and offering occasional services. It was established in 1200 CE and restored several times through the centuries on the same site. It is modeled on the earliest synagogue of the Malabar Jews at Muziris from the ancient times of Mediterranean sea trade with Kerala. The earliest synagogue of the ancient Malabar Jews is today submerged in the sea following the gradual rise of sea level over several millennia.

Although the Chendamangalam Synagogue is the oldest surviving synagogue structure in Kerala and Indian subcontinent (established in 1166 CE), its Torah scrolls were taken to Israel by it congregation in 1952. This makes the Kadavumbhagham Ernakulam synagogue the oldest Malabar Jewish synagogue today (since its restoration in 2018) with a Torah scroll that is occasionally used for services. The Paradesi Sephardic synagogue at Mattancherry also has Torah scrolls but it was established much later in 1568.

The Sabbath services at the Kadavumbhagam Ernakulam synagogue continued till 1972 when a large portion of the community immigrated to Israel by 1972 along with the Torah scrolls. For decades, the Kadavumbhagham Synagogue at Ernakulam remained without any Sabbath services and without a Sefer Torah. Today the synagogue is nested within the bustling market at Ernakulam with a thriving aquarium in the front area near the synagogue operating since 1985. After much effort, the Kadavumbhagham Ernakulam synagogue was restored and the Sefer Torah brought back to the synagogue in 2018 after 46 years. Today there are only two synagogues in Kochi that have Torah scrolls: the Paradesi synagogue of the Sephardic Jews in Mattancherry and the Kadavumbhagham Ernakulam synagogue of the ancient Malabar Jews.