Just as I walked out of the Dutch Palace, my eyes wandered looking for signs which would indicate the direction of Jew Town. Jew Town was very high on my list, for it was recommended by almost everyone. My struggle lasted only for a few minutes and I saw a small board handing from an iron extension, bearing the name “Jew Town”. I picked up my pace and in just few minutes I was standing ringht under the Jew Town board. The street, from there, looked like a little European flea market. My excitement was sky high to see what awaits in those beautiful lanes of Jew Town.
I steered my way through the narrow yet beautifully manicured streets of Jew Town. The old colonial charm is hard to miss in Jew Town. Jews are believed to have settled in Kochi as early as 700 BC for trade and commerce. Being a port city there were numerous trade opportunities. When the population of Jews grew, the then king gave them a town to live together. The very same town is now known as Jew Town.
Jew Town is no ordinary town, the narrow lanes of the town keep the culture and history alive. Paradesi Synagogue is one of the most sought-after places for people who visit Kochi. It is believed that few Jews still live in this area but I had no way of verifying the same.
Jew Town is also very popular among people who are antique connoisseurs.
The narrow lanes of Jew Town are bustling with shops with antique artefacts. Be it wrought iron, copper, brass and even wood for that matter, the town has no dearth of classy and quirky items. Colourful doorknobs are something which is all over the Jew Town. It reflects the old colonial lifestyle of the town.
My most interesting found was the wooden Cow heads hanging almost in every shop in the town. The artefacts are not only quirky in look and feel, they come with interesting stories as well. Of course, every shopkeeper had their own version of it. I asked about the significance of these Cow head.
One lady told me that it is supposed to be hung at the entrance of the house. It is considered to be auspicious for the Vastu. And believed to welcome good luck inside the house. While one of the other shopkeepers told me that the cow heads are synonymous with the Nandi Bull which is associated with Lord Shiva. The cow heads lean to the religious angle and are revered the same as Nandi Bull.
I am sure there are many stories out there too.
And I don’t know which ones to believe and which ones to ignore. For all I know, they could just be something to increase the aesthetics of your house. But it is the stories that ooze out from every lane, every corner and every shop which makes Jew Town so interesting.
Not just the stories but also the conglomeration of culture visible all over Jew Town will make you go awe. A shop with “Shalom” written at the entrance houses Hindu Statues, Kashmiri shawls, Jewish stars, menorahs and mezuzahs. The shopkeeper dresses in authentic Islamic dress would eloquently tell you stories about the Hindu statues and significance of other antiques in his shops. To top it all the Paradesi Synagogue is located at the end of one of the lanes of Jew Town. If you plan to visit the synagogue, make sure to check the timings in prior. When I reached, it was closed and I couldn’t get inside.
There is also a small Government approved Antique museum on in Jew Town.
If you are worried about being duped in the name of creativity, you can check out this museum. Since it is a government body, prices are quite economical. The museum essentially has two section, one section has all the items for sale and another one is a museum. If you are in Jew Town, make sure to check out the museum.
While strolling around the squeaky-clean lanes of Jew Town I discovered a shopkeeper who was from my hometown. Not the city that I come from but he hailed from my ancestral village. He had been living in Kochi since past 15 years. He spoke Malayalam just as fluently as the natives do. I ended up asking as to why he hasn’t gone back to his hometown.
To which he responded
“Log acche hai yahan, apne taraf ki tarah jalte nahi hai ek dusre se. Sab dharam ke log idhar pyar se saath mein rehte hai, mera landlord muslim hai and mere maximum neighbors Christians hai. Aajtak kabhi koi problem nahi hua. Sab apne kaam se matlab rakhte hai, koi kisi ke kaam mein interfere nahi karta. Jiyo or jeeno do ka funda hai yahan. Ab nahi jana wapas, yeh seher hi ab mera ghar hai.”
“People are nice here, they aren’t jealous of each other like people of our side are. People of all religion live together in peace and harmony. My landlord is Muslim and most of my neighbours are Christians. I have never faced any problem in that regard. Everyone minds their own business and doesn’t interfere in yours. Live and let live is the mantra here. I don’t wish to go back now, this city is now my home.”
The conversation lasted quite long until I saw my watch. It was time for me to leave. I am coming back here every time I am in Kochi, I told myself s I walked out of the Jew Town. I also went to Ginger Palace, which had heaps and heaps of ginger. The gingers are coated with lime and shipped out for trade. It was interesting to see such a huge volume of ginger.
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