While roaming around Fort Kochi area, you will sooner or later reach Mattancherry, a quaint neighbourhood which earlier served as a trade route for spices. Back then, the streets (cheri) were littered with mutton butchers, hence the name Mattancherry. The Portugese reached Kerala in the 15th century – the first European settlers. Mattancherry is also home to the Jews who have been residing here since the 16th century, and it is popularly referred to as Jew Town. Both the communities left their imprints in the form of the Dutch Palace and the Paradesi Synagogue.
The palace was built and gifted by the Portuguese to the ruler of Cochin around 1555. The Dutch settler were involved with some of the repair work carried out in the 17th century, and thereafter it was named the Dutch Palace.
The Paradesi synagogue is the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth. This grand building was constructed in 1568, but in 1662 it was destroyed by the Portuguese and later re-built by the Dutch. Its main attractions are the fine objects that add to the splendour – the Belgian glass chandelier and hand painted ceramic tiles from Canton. Each tile is different from the other.
With its historical sights, colonial character and delightful shops (selling lace, artefacts, furniture and spices), Mattancherry is a place you don’t want to miss!
-By Tanya Anand