The rare remnants of Jewish Settlement in Mala will attract any tourists of aesthetic mind. In ancient period Mala street was known after Jews and it was called "Jews Street Mala".
In 1948, when Israel was formed, the Jews left this place and back to their mother land. There is currently no Jewish community left in Mala.
The charm and splendor of synagogue of the Mala Jewish Community with its beautiful carvings in a variety of patterns speak volumes about their artistic skill and culture. There is also a Jewish Cemetery which exudes memories of Ancestors of Mala Jewish Community.
According to tradition and available records, Jews have been in Kerala, since at least the beginning of the common era. It is believed that it was in AD 72. Jews immigrated to Mala for trade and settlement.
There were 40 Jewish families settled in Mala. Mala Jews were the first Jewish community that migrated from Kerala to Israel. The place name "Mala" in Thrissur District might have originated from the Hebrew word "Mal-Aha" which means "Center of Refugee".
It is located at the intersection of two bustling small-commercial streets, and set now behind a row of shops, up a narrow unkempt alley, the Mala synagogue is a handsome stretch of yellow building with three traditional upper windows looking out from the main sanctuary. An outside balcony on the second level looks out on the intersecting streets below.
Corners of the building, plaster over stone and brick, are broken and walls on the sides show the usual need for maintenance typical of this tropical climate. Inside the sanctuary, everything belonging to the Mala synagogue has been removed - most of it taken by the community to Israel.
Exterior steps lead to what was the woman's gallery, two stories up, looking down on the courtyard well and broken roofs.
There is a different opinions among the sources as to when the Jews who had settled in Thrissur Mala first built a synagogue. The building was realized for an active community of Jews who are remembered by the town's people as productive shop owners, small traders, or involved in agricultural work.
Prem Doss Swami Doss Yehudi, wrote about a Jewish Malayalam folk song revealing that the wood used for the building of the synagogue in Mala was donated to Joseph Rabban in 1000 CE by the Rajah of Cranganore on behalf of his fellow Jews.
Mala was then under the sovereignty of Cranganore, and the Rajah was said to have welcomed a diversity of faiths.
Yehudi also claims that the original early eleventh century synagogue was pulled down for an unspecified reason and a new building was erected in 1400, and it was, in turn, renovated in 1792.
This is in conflict with the observations made by the Church of England missionary Rev. Thomas Dawson, who was stationed in Kochi beginning in 1817.
Current Status of Mala Jewish Synagogue
The office staff is normally helpful in approving the visit and locating the keys, and in most cases someone accompanies guests to the synagogue.
In recent years, the Mala Synagogue building has been marginally at best maintained and rarely used. Since ownership of Mala’s synagogue passed to the municipality officially in 1955, the building and its grounds have been altered and, in part, extensively and even irrevocably compromised.
The synagogue’s tebah, heckal, and all furnishings and fittings were removed years ago and are now lost, although the balcony with its second tebah remains.
The platform seen near where the heckal was located is a post-1955 addition. In response to the growing interest among the public in Kerala’s Jewish history and its still functioning and former synagogues, modest renovation and repair work on the exterior of the synagogue has been scheduled to be carried out in late 2010 by the municipality, and the area along the long elevation of the building facing the street side is to be covered with paves to improve site conditions.
Marked as a Jewish cemetery with a clear sign over the entrance gate in English the site is protected by the local authority; a framed black sign inside the gate lists the three trustees of the cemetery, from Chennamangalam and Ernakulum, who deeded and handed over the cemetery to the Mala Panchayat on April 1, 1955.
The cemetery is in two sections of land; in the first, there were three tomb stones - two were in the first section of open field, one was partly hidden under a cashew tree. The second section - at least twice as large - lies beyond the first on higher ground that is separated from the first by a stone wall, has no graves or tombstones.
A court edict, brought about by petition from the Ernakulum Jewish community, has kept the town from using this spacious part of the cemetery area for a play field. The cemetery is located in a central residential area of Mala and is flanked on either side by attractive residences.
Mala Synagogue: It is in the heart of Mala Town.
Mala Cemetery: It is visible from Mala Police Station and 250 meters away from Private Bus Station towards east.
Even though, they had left this place, the flowering memories of their lifestyle and the precious remnants of that era hold a special place in our hearts when we leave this place.