|"Landing of the Jews at Shingly (Cranganore in 72 AD)"|
Cochin Jews, also called Malabar Jews (Malabar Yehudan) and Juda Mappila, are the oldest group of Jews in India, with roots claimed to date to the time of King Solomon, though historically attested migration dates from the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Historically, they lived in the Kingdom of Cochin in South India, now part of the state of Kerala. Several rounds of immigration of the Jewish diaspora into Kerala led to an ethnic, but not a linguistic, diversity: the community was divided into White Jews and Black Jews, both of which spoke Judeo-Malayalam, a dialect of Malayalam. The vast majority of Cochin Jews immigrated to Israel after its formation, the number remaining in Kerala itself is minuscule, and the community faces extinction there.
|Warden of the synagogue and unofficial 'Mudaliyar'|
Traders in King Solomon's time carried out regular sea voyages to the South Indian coast, bartering for ivory, apes, and silver, and the first Cochin Jews may have been the children of Israelite sailors and local women. It has been claimed that following the destruction of the First Temple in the Siege of Jerusalem (587 BC), some Jewish exiles came to India.But it was after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE that the first wave of large numbers of settlers came to Cranganore,an ancient port near Cochin. Cranganore, now transliterated as Kodungallur, but also known under other names, is a city of legendary importance to this community. Fernandes goes so far as to call it "a substitute Jerusalem in India" and Katz and Goldberg note the "symbolic intertwining" of the two cities.
St. Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus, is supposed to have visited India, and many of the Jews who converted to Christianity at that time were absorbed by Nasrani or Saint Thomas Christians.
|"The Rajah of Cranganore receives the Jews"|
Central to the history of the Cochin Jews is their close relationship with Indian rulers, and this was eventually codified on a set of copper plates granting the community special privileges. The date of these plates, known as "Sâsanam", is contentious, with local tradition setting it as long ago as 379 CE, although paleographic evidence suggests the mid-eighth century. Whatever the date, the Jewish leader Joseph Rabban was granted the rank of prince over the Jews of Cochin, given the ruler ship and tax revenue of a pocket principality in Anjuvannam, near Cranganore, and rights to seventy-two "free houses". The Hindu king gave permission in perpetuity (or, in the more poetic expression of those days, "as long as the world and moon exist") for Jews to live freely, build synagogues, and own property "without conditions attached".
Historians have now concluded that Joseph Rabban got his plates in 1000 AD, during the reign of Kulashekhara Perumal and that Anjuvannam was most likely a trade guild. Kulasekhara or Later Chera dynasty was a classical Hindu dynasty founded by the saint King Kulashekhara Varman. Kulasekharas were intermittently subject to various South Indian powers such as Rashtrakutas and Later Cholas in their 300 year rule. The dynasty ruled the whole of modern Kerala state (Malabar or Kudamalainadu), Guddalore and some parts of Nilgiri district and Salem - Coimbatore region in southern India between 9th and 12th centuries AD mostly from the outskirts of the sea port Muziris, called Mahodayapuram, on the banks of River Periyar. The Kulasekharas traces their ancestry back to the powerful Chera dynasty of the Tamil Sangam Age. The age of Kulasekharas of Mahodayapuram is known in history as the Golden Age of Kerala.
Rama Varman Kulashekhara (reign 1090- 1102 AD) was the last King of the Later Chera Dynasty and the first ruler of the independent Venad state from 1102 A.D to 1122 A.D, according to the Rameswarathukoil Inscription. Kotha Varman Marthandam succeeded him as the ruler of Venad.
Joseph Rabban (Yosef Rabban; Judeo-Malayalam: Isuppu Irabbân)
|"Joseph Rabban, leader of the Jews, receiving the copper plates"|
He was granted the rulership of a pocket principality in Anjuvannam, near , Cranganore, [The name derives from the traditional Hindu system of castes where any person not belonging to one of the four principal castes used to be referred to as an anjuvannan. The word comes from the Malayalam words anju (five) and vannam or varnam (colour, race, or caste)], and rights to seventy-two "free houses". These rights were engraved on a set of bronze tablets known as the "Sâsanam" (Burnell, "Indian Antiquary," iii. 333-334), which are still in the possession of the Jewish community of India. The date of the charter can be fixed at about 750; it can not, for paleographical reasons, have been much earlier than this, nor later than 774, since a grant made to the Malabar christians at that time was copied from it.
|Quarrel between Levites and the laity (non-Levites)|
A link back to Rabban, "the king of Shingly" (another name for Cranganore), was a sign of both purity and prestige. Rabban's descendants maintained this distinct community until a chieftainship dispute broke out between two brothers, one of them named Joseph Azar, in the sixteenth century.Joseph Azar was a Jewish prince of the Anjuvannam in Cochin, South India. He was a descendent of Joseph Rabban. Azar lived in the 14th century CE. In 1340 Joseph Azar became embroiled in a conflict over succession with his brother. The ensuing strife led to intervention by neighboring potentates and the eradication of Jewish autonomy in South India.
Traditions and the accounts of Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela (Kingdom of Navarre), 1130 – 1173) was a medievalJewish traveler who visited Europe, Asia, and Africa in the 12th century. His vivid descriptions of western Asia preceded those of Marco Polo by a hundred years. With his broad education and vast knowledge of languages, Benjamin of Tudela is a major figure in medieval geography and Jewish history.
The Travels of Benjamin is an important work not only as a description of the Jewish communities, but also as a reliable source about the geography and ethnography of the Middle Ages. Some modern historians credit Benjamin with giving accurate descriptions of every-day life in the Middle Ages. Originally written in Hebrew, his itinerary was translated into Latin and later translated into most major European languages. It received much attention from Renaissance scholars in the 16th century.
|"Destruction of Cranganore by the Moors"|
The 12th century Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela wrote about the Malabari coast of Kerala: "The inhabitants are all black, and the Jews also. The latter are good and benevolent. They know the law of Moses and the prophets, and to a small extent the Talmud and Halacha."Maimonides (1135–1204), the preeminent Jewish philosopher of his day, wrote, "Only lately some well-to-do men came forward and purchased three copies of my code [the Mishneh Torah] which they distributed through messengers.... Thus the horizon of these Jews was widened and the religious life in all communities as far as India revived." (The Baghdadi Jews came to India in the 18th century, and it was only then that the Bene Israel Jews of India were "discovered" and taught mainstream Judaism by the Cochinis and Baghdadis, so Maimonides must be referring to the Cochini Jews.)
Further support for the Mishneh Torah circulating in India comes in the form of a letter sent from Safed, Israel to Italy in 1535. In it David del Rossi claimed that a Jewish merchant from Tripoli had told him the India town of Shingly (Cranganore) had a large Jewish population who dabbled in yearly pepper trade with the Portuguese.
 Katz 2000; Koder 1973; Menachery 1998; Thomas Puthiakunnel 1973; Weil 1982; Menachery 1998.
 The Last Jews of Kerala, Edna Fernandes, Portobello Books 2008
 (1 Kings 10:22), The Jews of Kerala, P. M. Jussay, cited in The Last Jews of Kerala, p. 98
 The Last Jews of Kerala, p. 98
 Katz 2000; Koder 1973; Thomas Puthiakunnel 1973; David de Beth Hillel, 1832; Lord, James Henry 1977.
 The Last Jews of Kerala, p. 102
 Cited in The Last Jews of Kerala, p. 47
 Weil S. 1982; Jussay P.M. 1986; Menachery 1973; Menachery 1998.
 Burnell, Indian Antiquary, iii. 333–334
 Taken from WP article on Rabban, which appears to rely on Ken Blady's book Jewish Communities in Exotic Places. Northvale, N.J.:Jason Aronson Inc., 2000. pp. 115–130.
 Three years in America, 1859–1862 (p. 59, p. 60) by Israel Joseph Benjamin
 Roots of Dalit history, Christianity, theology, and spirituality (p. 28) by James Massey, I.S.P.C.K.
 Blady, Ken. Jewish Communities in Exotic Places. Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson Inc., 2000. pp. 115–130.
 The Last Jews of Kerala p. 111
 Shatzmiller 1998, p. 338.
 The Sumerians: Their History, Culture and Character, by Samuel Noah Kramer, University of Chicago Press, 1963, p. 8
 Adler, Marcus Nathan. The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: Critical Text, Translation and Commentary. New York: Phillip Feldheim, Inc., 1907.
 Twersky, Isadore. A Maimonides Reader. Behrman House. Inc., 1972, pp. 481–482
 Herzog, Avigdor, "India", in Encyclopedia Judaica, 2008.
 Katz, Nathan and Ellen S. Goldberg. The Last Jews of Cochin: Jewish Identity in Hindu India. University of South Carolina Press, p. 40. Also, Katz, Nathan, Who are the Jews of India?, University of California Press, 2000, p. 33.