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February 14, 1969 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1969-02-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Story Behind Cochin Postage Stamp

.

By 0. K. NAMBIAR
Emeritus Professor,
Bangalore University
On Dec. 15, 1968, Indian govern-
ment issued a 20 cent postage
stamp to commemorate the quarter
centenary of the building of Jew
Town at Cochin begun in 1561 and
completed in 1568. Prime Minister
Indir a Gandhi n-lTrff INDIA
.
cereonially
m
re-
leased -the stamp
forside at a col-
orful festival
which recalled
poignant histori-
eal i memories.
The issue of the
stamp and the
festivial were at ":Tiiaritigu.E
once a tribute and a farewell to an
industrious, intelligent and friendly
eommunity. Once settled in these
part4 in considerable strength, the
Malabar are fast dwindl-
►!
ing in,numbers almost to the van-
ishing point. Their largest concen-
tration in India is at Jew Town
where they number hardly a hun-
dred.
The building of Jew Town at
Cochin in 1568 is relatively a recent
event When we consider the twenty
centuries of their checkered history
on these shores. The Cochin Jews
have a tradition that their ances-
tors came to Malabar following the
destruction of the Temple of Jeru-
salem in 68 CE, 20 years after the
arrival of St. Thomas. Succeeding
centuries brought fresh waves of
ietniigrants.
Enterprising sailors had crossed
the.lIndian Ocean and linked the
West with the East in the centuries
before'the beginning of the Chris-
tian Era till the discovery of the
seasonal nature of the monsoon
winds by a Greek sailor Hippalus
(56 CE) made regular sailing pos-
sible across the Arabian Sea. There

.41 : a

Nasser Backs
New Palestine
Executive Group

(Confirmed from Page 1)
with , Jordanian Premier Bahjat
Ai-Talhouni.
The Jordanian official was re-
portedly in Cairo to confer with
Egyptian leaders on announced
plans to transfer some 4,000 PLO
regulars now in Egypt to Jordan.
The move was announced in Cairo
apparently without King Hussein's
assent.
President Nasser has thrown full
support behind the Palestine exec-
utive committee established last
week at a meeting of the Pales-
tine National Council with the aim
of unifying terrorist activities.
The Palestine Liberation Army
and the Popular Front for the Lib-
eration of Palestine boycotted the
meeting. The army is one of the
most important and strongest ter-
rorist groups and is the military
arm of the PLO, a political body
which attended the Cairo sessions,
and whose ruling body is the Pal-
estine Executive Committee. The
Palestine National Council claims
to represent the various Palestin-
ian Arab terrorist and political
groups and has 105 members,
headed by Yehia Hammouda.
Hammouda announced after the
council meeting that a five-mem-
ber team would try to bring the
WO dissident groups back into the
executive committee.

LED A
OWN?

OM NI

sy

With.*

lens. shed
Slims 4 to
iod Sit to

SHAN

is historical and biblical evidence
to show that the special products
of Malabar, notably pepper, spices,
ivory and peacocks, were known to
ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks
and Romans. The Greek name for
cinnamon is Karpion derived from
the Malabar word Karuppe. King
Solomon, we know, dispatched a
fleet to the ports of Malabar, and
ships of Tarshish and Hiram are
said to have sailed to Muzuris
(Muyuri) on the Malabar Coast for
a variety of Malabar produce. The
Romans had a cohort stationed at
the port of Kodungallur to protect
their warehouses and Roman coins
have been unearthed in treasure
troves in Malabar.
A copper plate deed (740 CE)
safely- preserved -in -Cochin Syna-
gogue records the grant of certain
privileges and assignment of land
given to one-Joseph Rebhan, leader
of the Jewish settlers, by King
Bhaskara Ravi Varma. When re-
corded history begins in the 8th
Century, the Jews had already es-
tablished themselves as a pros-
perous community.- Their chief en-
joyed rights of "overlordship" over
a territory called Anjuvannam
close to the chief port of the king
at Kodungallur. The Jews followed
their religious way of life. The
greater part took to agriculture
and trade. Some served in the
King's army and a few adopted the
learned professions of medicine
and astrology.
The Jews formed themselves into
a corporate body or guild the more
conveniently to fit into the social
system of Malabar — a system
which was built up of numerous
service guilds. The rights and priv-
ileges given are described as "over-
lordship" over the territory and en-
tailed the responsibility of protect-
ing the custom and usage of the
people and preventing their rights
from falling into abeyance. Their
status was highest after the King.
Only the king's title to be the over-
all superior and the chief executive
of the land was, according to a
strange but statutory custom, sub-
ject to reconsideration once in
12 years. The Jewish rights suffer-
ed no such interruption.
There were disastrous wars and
the most prolonged was the war
between the Raja of Cochin and the
Zamorin of Callan. The two dynas-
ties carried on their struggle inter-
mittently for 600 years, late into
the 17th Century.
In these wars, the Jews of Anju-
vannam fought on the side of the
people and Raja of Cochin.
In spite of these wars the Anju-

vannam prospered. Jewish enter-
prise helped Kodungallur sea port
to regain some of its original im-
portance as an international center
of trade in pepper and spices. As
the Jewish settlement lay close to
the Kodungallur port it was one of
the targets of Zamorin's attack.
The Jews were in serious trouble.
In the year 1498 Vasco da Gama
came to Malabar after a historic
voyage and a new factor entered in
Indian political and trade rivalries
—the Portugese.
The ding-dong fighting between
the untiring dynastic enemies con-
tinued. The Jews appeared to have
fought vigorously for the Cochin
Raja for we find the Zamorin or-
dering a massacre of the Jews and
Moslems of Anjuvannam when vic-
tory came to him again in 1524.
Again the Nayar soldiers, satis-
fied with plunder which the rules
of war permitted, refused to obey.
The Zamorin had to desist as the
custom of the people was stronger
than the king.
The Jews had had enough. Anju-
vannam was too close to the center
of strife and a constant target of
attack. In 1565 the Zamorin attack-
ed again and reduced Anjuvannam
to a heap of smoking ruins. The
Jews decided to abandon this an-
cient settlement and the King gave
his permission. He granted them
land within the precincts of Cochin
port and material to build a new
town. The Jew Town was com-
pleted in 1568 and the Jews moved
into it.
With the arrival of the Dutch on
the Malabar Coast in the 17th Cen-
tury new patterns of alliances and
rivalries developed. It is tedious to
follow the fortunes of this new
series of wars in which Dutch and
the Portugese took sides with the
contending Rajas. The final event
as far as the Jews were concerned
was the Portuguese siege of the
Dutch fort near Cochin city. Jew
Town was plundered by the Portu-
gese and its treasures and relics
taken away. The relics which in-
cluded the old copy of the Penta-
teuch were returned safe in 1668.
Soon after the Portuguese and the
Dutch disappeared from the scene,
the British gained supremacy over
India. The Jews were left in
peace.
With the establishment of Israel
the Jews of Cochin began to leave
Jew Town. Soon the last remnants
will leave, and Jew Town will be a
historical memory. The Jews have
gone back home, but they have a
home still in the hearts of every
Malayali.

Friday, February 14, 1969—S

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

LP Disc With Hitler Pic
Attacked in Belgium

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING!

(Direct JTA Teletpye Wire
to The Jewish News)

BRUSSELS—A Belgian senator
has asked the government to ban
a long-playing record of German
military marches which carries a
picture of Hitler giving the Nazi
salute.
Members of wartime resistance
organizations have claimed that
the record constitutes propaganda
for neo-Nazi movements in Bel-
gium, Holland, Germany a n d
France.

• • •

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