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Synagogues of Calcutta (Kolkata)

January 18, 2012 3 comments

Calcutta (Kolkata) has always been a melting pot of various cultures & religions. Jews were one of the last communities to arrive in Calcutta (Kolkata) but within a short span of time they made their presence felt by controlling a large section of the trade in Calcutta (Kolkata).

Once the Jews in Calcutta (Kolkata) numbered 6000 and had an active community complete with Synagogues where various religious rituals were carried out. The independence of India in 1947 and the birth of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948 marked the decline of Jewish population in Calcutta (Kolkata). Today the only about 30 Jews are left in the city.

But the two synagogues, Beth El & Magen David, of Calcutta (Kolakta) still stands. Declared as protected monuments they are looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Magen David Synagogue

Magen David Synagogue, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Magen David Synagogue, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Built in 1884 the Magen David, or the Shield of David, Synagogue is located at the junction of Brabourne Road and Cannig Street (Biplabi Rashbehari Road). It is located on one of the busiest crossing of Calcutta (Kolkata) and its 140 feet high clock tower still dominates the Calcutta (Kolkata) skyline. Sadly not many Calcuttans are aware of its existence and it is often mistaken as a church.

The Maghen David Synagogue is approached through a arched door, containing the hexagonal “Star of David” and Hebrew inscription. Ther two side walls contains memorial plaques dedicated to the well known Jews of Calcutta (Kolkata).

Alter, Magen David Synagogue, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Alter, Magen David Synagogue, Calcutta

Although the services of the Magen David Synagogue have long stopped but the interior are astonishingly well maintained. The chequered marble floor, gleaming chandeliers, stained glass windows create a stunning atmosphere.

The alter of the Magen David Synagogue is crowned with a Apse (Half Dome) studded with stars. It represents the heaven. The large plaque in the middle contain the “Ten Commandments.”

It also contains several other Hebrew inscription along with several other items of Jewish Iconography, including the seven branched lamp stand of Menorah.

Interior Magen David Synagogue, Kolkata (Calcutta)

Interior Magen David Synagogue, Kolkata (Calcutta)

Bethel El Synagogue

Beth El Synagogue, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Beth El Synagogue, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Beth El Synagogue is located stones throw away from the Magen David Synagogue and is located just of the Brabourne Road, on Pollock Street.  Surrounded by shops selling electrical goods the Beth El Synagogue is located in one of the busiest localities of Calcutta (Kolkata).  Although the words “Beth El Synagogue” are written at the entrance but the thousand of people walking past it everyday is unaware of its exsistence.

The Beth El Synagogue is a approached by a flight of marble stairs toped with an arched stained glass and finally crowned with a clock (not visible in the photo). The pale yellow faced of the Bethel Synagogue is complete with Jewish iconography of the hexagonal “Star of David” and the seven pointed candle stand of “Menorah.”

Beth El Synagogue (Left: Interior, Right: Stained Glass)

Beth El Synagogue (Left: Interior, Right: Stained Glass)

Although the services of the Beth El Synagogue have long stopped but the interior are astonishingly well maintained. The chequered marble floor, gleaming chandeliers, stained glass windows create a stunning atmosphere.

Alter, Beth El Synagogue

Alter, Beth El Synagogue

The hall is surrounded by balconies on three sides At the centre of the hall lies the raised platform, from where the Rabi (Jewish Prist) carried out his services. At the end of the hall lies the alter crowned with the Apse (Half Dome) with Hebrew inscriptions, including the “Ten Commandments.”

The stained glasses are the one of the finest attraction of the Beth El Synagogue. The most attractive of the stained glass lies atop the main arched entrance of the Beth El Synagogue. The beautiful arched shaped stained glass is best viewed from the balcony opposite the alter.

Note: A permission is required from David Nahoum, one of the last remaining Jews who runs the famous confectionary Nahoum at the New Market, to visit the Synagogues.

Reference:

  • Jewish Jewels by Samhita Chakraborty Lahiri The Telegraph, Kolkata 25 April 2010.

Related links from my website & blog:

List of my Blog entries on Calcutta (Kolkata)

PHOTO PUBLICATION – II

September 7, 2011 1 comment

PHOTO PUBLICATION – II

JET WINGS

May 2011

Two of my photographs on Calcutta (Kolkata) Synagogues were published in the article titled “Say Shalom to Synagogue” by Sonali Shah in the Jet Wings (In flight magazine of Jet Airways) May 2011 issue.

Pages of Jet Wings with my photos

Pages of Jet Wings with my photos

Two of my published photos are:

  • Alter of the Magen David Synagogue
  • Stained Glass window of Beth El Synagogue
Alter of Magen David Synagogue, Calcutta (Kolkata)
Alter of Magen David Synagogue, Calcutta

Alter of Magen David Synagogue, Calcutta

Built in 1884 the Magen David, or the Shield of David, Synagogue is located at the junction of Brabourne Road and Cannig Street (Biplabi Rashbehari Road). It is located on one of the busiest crossing of Calcutta (Kolkata) and its 140 feet high clock tower still dominates the Calcutta (Kolkata) skyline.

The alter of the Magen David Synagogue is crowned with a Apse (Half Dome) studded with stars. It represents the heaven. The large plaque in the middle contain the “Ten Commandments” and several other Hebrew inscription along with several other items of Jewish Iconography, including the seven pointed candle stand of “Menorah.”.

Stained Glass Window Beth El Synagogue

Stained Glass Window, Beth El Synagogue, Calcutta

Stained Glass Window, Beth El Synagogue

Built in 1856 the Beth El Synagogue is located on Pollock Street slightly of the Brabourne Road. The Beth El Synagogue is located in one of the busiest & crowded areas of Calcutta (Kolkata) and is surrounded by shops selling electrical goods.

The interior of the Beth El Synagogue is beautifully decorated with long slender columns and balconies with ornamental railings. The decoration is complete with chandeliers and stained glass windows. Light filtering through the coloured glass of the stained glass windows of the Beth El Synagogue creates a mystic effect.

Although restricted to geometric and floral design the stained glass are one of the finest attraction of the Beth El Synagogue. The alter is flanked on either side by two beautiful arched window.

Online link to the article:

Page 1, Page 2, Page 3.

More photos of Synagogues of Calcutta (Kolkata)

More Photo Publication

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