The Jewish communities who came here in different periods settled in and around Kodungallur were involved in trade. Synagogues are Jewish places of worship. They received special rights and privileges from the kings to build these Synagogues. Innumerous aspects of Kerala culture were absorbed by them. Repeated attacks by Portuguese, Dutch and Mysore inflicted damages on the Synagogues. When Israel came into being, many Jews returned in groups. The Synagogues were left unattended, and worship there stopped.
One of the oldest such Synagogues is the Paravur Synagogue. The Paravur Jewish Synagogue Museum presents the history of Jews and their Synagogues along the Kerala coast, their modes of worship and so on from the point of view of the Jews.
The Paravur Synagogue is the most expansive and complete among synagogues in Kerala. It is a construction that has several parts that are linked to each other in specific ways. It consists of a porch with two rooms, very spacious front yard, long corridor, huge doors and stairs made of wood, whitewashed walls built with laterite blocks and a mixture of lime, and the wooden chamber with intricate carvings. The influence of Kerala style is evident in the special seats designed for females in the second floor, the hanging lamps that decorate the prayer room etc. The shape of the fan on the front wall of the prayer hall resembles Portuguese style.
Found on the erstwhile Jewish street in Paravur, this Synagogue was built in 1615. It is one among the largest surviving synagogues in Kerala. The building is located in the former Jewish Street of the Paravur region. It served as the place of worship for the Jewish community that settled very close to the Paravur Market. Though the users of the synagogue have all but faded away, both the market and the synagogue still exist. The Paravur market opening to the river Periyar still functions twice a week, a boat jetty has been constructed there, and the Jew street still goes by that name, though one of its two pillars at the entrance has been knocked down. With the opening of the Paravur visitor centre, the synagogue will be within walking distance from there.
The structure of the Paravur synagogue is a brilliant confluence of Jewish tradition and 'Kerala-ness.' Notable is the direction of the 'path' that comes in from the outer lane, and which goes in through the Padippura' (A frontal structure at the entrance), and further on through the frontal aisle, right up to the Bema; also of significance is the relation that the Bema has with other areas of the synagogue. One unique feature of the synagogues in Kerala is the space exclusively accorded for women to assemble and sit; there is a special ladder from outside the structure, for women to come in. Another ladder exists inside the sanctum; it is used to come up for the torah recital done from the second Theva.
The museum will speak about the history of the Jews in Kerala, about how they came and settled here, their occupation, the deterioration of the community and also about the present status of the people who left from this community. The synagogue is a great study of Jewish life, the social hierarchies, native cultural influences on the immigrant Jewish community evident in the architecture.