Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gifted his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu replicas of two sets of relics from Kerala, regarded as key artifacts of the long Jewish history in India. Modi, who arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday for a three-day visit, presented the relics to Netanyahu at his home on Wednesday.
They comprise two different sets of copper plates that are believed to have been inscribed in 9-10th Century, the Prime Minister’s Office said. The first set of copper plates are a cherished relic for the Cochin Jews in India. It is regarded as a charter describing the grant of hereditary royal privileges and prerogatives by the Hindu King, Cheraman Perumal (often identified as Bhaskara Ravi Varma) to the Jewish leader Joseph Rabban.
According to traditional Jewish accounts, Joseph Rabban was later crowned as the Prince of Shingli, a place in or equated with Cranganore. Cranganore is where Jews enjoyed religious and cultural autonomy for centuries, before they moved to Cochin and other places in Malabar.
Local Jews once placed in each coffin a handful of earth from Shingli/Cranganore that was remembered as a holy place and a “second Jerusalem”. The replica of these plates was made with the cooperation of the Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry, Kochi.
The second set of copper plates is believed to be the earliest documentation of the history of Jewish trade with India. These plates describe the grant of land and tax privileges by the local Hindu ruler to a church. And oversight of trade in Kollam to West Asian and Indian trading associations.
West Asian association included Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians, as also a group of Jews, who signed in Judeo-Persian and possibly also in Arabic and Pahlavi (Middle Persian).
The plates bear their signatures that appear to have been cut into the plates by a local workman unfamiliar with the script, the PMO tweeted. The replica of these plates was made with the cooperation of Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church in Thiruvalla, Kerala.