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When you go to Ernakulam in Kerala of India and if you are in search of the old antique items there are lot of items that will take you, in knowing some of the traditions that was followed in Kerala. Mattancherry is one of the place which can be reached either by the road way or by the ferry way, but travelling by the ferry would help in observing the traditional buildings and settlements the different kinds of people following different way of lifestyle that had settled down. As water way and by walk was the oldest way of transport of this place as most of the area are islands and people connected with each other by these routes.
In Mattancherry, anybody would not miss to visit the Jew town, Jew Street which long ago had the settlements of the Portugal, Dutch Jews. After many years they had lost contacts with other Jews and started to learn English and the local Malayalam language. But strictly teaching the Hebrew language and tradition that they follow to the younger generation without mixing with other cultures. Therefore more familiarly known as the Cochin Jews, because of this unique culture that even today that they follow, the people of Jew town directed us to one of them the old Sarah Cohen Aunty called by everybody in this place. As she would be doing the prayers/ customs as per the timing that they follow, as they even today follow their tradition handed over to them by their parents.
The old buildings of the Jew Street reflects about a particular sect of people who had settled here. Today there are only seven families with ten members remaining here as others have travelled back to Israel. Some left back due to their old age, ill health and didn’t want to travel back leaving the place and people with whom they had spent their younger days. But even today they follow their tradition very strictly.
As Sarah Aunty was busy in her prayers and didn’t allow us, it was another young person who was with Aunty and Cohen Uncle from his childhood who gave the brief introduction about this tradition and the embroidery that is specially done here in this place which tells of the tradition that was followed by ages.
Embroidery is one of the craft where the required portions are opened up and allowed to do the visual techniques by the special needle and coloured threads. Mostly the Jewish lamp of seven candles called menorah, pomegranate flower, pomegranate fruit, grape, wine are some of the patterns that are mostly made through the embroidery. It is said that the designs are taken from the influence of the day to day activities which they use for prayer and offerings. Also letters of the Hebrew language that they use are mostly taken from the Torah (scroll of incipits read publicly with a tune in presence of the congregation of Cochin Jews) and the prayers.
Embroidery is done on the frames (slate frames) with the selected fabrics of organdy, cross stitch etc. These are done with very fine stitch as in some cases the back and the front look alike with as they are done by a person seated in the position with the movement of the hands with needle and embroidery threads with full concentration from the bottom to top and top to the bottom portions.