It is believed that the first Jews settled in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) as early as the 6th century, though they were small in number. By the 18th century, Jews began to arrive on-masse in Mumbai from the nearby Konkan coast area, due to its economic opportunities. The Jewish community of Mumbai consisted of the remnants of three distinct communities: the Bene Israeli Jews of Konkan, the Baghdadi Jews of Iraq, and the Cochin Jews of Malabar. At its peak, in the late 1940s, the Jewish population of Bombay reached nearly 30,000
The Jews of India lived in harmony with the Indian people and found that the Hindu religion was tolerant of their beliefs and practices allowing them to preserve their own distinct culture for centuries. The impact though of the Jewish residents, on the permanent landscape of the city, is far greater than its numbers. A walk through Bombay is steeped in Jewish history and Jewish institutions.
Today, the local community is home to the majority of India's rapidly dwindling Jewish population. Mumbai Jews' ties with their city's Muslim community have historically been strong and remain so even after the Mumbai attacks. The two groups have been drawn together as minorities in a Hindu-dominated land and share common districts of the city. Mumbai's Muslim Council had ordered that the nine gunmen killed should not be buried in the city, a gesture which was highly appreciated by the Mumbai Jewish community.
Jewish Mumbai tour
4 hour driving tour
This tour offers you the opportunity to take a historical walk around the Jewish area. After being picked up from the port, an early morning visit to the bustling activities of Sassoon Docks is a great introduction to Mumbai’s traditional fisher-folk, where the men fish, and the women handle the commercial transactions! It was built by the Sassoon’s, one of the erstwhile leading families of the Jewish community
At Nariman House – Mumbai’s Chabad house, where your guide will tell you about the events that took place here during the attacks in 2008. From here move onwards to the Gateway of India, the majestic arch facing out to Mumbai Harbor, which is the city's most famous monument. It was built in 1911 to commemorate the royal visit of King George V and Queen Mary.
In the nearby Fort Heritage District and the Kala Ghoda Art District you will have the chance to explore some of Mumbai’s beautiful buildings before being transported back to port, including the Kenneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, wonderfully adorned with colorful pillars, chandeliers, and stained-glass windows, as well as the David Sassoon Library, which was also built by the Sassoon family.
Jewish and General Mumbai tour
8 hours driving tour
Once picked up from the port, your tour will take you to some of Mumbai’s grandest landmarks like The Gateway of India and The High Court - an elegant 1848 neo-Gothic building inspired by a German castle – as well as St Thomas’ Cathedral - the oldest English building standing in Mumbai. The cathedral is an interesting mix of Byzantine and colonial-era architecture full of colonial memorials.
Your guide will show you Sir Jacob Sassoon High School, before continuing onwards to Churchgate Station, where you will get a first-hand impression of the amazing Mumbai Dhabbawallas who daily distribute roughly 200.000 meals across the city with only a 1% margin of error. The Hanging Gardens of Mumbai provide a peaceful oasis above the city; you can enjoy panoramic views across the harbour and the ocean, and catch a glimpse of the unusual architecture of the Towers of Silence – the Parsi crematorium.
In the second half of the day your tour turns towards historical Jewish Mumbai. You will have the chance to visit Tiphereth Israel - the 3rd Bene Israel synagogue and one of the oldest in Mumbai. Following this explore the Baghadi Jewish past of the city. When Baghdadi Jews began settling in Mumbai during the early 19th century, they were welcomed to pray in existing Bene Israel synagogues. By the late 1850s the Baghdadi community built their first synagogue Magen David, a Victorian building with Gothic-like frontal pillars, which even today is one of the largest in Asia outside of Israel. Later, visit the Gate of Mercy Synagogue, established in 1796 by Late Commandant Samaji Hasaji Divekar (Samuel Ezekiel Divekar).
Your day ends with a visit to the magnificent Sans Souci (former residence of David Sassoon) and Mumbai’s iconic Clock Tower, which was modelled on London’s Big Ben, before you are transported back to the port.
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