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Judaism in India

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Judaism in India

Among the many Non-Dharmic religions (those not believing in several incarnations and reincarnations of God and human being) arriving in India, Judaism was the first ones. Its followers are known as Jews. There are five native Jewish communities in India:

  • The Cochin Jews arrived in India 2,500 years ago and settled down in Cochin, as traders.
  • The Bene Israel arrived in the state of Maharashtra 2,100 years ago.
  • The Baghdadi Jews arrived in the city Mumbai from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Arab countries about 250 years ago.
  • The Bnei Menashe are Mizo and Kuki tribesmen in Manipur and Mizoram who claim descent from the tribe of Menasseh.
  • The Bene Ephraim (also called "Telugu Jews") is a small group who speak Telugu; their observance of Judaism dates to 1981.

The oldest among the Jews community in India, resides in Cochin. It was in 562 B.C that the traders from Jadea arrived in India and settled near Cochin. The Anjuvannam community was a group of exile from Israel, who reached India in 70 C.E. Communities of Jews called Pardesi Jews were the exiles from Spain and Holland.

The Bene Israel community was formed when seven Jewish families were stranded due to a shipwreck near Mumbai. Slowly the families integrated with the local population of Maharashtra and started to adopt their language and customs. Many small communities of Bene Israel are scattered across Mumbai, Alibag, Pune and Ahmedabad.

The Baghdadi Jews immigrated from Iran, Afganistan, Syria, Yemen to India about 250 years ago, and settled in Mumbai. They were mainly traders and soon emerged to be the wealthiest community in the city. They then spread to other parts of the country with time.

Bnei Menashe Judaism is practiced mainly in the states of Manipur and Mizoram and the Bene Iphraim are comparatively newer group of Judaism emerging around 1981 in Andhra Pradesh. Judaism in Delhi is primarily focused on the expatriate community who work in Delhi, and Israeli diplomats. Jewish life in Delhi centers on the Judah Hyam synagogue, which has services run by Ezekiel Isaac Malekar.
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