Locals bring restoration of Kadavumbhagam synagogue to a halt – The Hindu

Posted By on October 16, 2020

The restoration of the Kadavumbhagam synagogue at Mattancherry, which was a place of worship for the Malabari Jews, is caught in a tussle between the State Department of Archaeology and local residents.

After a portion of the roof of the synagogue and its facade collapsed last year, the Archaeology Department had decided to erect a temporary roof to prevent the structure from crumbling further and avert an erasure of history. The work was to have been completed by June, before the rains set in, but pandemic-related restrictions kept it from progressing.

When work on the roof of the 16th century structure began last week, residents put a halt to it, said a senior official of the department, who asked not to be named. Since a full-blown restoration of the synagogue would be a painstaking process that could involve reconstructing it from existing images, the department had settled on mending the roof temporarily. Besides, the property itself remains in private hands, and the process of acquiring it is still under way, keeping a complete conservation in cold storage, the official said.

While some residents argued that the work cannot proceed without the Kochi Corporations permission, the department has not received any official notice from the corporation or the owner of the building to stop the work, the official added.

According to T.K. Ashraf, councillor representing Mattancherry, residents in the area are worried that declaring the structure a monument will bring with it restrictions on construction around it.

K.M. Sajeer Majid, a resident of the area, said work would not be allowed to resume unless the residents were promised that declaring the structure a protected site would not hinder any construction or repair work on houses nearby.

The official of the Archaeology Department said that no restrictions on construction existed around sites protected by the department. Specific restrictions are in place only for structures protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. Their fears are baseless, he added.

The synagogue was in use till most of the Malabari Jews in the area moved to Israel in the 1950s, and the property was turned into a privately owned warehouse.

A primary notification declaring it a historically rich structure protected by the Archaeology Department was issued in 2015, and the process of acquiring the property was initiated. A final notification protecting it is yet to be issued, pending complete acquisition. Over 91 lakh was initially paid to acquire it, followed by another 75 lakh, which was put together and is being paid to the owners, the official said.

A public hearing was held close to the synagogue before the purchase of the land, the official added.

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Locals bring restoration of Kadavumbhagam synagogue to a halt - The Hindu

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