In Pictures: Indian Jews keep heritage alive - Al Jazeera English

In Pictures: Indian Jews keep heritage alive

Jewish community - mainly based in Mumbai - hold onto centuries-old tradition, but their numbers are dwindling fast.

Suranjana Tewari | | Arts & Culture, Asia, India, Religion

Mumbai, India - Although a sizeable number at its peak, the Jewish population in India has diminished drastically, leaving behind a miniscule minority who are trying to keep their traditions alive.

The first Jews arrived in India more than 2,000 years ago and settled in the southern state of Kerala. Six hundred years later, the Bene Israelis followed, while the Baghdadi Jews arrived in 1730, some of them fleeing religious persecution in the Arab world.

After the formation of Israel in 1948, around 33,000 people emigrated, leaving just 5,000 Jews in India today. The majority of them are Bene Israelis, most of whom live in Mumbai. The city is also host to around 100 Baghdadi Jews.

The community continues to observe Jewish practices and its synagogues serve as a meeting point.

"Very few synagogues survive in this part of the world," conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah told Al Jazeera, "but Bombay has traditionally had a large Jewish population."

The Jewish community has often been applauded for integrating completely with the local population. Most people in the community wear Indian traditional dress, participate in local festivals and speak local languages.

Al Jazeera visited some of Mumbai's most iconic Jewish buildings and met the people who make up one of India's smallest religious minorities.

Follow Suranjana Tewari on Twitter: @suranjanasays

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