Jewish Heritage of the Deccan: Mumbai, The Northern Konkan and Pune

Jews living today in the state of Maharashtra in the Deccan region of India number little more than several thousand persons. Yet abundant vestiges are still evident of the once much larger ancient Bene Israel, and the more recent émigré Baghdadi Jews. Monuments and sites of both communities are preserved in Mumbai (Bombay) and Pune (Poona), as well as in the smaller towns in the northern Konkan region. They include synagogues and cemeteries that testify to the enduring faith of Jews in India, as well as hospitals, schools, libraries and research institutions that demonstrate the philanthropy of wealthy Jewish families, such as the Sassoons. Warehouses and textile mills linked with Jewish industrialists contributed to the expansion of Mumbai during the 19th century; statues and other civic monuments in the city commemorate prominent Jewish figures.

Co-authored by Kenneth X. Robbins and Pushkar Sohoni, this guidebook is illustrated with splendid, newly commissioned photographs by Surendra Kumar. It is the first such publication to describe the vestiges listed above, which are arranged according to itineraries to encourage citizens of Mumbai and Pune, as well as visitors to these cities and the towns of the Konkan, to discover this often overlooked aspect of local history. Intended as a handy reference to the Jewish presence in Maharashtra, the volume should contribute to a better appreciation of this significant aspect of Deccan history, and hopefully to the preservation of Jewish sites and monuments for future generations.

Surendra Kumar is a photographer based in Hampi, Karnataka, specialising in topographic panoramas. His images are published in Discovering the Deccan: A Panoramic Journey Through Historical Landscapes & Monuments (Mumbai, 2011), Temple Architecture and Art of the Early Chalukyas (New Delhi, 2014), Hyderabad, Golconda (Mumbai, 2015), and Portuguese Sea Forts (Mumbai, 2016).

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About the Authors

Kenneth Robbins

KENNETH X. ROBBINS is a psychiatrist based in Washington D.C., as well as a collector of South Asian art, and historian of expatriate communities in India. He is co-editor of African Elites in India: Habshi Amarat (Ahmedabad, 2006) and Western Jews in India (New Delhi, 2013), and curator of an exhibition on Jews in India held at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, in 2017. He is also interested in Maharajas, Nawabs and Indian Princely States.

Pushkar Sohoni

PUSHKAR SOHONI trained as an architect and then studied Indian architectural history, specialising in Islamic traditions of the Deccan. He is author of Aurangabad, with Daulatabad, Khuldabad and Ahmadnagar (Mumbai 2014). Formerly the South Asian Librarian at the University of Pennsylvanian Libraries, Philadelphia, USA, he is now Assistant Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Pune.