Parokhet, India, Kerala, Parur, 1903, Sc.143- 4
Category: Ritual object
Zechariah's menorah (Zech. 4:2-3) Go to Subject Document
Most Cochinian parokhot contain a central rectangular main cloth surrounded by a frame. The wedding skirt of a bride (longi) was commonly used for the central cloth. The parokhot were also used for covering coffins, and were often dedicated to the synagogue after they were used as coffin covers. Sometimes they were taken from the synagogue for that purpose and were returned to functioning as Torah Ark curtains. This custom is still practiced among the Cochin communities (see Sc.105- 12, fig. 1). Each synagogue kept a wide range of parokhot in various colours. Each colour was significant for a particular holiday or event: since red is considered the wedding colour, it is suitable for parokhot hung during the Simhat Torah festival, alluding to the allegorical wedding between Israel and the Torah. White parokhot, as the parokhet described below, were used on the Day of Atonement. The "system of colours" also dominated in local customs and costumes.
Material & Technique
Cotton, satin, golden threads
Cloth: cotton satin
Embroidery: golden threads in laid and couched embroidery
Length: 214 cm
Width: 200 cm
The white parokhet is adorned by Zechariah's vision, depicting the seven branched menorah set in the upper central frieze and is topped by a dedicatory inscription.
The white rectangular parokhet is made up of a central cloth topped by an inscription and surrounded by a frame. The central cloth is decorated with rhomboids enclosing dots, topped by a frieze of medallions formed by wreaths of flowers, separated by floral columns and flanking a central seven-branched menorah. The menorah is formed of six curved branches, each decorated with small globes, and supported by a foliate base. It is lit with flames pointing towards the central shaft, alluding to the Midrashic interpretation (T.B. Menahot, 98:2; Megilah 21:2). Two branches carrying leaves flank the Menorah and represent the two olive trees in Zechariah's vision, from which the oil flowed into a round bowl (gula) and miraculously filled the Menorah with seven streams (tsanterot) of oil, emerging towards the flames (Zech. 4:2-3; see: Remarks no. 1). The central cloth is topped by a dedicatory inscription written in six lines in square, filled letters, which reads:
"קודש לה' / זאת הפרוכת שהקדישה מרים מב"ת (מנשים באוהל תבורך, שופטים ה:כד) / למנוחת נפש בעלה השם הטוב הגביר / גזבר בקודש אליהו בכה"ר (בן כבוד הרב) משה נ"ע (נוחו עדן) / שנפטר יום ד' לניסן ח"י שנת / התרס"ג תנצב"ה (תהי נשמתו צרורה בצרור החיים)."
"Dedicated to the Lord, this is the parokhet that was donated by Miriam, blessed shall she be above women (in the tent; Judg. 5:24), for the repose of the soul of her husband, the (one who has a) good name, the man of substance, treasurer of the synagogue, Eli'yahu son of the honorable Rabbi Moshe may he rest in Eden, who passed away on Wednesday, the 18th of Nisan, the year 5663 (15.04.1903), may his soul be bound in the bond of life." Its lower part is decorated with medallions surrounded and enclosing flower motifs. Each part of the central cloth is framed by a thin strip carrying open flowers and leaves, alternately. The upper part is surrounded by an additional dotted strip. The parokhet is framed by undulating branches emerging from a vase at its bottom, and carrying various flowers and leaves. It is framed by an additional strip carrying a wavy line formed by open flowers and leaves. The parokhet is edged by a blue and orange folded band.
The parokhet was brought to Israel in 1974 by the grandson of the deceased Eli'yahu son of Moshe, who was the treasurer of the Parur synagogue (see: Remarks: no. 2).
1. Zecharia's vision (Zech. 4:2-3) is a common subject decorating artifacts and synagogues, originating in South India. The early depiction of the subject is adorning the Chenemangalam synagogue entrance, built in 1619 (fig. 1). This depiction served as a model to later representations of the subject, as for example the parokhet from Ernakulam, made in 1927 (fig. 2). Another visual depiction is carved on the Torah ark of the synagogue in Parur, made in 1891 (fig. 3). This ark was standing in the synagogue, when Eli'yahu son of Moshe was the treasurer of the synagogue. This depiction may well influenced the embroidery on the parokhet, dedicated to the synagogue in Parur. Different from Cochinian Jewish Art, this topic is not a common theme among other communities. Yet, one early well known illustration of the vision is depicted in the Castilian Cervera bible, produced near Toledo, in 1300 (Lisbon, Biblioteca Nacional, Ms. Ill. 72, fol. 316v; cf. Narkiss, Hebrew, p.79, plate 6). Although this depiction has no direct connection to the Chenemangalam tympanum, they both share a common visual tradition. The common artistic formula may testify to a Sephardi community in Kerala. And indeed such a community, comprising descendents of Jews from Spain and Portugal, settled in Cochin in the end of the sixteenth century. The Sephardi Jews, known as the Paradessi (strangers in Malyalam language), influenced the local Malabar community and introduced them the Sephardi visual, as well as liturgical traditions. This influence is remarkable in the liturgy conducted in the synagogue. As the existence of two Teivot in the synagogue, and the Iconography (for the Sephardi elements in Kerala, cf. Amar, The Menorah, p. 83). Similar depictions are also seen in Turkey and Italy, among the descendents of the Sephardi Jewish community. This Fig.1. Zechariah's vision above the entrance in the Chenemangalam synagogue. Fig. 2. Zechariah's vision, parokhet, Ernakulam, 1927 visual convention possibly originated in Spain and continued to exist among the Jewish Sephardi Diaspora after the Expulsion, in South India, Turkey and Italy (cf. Amar, Zechariah's vision, pp.13 - 19).
2. The Parur synagogue was rebuilt in 1620, probably on an earlier synagogue. The dedication plaque attached to its external wall indicate that it was built by David son of Jacob Castiel, a descendent of the Spanish expelled Jews, who originated in Castalia. The original Torah ark was replaced in 1891, with a new one decorated with Zechariah's Menorah, modeled after the Chenemangalam tympanum (fig. 1), combined with an additional visual source.
|Fig.1. Zechariah's vision above the entrance in the Chenemangalam synagogue.|
|Fig. 2. Zechariah's vision, parokhet, Ernakulam, 1927|
|Fig. 3. Zechariah's vision, Torah Ark, Parur, 1891|
- Amar, Ariella. “The Menorah of Zechariah’s Vision: olive trees and grapevines.” In The Real and Ideal Jerusalem in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Art (Jewish Art, no. 23-24), edited by Bianca Kühnel, pp. 79 – 88. Jerusalem: Center for Jewish Art, 1997-8.
- Amar, Ariella. Zechariah’s Vision in Jewish Art. M.A dissertation delivered to The Hebrew University, 2001. Unpublished.
- Narkiss, Bezalel. Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts. Jerusalem: Keter, 1984. In Hebrew
- Slepak, Orpa. The Jews of India. Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 1995.
|Documenter||Orpa Brofman (Slepak)||10.84|
|Researcher||Ariella Amar and Sandrine Rebibo||02.05|
|Section Head||Ariella Amar||06.07|
|IJA No.:||Not relevant|