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A fascinating novel which turns out to be much more than just historical fiction. In actuality, it is a documentary in words of the Marathi-speaking Jewish people from the Konkan Coast of Maharashtra State in Western India.
I trace my roots to a small village in Konkan, and the names and descriptions in the book are very familiar. The book paints a portrait of life in the villages of the Konkan. After living for centuries amongst the Hindus, some blending of religious practices was inevitable. Thus a reference to offerings made to Nagdeva (the Serpent deity) is on the same page as one about a pilgrimage to "Eliyahu Hannabi cha Tapa" (the mythical hoof mark of Prophet Elijah's chariot) in Sagav, near the town of Khandala. After living for centuries amongst Marathi speaking people, even the Ten Commandments are known as "Daha Agnya", which is a literal translation into Marathi.
The extent to which the Konkan Jews were integrated into local society is a testimonial to the religious tolerance and acceptance of diversity which is a hallmark of Indian culture. This book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in studying how cultures and religions interacted over the centuries in the melting pot of India, and how Judaism found refuge in India and thrived over the centuries.
Many of the Marathi-speaking Jews of the Konkan have now migrated to Israel, so this book may be prove to be the last - and lasting - testimonial to the Jewish experience in Western India.
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