Syllabus Section: History – Art & Culture


Why in news?

The Prime Minister of India has greeted the people of Israel and Jewish people all over the world on the occasion of Hanukkah festival. 

About the festival

  • Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights and it remembers the rededication of the second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, in Israel. (Hanukkah is the Hebrew and Aramaic word for 'dedication'.)
  • Hanukkah lasts for eight days and starts on the eve of the Kislev 25, the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs at about the same time as December.  Because the Jewish calendar is lunar, Kislev can happen from late November to late December.
  • In 2020, Hanukkah will be from the evening of Thursday, 10th December until the evening of Friday, 18th December.
  • During Hanukkah, on each of the eight nights, a candle is lit in a special menorah (candelabra) called a 'hanukkiyah'.
  • There is a special ninth candle called the 'shammash' or servant candle which is used to light the other candles.
  • The shammash is often in the center of the other candles and has a higher position. On the first night one candle is lit, on the second night, two are lit until all are lit on the eighth and final night of the festival.
  • Traditionally they are lit from left to right. A special blessing, thanking God, is said before or after lighting the candles and a special Jewish hymn is often sung.
  • The menorah is put in the front window of houses so people passing can see the lights and remember the story of Hanukkah.
  • Most Jewish families and households have a special menorah and celebrate Hanukkah.

About Judaism & Jewish people

  • Judaism is one of the oldest religions of the world, evolved in Egypt about 3,700 years ago.
  • It believes in the unity and oneness of universal Creator.
  • Judaism is the religion, philosophy and way of life of the Jewish people.
  • Jews have been living in India for over 2,000 years ever since they first landed on West coast of India. Indian Jews are known as a peace-loving community. They follow Hebrew calendar.
  • They have special thanks giving ceremony known as Eliyahoo-ha-Nabior i.e. ‘gratitude to Elijah the Prophet’, on festive occasions.

Indian Jews fall into five categories

  • Bene Israel – meaning Children of Israel. Marathi speaking. Arrived in Maharashtra 2,100 years ago.
  • Cochin Jews – arrived in India 2,500 years ago and settled down in Kerala as traders.
  • Baghdadi Jews – Jews who came to India as traders from West Asia, mainly from Baghdad. They are settled mainly in Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata.
  • Bene Menashe – The Manipur Jews constitute a community which sees itself as descendants of the Manasseh (Menashe) Tribe (which is one of the 10 lost tribes of Jews).
  • Bene Ephraim – also called “Telugu Jews”. They are a small group who speak Telugu. Their observance of Judaism dates to 1981.


Source: PIB

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