Haggadah, India, 1935
These are two pages from a Haggadah that was printed in Bombay (Mumbai), India in 1935.
The photograph on the right-hand page shows an Indian-Jewish family around the Seder table. Some members of the family are dressed in traditional clothes; others are dressed in modern, western clothing. The men and boys are sitting at the table holding books, presumably Haggadot. The women are standing behind the men. On the table is a Seder plate with the traditional symbols of the festival.
On the opposite page there is text from the Haggadah. Most of the words are written in Indian letters but some are in Hebrew, such as the blessing for Bedikat Chametz – the search for leavened bread.
On the night of 14th Nissan, the night before the Seder, it is traditional to carry out Bedikat Chametz, a formal search around the home for any possible remaining leaven (chametz). The search is done at night by candlelight, and the chametz that is found is burnt the following morning to signify that all of the chametz in the house has been disposed of.
Jews have lived in Bombay (Mumbai) since the eighteenth century. The Jewish community reached its peak in the late 1940s when it numbered almost 30,000 people. Today about 2,500 Jews live in Mumbai which is home to most of the small Jewish community of India.
Jewish Studies teachers could show this Haggadah in lessons leading up to Pesach. It could be compared with other examples of Haggadot from different times and places.
This Haggadah from a little-known community could also be used in other lessons when teaching about different Jewish communities around the world.
Describe the people in the photograph.
How are they dressed?
Are they dressed in a modern or traditional way?
What are the men holding?
What do you think is on the plate in the centre of the table?
Where are the women?
What do you think this tells us about the status of women in the family in this time and place?
Why do you think the publisher chose to print this photograph at the beginning of the Haggadah?
What language is printed on the left-hand page?
Where do you think this Haggadah was printed?
What do you know about the Indian Jewish community?
What blessings can you see on the left-hand page?
The explanation in Hindi is about the Bedikat Hametz ceremony.
What is this ceremony?
Compare this Haggadah to other Haggadot from around the world.
What are the similarities?
What are the differences?