Gradually, all the tombs in the cemetery were destroyed or dismantled except for that of a 17th century Yemenite Jewish sage called Nehemiah ben Abraham Mota. Locally revered as ‘Namia Mootha’ (‘Namia the elder’ in Malayalam) by Jews and non-Jews, his tomb survived the damage. Some of the tombstones dismantled are now displayed in the courtyard of Paradesi Synagogue. A local legend is that when the villagers tried to raze Nehemiah Mota's grave, a great fire broke out and the earth shook. Since then his tomb is venerated not only by the Jews of Cochin but also by the local Christian, Muslim and Hindu communities.
The Malabari Cemetery of Mattancherry is believed to be at least 400 years old as compared to the 250 years old nearby Paradesi Cemetery. Late Ruby Daniel records in her memoir about the cemetery being 700 years old (Ruby of Cochin, 2001, p. 147)! Don't miss this rare photograph of an old Jewish cemetery taken in 1937 from Cochin, included in the Ghetto Fighters House Archives. The photo appeared in issue No:1 (1937) of the Yiddish language weekly, 'Yidishe Bilder'. It is one of the earliest photograph of the Paradesi Jewish cemetery, and I believe the styles of the Malabari tombs would be similar to the ones depicted here.