KOLKATA, 25 DEC: It is as if the bells jingled all the way to parks and eateries for thousands of revellers who thronged to churches in and around the city and mingle in the festive tune and vive.
The entire atmosphere around the Bandel Church is of hurry-scurry with revellers jostling to sneak peek into every ingredient that adds to their charm of Christmas opulence. The entire stretch from Bandel station to the church is crowed throughout the day as people from all over the country visits the age-old church in the district of Hooghly.
Outside the church, a replica of the stable where Jesus Christ was born was put up and the story of the three Magi was depicted. The church and monastery are said to be built in 1660 by Gomez de Soto having the keystone of the old church bearing the date 1599 over the eastern gate of the monastery. In front of the Church stands a ship’s mast, which was presented by the captain of a vessel, which had encountered a storm in the Bay of Bengal. According to fables, the ship was saved by the “Our Lady of Bandel” or “Our Lady of Good Voyage” when it was caught in a storm. Her statue stands on the top of the Basilica.
Our lady of Bandel is considered to have miraculous powers. The story goes that the Portuguese colony at Bandel was ransacked when Mughal emperor Shah Jahan invaded it. During the attack, a Portuguese soldier named Diego tried to protect the statue by ferrying it to safety in a boat. But he was shot at. The boat sank and along with it sank the statue of Lady Bandel.
Later, when the Portuguese returned to Bandel, the church was rebuilt on the ruins of the old one. One night, Father Joan da Cruz, the priest who had survived the attack by the Mughals, woke up to see a strange light on the river. The next morning, the local fishermen came to the priest and said that “Guruma”, or “the blessed mother”, had come back. To his surprise, Father Joan da Cruz found a cross on the field and the lost statue of Lady Bandel a few yards away from the gate of the church. The priest then placed the statue at the main altar. Later, in 1910, it was moved to the balcony of the church. The church has three altars, a small organ and several tombstones.
Mr Sandeep Gomes who came all the way from Delhi to visit the church said: “It is this historic importance of the church that drives me to come here and what better occasion than this.” However, the entry inside the Church was restricted due to security reason. Revellers did not miss the chance of boat riding in the Ganga as the weather was in tune with the festive mood. The city, as usual, overflowed with spirit of cakes and ale on Christmas.
shiba nanda basu & soma basu