While Bandra in Mumbai is one of the elitist areas that is also home to some of the biggest retailer brands and fine dining restaurants, it is where the devotees of Virgin Mary congregate to pray and seek blessings at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, more commonly known as Mount Mary Church. The most looked forward to event here is the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated on the first Sunday after September 8.
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount stands on a hillock, about 80 meters above sea level overlooking the Arabian Sea, and attracts people from all faiths who pray to Virgin Mary for expressing their gratitude or requesting favours. However, the one time that it really comes into prominence is during the Bandra Fair when devotees come here in thousands. This is when the entire area gets decorated with festoons and buntings. Many pitch up stalls selling religious articles and savories. Wax figures of the Virgin Mary, along with an assortment of candles shaped like hands, feet and various other parts of the body are sold at kiosks.
Although the current church edifice is just 100 years old, the history behind the current statue of Our Lady goes back to the 16th century when Jesuit priests from Portugal brought the statue to the current location and constructed a chapel. In 1700 Arab pirates interested in the gilt-lined object held in the hand disfigured the statue by cutting off the right hand. In 1760, the church was rebuilt and the statue was substituted with a statue of Our Lady of Navigators in St. Andrew’s Church nearby. This statue has an interesting legend. It goes that a Koli fisherman dreamt that he would find a statue in the sea and it was actually found floating in the sea.
In 1879, H. Bomonjee Jeejibhoy built a flight of steps on the northern side of the hill. In 1882, a portico came to be added to the front of the building but by the end of the century it was resolved that only a new church would accommodate the growing numbers who made their way to the top of the hill to venerate the Lady of the Mount every September. Shapoorji N. Chadabhoy, an architect, designed the new chapel. The style is neo-gothic and the new altar reflects the style. Seven steps in white marble peaked by three niches lead the eye of the pilgrim or visitor to the Mother and child Jesus, the wooden statue now crowned and resplendent with a white and gold veil that flows down to the topmost marble step. Unlike most icons of Mother Mary this one has the child on the right arm. The murals in the nave depict scenes from the life of Mary.
Things to Do
Explore the capital of Maharashtra
Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra. It has numerous attractions for a visitor ranging from the museum visits to roadside shopping. The city is a paradise for such visitors. It truly is a city that does not sleep so it is worth exploring in the night too.
Have a Fun day at the Esselworld which is one of India’s largest amusement parks. From rib tickling crazy cups and copper choppers to scary monsters in the mist as well as adrenaline charging rocking alleys and zipper drippers, you can spend an exciting day and spend quality time with the family.
Explore the Sanjay Gandhi National Park
On the periphery of Mumbai, this is a beautiful park where tranquility prevails and the flora and fauna are allowed to have a free hand. It offers to the tourists, naturalists, bird-watchers and environment researchers a fascinating treasure of wildlife and innumerable plants and trees. In fact, almost a quarter of India’s avifauna has made their home here, including many mammals such as the elusive leopard. The park also offers various activities like boating, trekking, safaris and even a toy train ride.
Explore the Mumbai caves
The Kanheri caves have the earliest images of the Buddha in South India and were made famous across the world because Chinese monk traveller Hiuen Tsang had visited the monastery in 7th century CE and is reported to have carried a wooden image of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara to China along with numerous Sanskrit Buddhist manuscripts.
Known as Mandapeshvara, the caves at Borivali, are the final chapter in the history of cave architecture in Mumbai. Along with these, the caves at Mahakali, Magathne, Elephanta, Jogeshwari etc are the testimony of the city’s rich heritage.
Explore the Neighbourhood
Apart from the fact that there is the whole of Mumbai that you can enjoy during your visit to the Haji Ali Dargah, there are some places which are close by for a quick visit when you are in this area. One is the Mahalaxmi Temple dedicated to Mahalakshmi, the central deity of Devi Mahatmya. Built around 1785, the history of this temple is supposedly connected with the building of the Hornby Vellard. According to a legend, after portions of the sea wall of the Vellard collapsed twice, the chief engineer, Pathare Prabhu, dreamt of a goddess statue in the sea near Worli. A search recovered it, and he built a temple for it. The temple contains images of the goddesses Mahalakshmi, Mahakali and Mahasaraswati.
Also situated in this area is the Mahalaxmi Race Course which has been modelled on the Melbourne Race Course. The length of the track is 2,400 meters and it was built in 1883 on 225 acres of land facing the sea. And if your interest veers towards the skies and all that lies beyond earth, you must visit the Nehru Planetarium. Commissioned on March 3, 1977, it has grown into a centre for scientific study of astronomy and for meeting of scientists and scholars for discussions and lectures, arranged periodically on various stellar and astronomical events. The planetarium also has programmes aimed at inspiring students. These include special arrangements to watch, study, and photograph solar and lunar eclipses.
How to reach
Mt Mary Rd, Mt Mary, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050
Phone- 022 2642 3152
Image & Information copyright by maharashtratourism.gov.in