The pride not only for Bandraites but also Mumbaikars, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, more commonly known as Mount Mary Church, is one of the major hallmarks of the city of Mumbai. One of the most prominent churches across Mumbai, come September and the feast of the Nativity (Birthday of Mother Mary) this is one church that gets devotees pouring in from all corners of Mumbai, as many believe that the statue that is venerated here is responsible for many miracles.
One of Mumbai’s most beautiful Churches, it is situated on a small hillock from where one gets a beautiful view of the Arabian Sea. Originally built in 1640, there are many legends about the Chapel of Mount Mary, the most common one being that it was destroyed after the Marathas conducted a raid here. While the Church that stands here today is just about 100 years old, the history behind the statue of Our Lady of the Mount dates back to the 16th century, when the same was brought to India by Jesuit priests visiting the country from Portugal.
In 1700, according to historians, the statue was disfigured by Arab pirates and the right hand of the statue was broken off in order to get hold of a gold / gold lined object in her hand, after which the statue was tossed into the sea. According to legends, a Koli fisherman dreamt that he would find a statue in the sea; after it was believed to have been floating around from 1700 to 1760. In 1760, the damaged chapel of Mount Mary was rebuilt and the statue was substituted with a statue of Our Lady of Navigators from the nearby St. Andrew’s Church in Bandra. It was in 1761, that the original statue of the Lady of the Mount was returned to the Church after being remodeled with a child in her arms.
Referred to as’Mot Mauli’ (meaning the Pearl Mother) by the local Koli fishermen, September the month of Mary’s birthday is celebrated with great devotion, with a 9 day novena followed by the feast of the Nativity of Mother Mary which is celebrated with great pomp on the first Sunday after 8th September.
Devotees from all over visit and venerate the statue irrespective of caste or creed offering candles which are sold by the locals. One can find a variety of candles/wax articles in various shapes, ranging from houses to babies; even wax articles shaped in various different body parts are sold here by the local vendors, the significance being they are purchased by the sick and suffering depending on their ailments and the same are offered to Mother Mary with the hope that she will grant their wish and cure them of their ailments.
Apart from this statue which is considered the main statue here, there is another statue of the Virgin Mary put up outside the church, where locals can light candles they buy as offerings while praying for their near and dear ones. Indeed devotees flock in to visit the Church throughout the year though September sees a record number of pilgrims seeking Mother Mary’s help!
The feast day is followed by a weeklong carnival known as the Bandra Fair. One of the most popular fairs of Mumbai it attracts devotees from far off places who visit the church and fair. A fair visited by thousands, it was first started when the statue was found by the Koli fisherman. The same was believed to be a miracle by the locals and a fair was held to commemorate the same. Today it has turned into a carnival of sorts, with devotees coming from far and near. Apart from the assorted wax figurines and other religious items found here, one can also find an assortment of snacks and sweets here, besides local vendors selling clothes, artificial jewellery and other knick knacks. One also finds the usual Games and Amusement Stalls not forgetting the Giant Wheel, etc.
Whether it is the interesting legend behind this Church, or the claims of the miracles and miraculous powers that are associated with the Church and the statue here, this is one beautiful Church located in Mumbai’s suburb of Bandra that has been attracting devotees and pilgrims for decades now irrespective of caste or creed.