Bandra: Pilgrimage on foot to the feet of Mother Mary
In the month of September for the whole of Bombay or Mumbai it is a week long festival known as Bandra Fair starting on the Sunday following 8 September and if we go to the historicity of the celebration, it is estimated to be around 300 years old when a statue of Mother Mary was sighted by some people floating in the sea.
By Joe Palathunkal
Meet Nagin Khandekar of Saint Antony’s parish Naroda, Ahmedabad and he goes eloquent about Mount Mary, Bandra, Bombay. This devout Catholic is an unusual pilgrim – he walks all the way to Bandra from Ahmedabad covering a distance of 526 km to be at the feet of the mother on Mount Mary to give thanks to all the blessings she has showered on him throughout his life.
For Nagin it is not a lone walk but as he proceeds his fellow pilgrims from other parishes join him and the group can swell to 25, as he reaches Mount Mary. To a question about its tediousness to cover such a long distance on foot, he says with a smile: “Every year in August I go and before starting the pilgrimage, we decide upon the mid-station stops and after walking a long distance we take rest.”
Yet the fact remains that it is indeed a hard one but a burning heart with devotion to a mother whose heart too burns with love for you, it is not as hard as it looks. And Nagin is the best example and not only this annual pilgrimage but he goes to this much visited pilgrim centre very often and that obviously shows his love for this loving mother.
As I stood with my family in front of Mount Mary gazing at the rippling blue spread of the Arabian sea a couple of years ago, a beautiful symbolism flashed across my mind – Mary’s heart must be as vast and deep as the Arabian sea that can accommodate millions of children and give them the experience of her abiding love always.
That must be the reason for the flow of pilgrims here on the great feast day the Sunday just after September 8 Mother Mary’s birthday. The place is famous for its healing powers and the sick definitely come there to get the healing touch of this graceful mother who will not reject a single supplication that emerges from their ardent heart.
In the month of September for the whole of Bombay or Mumbai it is a weeklong festival known as Bandra Fair starting on the Sunday following 8 September and if we go to the historicity of the celebration, it is estimated to be around 300 years old when a statue of Mother Mary was sighted by some people floating in the sea between 1700 and 1760 AD as dreamt by a Koli fisherman.
Though the Arab pirates disfigured this statue by cutting off the right hand, the church was never without a statue because the disfigured one was substituted with the statue of Our Lady of Navigators but the disfigured statue was renovated with the baby Jesus in her arms and that is the mother who looks graciously upon pilgrims like NaginKhandekar.
Though Mount Mary has a 300 years of history, the present edifice is only 100 years old and in a city like Bombay where multiple faiths have their being, Mount Mary at Bandra is a confluence of all the streams of faith loudly proclaiming to the whole world the universality of the Mother from Nazareth as she was designated by her son from the Cross and also the all-embracing outlook of Indian believers.
This universality came into full force when three sad faced kids standing in front of the Mother of the Mount prayed in the voice of melody queen LataMangeshkar in the 1970 Hindi movie Bachpan starring Sanjeev Kumar and the song “O Mother Mary” echoed in the hearts of millions of Hindi speaking as well as Hindi movie lovers.
The song was a powerful indication of the reach of this Mothereven to the sensibilities of movie makers and if lakhs flock to the feet of the Mother of Mount Mary at Bandra even on foot like NaginKhandekar, then there is little reason for any surprise.
(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)