Bhatebandar Mata Velankanni Church: Lourdes of Mumbai
The church on the hillock by the seashore is indeed a feast for the eyes and the beautiful structures around it will definitely catch your attention. See the statue of the Mother Mary on top of the hill inviting all of us with a loving gesture.
By Joe Palathunkal
Many people outside Mumbai might not have heard about Bhatebandar Mata Velankanni church in Uttan, two hours journey from Bandra to Bhayandar in a suburban train and so when Ashley D’Souza told a team from France that they must visit this Lourdes of Mumbai, some of them had a smile of surprise disbelief.
To many any Marian pilgrim centre in Bombay means the obvious one: Mount Mary at Bandra, nothing more. And this writer who has lived in Bombay for two years had never heard about it and so the surprise disbelief was not only for the Bayard team led by Father Andre` Antoni right from the land of Lourdes but it was also for all of us.
Fr. Andre Antoni and team praying in the Bhatebandar Mata church
The church on the hillock by the seashore is indeed a feast for the eyes and the beautiful structures around it will definitely catch your attention. See the statue of the Mother Mary on top of the hill inviting all of us with a loving gesture and the big cross beside makes it a perfect spot for a devotional rosary pilgrimage and it is indeed a rosary route and the devotees say the rosary along this path.
The artistic creations inside the church will make you riveted on them and the mother Mary depiction is indeed marvelous. The depiction of Jesus on the ceiling is so beautiful that the whole art makes you devotional. Both sides of the ceiling show the 12 Apostles with their names below every painting. It is indeed a catechesis through the art.
All of us stood there in prayer or rather the beauty of the interior made us pray. People from France prayed very devotionally along with Fr. Andre` Antoni and it was very evident from their pose. It must have been the prayer for the people of the parish. Being Wednesday (Jan 16, 2019) it was an appropriate day to pray to Mother Mary because it is a day dedicated to her.
Just a few meters away from the main church, there is another structure where you will see a beautiful statue of Mother Mary of Velankanni with a backdrop painting of the legendary milk boy as you will see in the original shrine of Velankanni in Tamil Nadu. The golden statue and the baby Jesus has an unusual charm and you will definitely look at the face of the baby Jesus who appears so graceful to catch your attention.
There were some others too sitting and praying along with small kids. They appeared to be local people. Ashley D’Souza says the Novena for the feast day on September 8 begins on August 29 and then onwards it is a sea of humanity on this seashore church. And if you are on a Marian pilgrimage to Mumbai and if you don’t visit the Bhatebandar Mata Velankanni church in Uttan definitely it will be a missing spot in your pilgrim’s progress.
(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)