Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bandel - The basilica of the Holy-Rosary

The town of Bandel stands about 70 kms north of Kolkata, en route to Bardhaman. It was stablished in the mid 15th century by the Portugese as a trade & military settlement, after erstwhile Mughal Emperor Akbar gave them permission to use the place as a port and base. The word "Bandel" actually is derived from the Bengali word "Bander", meaning port.

Bandel, on the banks of the Hooghly, is best known for its magnificent church. Steeped in heritage and culture, the Bandel Church is a testament to the engineering skills of the Portuguese. People from almost all religious communities visit the church to admire its beauty, if not to worship. The chandeliers, coloured-glass windows and the statues in the compound draw even non-believers to the church.

The Portuguese church, which is now the great sight of modern Bandel. This, the oldest Christian place of worship in Bengal, if not in India, was founded in 1599, the year in which Queen Elizabethsanctioned the establishment of the East India Company. It was burnt in the sack of Hooghly by the Moors in 1632, but the keystone with the date 1599 was preserved and built into the gate of the new church erected by John Comes de Soto in 1661. It is dedicated to Nossa Senhora di Rosario and contains a monastery once occupied by Augustinian friars, the last of whom died in 1869… Some 380 bigghahsof land, out of the 777 granted rent-free by Shah Jehan, are still enjoyed… Every November the church is thronged with pilgrims during the Novena of Notre Dame de Bon Voyage

An arched gateway forms the main entrance of the church. A statue of Mary, with baby Jesus, on a boat is installed atop the gate.

Take the stairs to the top balcony, where devotees light candles in front of “Our Lady of the Happy Voyage”. 

Almost a century after Vasco da Gama reached the west coast of India, the Portuguese started making inroads into Bengal. By 1599, they had settled in and around the present-day Hooghly district and built the church that after being modified several times is now known as the Bandel Church. According to some historians, the church and monastery had been built in 1660 by Gomez de Soto with the keystone of the old church.

Legend has it that in 1660, a Portuguese ship whose sail was torn in a storm drifted into the river and ended up in Bandel. During the storm, the ship’s captain had pledged to offer the main mast of the ship to the first church he sighted. The captain kept his word and the mast can still be seen in the compound of the Bandel Church.

The balcony provides a spectacular view of the Jubilee Bridge across the Hooghly. The bridge, which was built in 1887 to mark the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign, is one of the oldest operational rail bridges in the world.

The main altar houses the statue of Our Lady of Holy Rosary. The other two altars contain statues of Jesus and St John Bosco.

The complex contains statues of several saints, apart from a graveyard and the mast.


One need not take a quite so treacherous route to Bandel now. Trains are available from both Howrah and Sealdah stations to Bandel round the clock. The church is a short, bumpy rickshaw ride away from the station.

1 comment:

Swathi said...

Your blog is really awesome.Thank you for sharing such a wonderful information in your blog.Want to travel then book tickets in advance National Travels and enjoy your trip.

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