Bandra Fair at Mount Mary Church

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Bandra Fair

Photo of Bandra Fair at Mount Mary Church by Mady Velkar

Bandra Fair is a week-long fair held annually in the Bandra suburb of Mumbai, India. It starts on the Sunday following 8 September, the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, mother of Jesus, at the Mount Mary Church, Bandra. The Bandra Fair is estimated to be around 300 years old. The fair started when a statue of Mother Mary was found floating in the Arabian Sea between 1700 and 1760, which, according to a legend, a Koli fisherman had dreamt about a few years earlier.

Although the current church edifice is just 100 years old, the history behind the current statue of Our Lady of Mount goes back to the 16th century when Jesuit priests from Portugal brought the statue to bandra and constructed the Mount Mary Church there. In 1700, Arab pirates disfigured the statue by cutting off the right hand. In 1760, the Mount Mary Church was rebuilt and the statue was substituted with a statue of Our Lady of Navigators from the St. Andrew’s Church nearby. This statue had an interesting legend. It goes that a Koli fisherman dreamt that he would find a statue in the sea. The statue was found floating in the sea between 1700 and 1760. A Jesuit Annual Letter dated to 1669 and published in the book St. Andrew’s Church, Bandra (1616–1966) supports this claim. This was believed to be a miracle by the locals, and the Bandra Fair was started to celebrate this. However, in 1761, the original statue of the Lady of Mount was renovated with a child in her arms and returned to the church.

The Shrine began attracting devotees from all the surrounding areas of the city. Devotees used to arrive at the foot of the hill by bullock carts. Some arrived by ferryboats from across the Mahim creek. They would park their carts along groves of mango trees at the foot of the hill and walk up the slope to the basilica at the top. After concluding their spiritual obligations, the pilgrims would now move back down whilst enjoying the merry fair.

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