Mount Mary Church – the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount

Mount Mary Church

The Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, more commonly known as Mount Mary Church, is a Roman Catholic Basilica located in Bandra, Mumbai. The feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated on the first Sunday after 8 September, the birthday of the Virgin Mary. The feast is followed by a week-long celebration known locally as the Bandra Fair and is visited by thousands of people.

Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount

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The Bandra Fair

During the Bandra Fair, the entire area is decorated with festoons and buntings. Many pitch up stalls selling religious articles, roasted grams, snacks and sweets. Wax figures of the Virgin Mary, along with an assortment of candles shaped like hands, feet and various other parts of the body are sold at kiosks.

The sick and the suffering choose a candle or wax figure that corresponds to their ailment and light it in Church, with the pious hope that Mother Mary will consider their appeals for help.

The statue of the Virgin Mary

Although the current church edifice is just 100 years old, the history behind the current statue of Our Lady goes back to the 16th century when Jesuit priests from Portugal brought the statue to the current location and constructed a chapel. In 1700 Arab pirates interested in the gilt-lined object held in the hand disfigured the statue by cutting off the right hand.

In 1760, the church was rebuilt and the statue was substituted with a statue of Our Lady of Navigators in St. Andrew’s church nearby. This statue has 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. The Koli Fishermen call the statue as Mot Mauli, literally meaning The Pearl Mother (Mot= Moti= pearl and Mauli= Mother).

However the previous statue is now restored and now enjoys the place of honour in the basilica. Both Hindu and Christian Kolis visit this shrine often giving it a kind of syncretic nature.

The statue of the Virgin Mary

Although the current church edifice is just 100 years old, the history behind the current statue of Our Lady goes back to the 16th century when Jesuit priests from Portugal brought the statue to the current location and constructed a chapel. In 1700 Arab pirates interested in the gilt-lined object held in the hand disfigured the statue by cutting off the right hand.

In 1760, the church was rebuilt and the statue was substituted with a statue of Our Lady of Navigators in St. Andrew’s church nearby. This statue has 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. The Koli Fishermen call the statue as Mot Mauli, literally meaning The Pearl Mother (Mot= Moti= pearl and Mauli= Mother). However the previous statue is now restored and now enjoys the place of honour in the basilica. Both Hindu and Christian Kolis visit this shrine often giving it a kind of syncretic nature.

y air

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, is the closest airport, the Basilica is situated approximately 12 Kms. from the international airport and about 8 Kms. from the domestic airport. Pre-paid taxis are available at both airports.

By road

The Basilica is accessible by motorable roads, reaching there often depends upon the prevailing normal or chaotic traffic situations.
Local public road transport (auto-rickshaws & taxis) to the shrine is easily available, however the public bus (BEST) route no. 211 from the Bandra Station turnarounds at Lands End. From there a fairly steep but short uphill climb (via Kane Rd.) to the Basilica is required. Another bus route no. 214 from the Bandra station too has its turnaround point near the steps of the Mount via St. John the Baptist Rd. This bus stop is referred to as ‘Mount Mary Steps’ these steps allow one access from the eastern side but are used only as an exit route during the Bandra Fair in September.

By rail

The closest railway stop is the historical Bandra Station currently over a hundred years old, it has always been an instrumental link between devotees and Mount Mary’s. It is approximately 2.5 Kms. away.

The Basilica

The basilica stands on a hillock, about 80 metres above sea level overlooking the Arabian Sea. It draws lakhs of devotees and pilgrims annually. Many of the faithful attest to the miraculous powers of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The shrine attracts people from all faiths who pray to Virgin Mary for expressing their gratitude or requesting favours. The church was destroyed in 1738 during a raid by the Marathas.

During the Bandra Fair, the entire area is decorated with festoons and buntings. Many pitch up stalls selling religious articles, roasted grams, snacks and sweets. Wax figures of the Virgin Mary, along with an assortment of candles shaped like hands, feet and various other parts of the body are sold at kiosks. The sick and the suffering choose a candle or wax figure that corresponds to their ailment and light it in Church, with the pious hope that Mother Mary will consider their appeals for help.

Posted in Asia & Oceania and India