Sunday, 6 June 2010

Mount Mary Fair, Bandra



Bandra Fair is a week long fair held annually in the Bandra suburb of Mumbai, India starting on the following Sunday after September 8. It is celebrated to commemorate the Nativity of Mary, mother of Jesus, on September 8 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 in Bandra. 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 is worshiped at the fair ever since.

The Fair draws lakhs of devotees and pilgrims annually. Many faithful attest to the miraculous powers of the Mount. During the Fair, tens of thousands visit the shrine of Our Lady of Mount. The shrine attracts people from all faiths who pray to the statue for thanksgiving or requesting of favours.

During the Fair, the entire area is decorated with festoons and buntings. Many pitch up stalls selling religious objects like wax idols of Mother Mary along with an assortment of candles shaped like hands, feet and various other parts of the body. The sick people choose one that corresponds to their ailment and light it in Church, with the hope that Mother Mary will consider their appeals for help.

Sweets like Guava cheese, Kadio bodio (tiny stick made of Maida flour dipped in sugar syrup and dried) from Goa, Mawa peda (thick cookie made using evaporated milk) from Uttar Pradesh, Halva from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi, and the chikki (a sweet made from groundnuts and jaggery) from Maharashtra are usually found at the stalls during the fair.

The Bandra Fair is very popular in Mumbai. Every year, different political parties set up their political banners across the suburb of Bandra inviting the pilgrims to the Fair.

The Bandra Fair is also popular across the world especially with the Indian Catholic diaspora. A similar event called the "Bandra Feast" is organized annually by the India Social and Cultural Centre (ISCC) in Abu Dhabi.