06 The Shrine at the Mount - Irwin Almeida

posted Sep 7, 2017, 1:56 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 7, 2017, 1:56 AM ]
Come September, and Bandra residents prepare for an annual celebration —the Bandra Feast which celebrates the feast of Our Lady of the Mount. This actually commemorates the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady (September 8), preceded by a preparatory Novena. Similarly, it is celebrated in the Nativity devotions at the Shrines of Our Lady of Health at Velankanni at Irla, Vile Parle and Uttan, Bhayandar; apart from the famous pilgrimage Shrine–the Basilica of Our Lady of Health at Vailankanni in Tamil Nadu.

Traditionally, Bandra Feast is observed on the Sunday following September 8, and extends to the Octave with a Fair on the steps behind the Basilica and extending beyond Mount Carmel Church on Chapel Road, to its junction with Waroda and Bazar Roads.

Commencing with the Novena, crowds of devotees attend the services at Mount Mary Basilica, morning and evening, so much so that since the past 50 years, it has necessitated erecting a shamiana to contain the large crowds earlier accommodated within the church. The faith of the pilgrims is as firm as the mount the basilica stands on, and in fact, it is believed that only because of Our Lady's protection that Bandra has been kept from all harm. It may be recalled that during the communal disharmony in 1992-93, there was an influx of the minority community who fled south Mumbai for the relatively peaceful environs of this suburb.

In days gone by, this Bandra Feast was celebrated in a big way, as old time inhabitants will recall, when instead of the fatted calf, they slaughtered the home-bred pig, the custom in those days. A part of the slaughtered animal was also sold to the neighbours. Hosting friends and relatives who came to venerate Our Lady and remained to celebrate with a variety of mainly East Indian preparations, not to mention their spiritual satiation–and ignoring the mounting expense! Often, the visitors made themselves at home, while their hosts wished they really were!

With the passage of time, mounting costs and commuting problems, this traditional practice has been happily abandoned. The crowds are mounting, but the Fair has been reduced to a 'mela' of sorts, frequented by pickpockets and ill-mannered elements. Thankfully, the residents can now feast in peace, because while the footfalls for the devotion are increasing, the ones for the Fair are showing diminishing returns.