Bandel Church gets ready for mega Christmas celebrations

Bandel Church gets ready for mega Christmas celebrations
As the bell tolls at the Basilica at Bandel on Christmas morning like every year, thousands of people will arrive to soak in the crisp, cool morning by the river Hooghly.

This year, the added pleasure will be the upright ship mast that has stood erect outside the church as a sign of faith. The mast had collapsed during a cyclone in 2010 after standing tall at the same place for more than 350 years.

One of the oldest churches in India, the Basilica of Our Lady of Rosary was opened to prayers in 1650 by the Portuguese. Every winter, the surrounding grounds turn into a sprawling picnic spot, starting from the Christmas Day morning.

This Christmas, a visual treat will await visitors to Bandel Church with the church authorities setting out for the biggest celebration in 20 years. While attractions include the inauguration of the ‘Stations of the Cross’, a new installation depicting Christ’s crucifixion; the other major draw would be the historic mast, besides a renovated grand doorway, which leads to the Church’s hallowed precincts. Incidentally, the mast, ‘bandel’ in Portuguese, led both the church and the town to be called by its name.

Recognised by historians as the oldest church in eastern India, it is expected to host more than 1 lakh visitors converging at the Basilica, cutting across religious lines, on December 25. A similarly large crowd is also expected on January 1.

“Rivers of people just keep flowing into the Church just to have a look at the baby Jesus kept in the creatively made crib set, which would be on display,” said Father T L Francis, Prior of Bandel Church.

He agreed that the mast has been a major attraction and it will continue to remain so after it is opened for public viewing on the Christmas morning after a gap of five years.

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