Historical Bandel Church, Kolkata - Portuguese period

 Bandel church, Kolkata, credit: ranagaduttawordpress.com
 Though Christianity came to India in the 2nd century on the coastal area of Kerala in the southern state of India, it was, indeed, after the arrival of Portuguese in India in 1498 and the gradual development of their settlements in some parts, Catholic churches were built to cater to the  growing Christian community.

Bandel church is one of the most magnificent and ancient churches of West Bengal situated 40 kilometers from Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Established in 1660, the church forms a memoir of Portuguese settlement in this part of the country. This historical church dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Rosario, Our Lady of the Rosary, a great monument greatly enriches the national heritage of the country. Bandel was used as a port in the middle of 16th century by the Portuguese. Around 1571, the Mogul emperor Akbar permitted them to form a town in Hooghly. By 1598, the settlements of Portuguese began in the region and Christian priests, who came from Portugal, started baptizing natives.  This resulted in the rise of   Catholics population  in the Hooghly area which reached around five thousand and included natives and mixed races. A port and a fort were built in 1579 along the bank of Hooghly River. The services of the largest religious body of Goa, a band of Augustinian Friars, also began in that period. The next year, permission was granted to Captain Pedro Tavares for preaching Catholic faith publicly and for the construction of churches. This led to the construction of  Bandel church in 1599.

Bandel Church in 1890. credit:  www.oldindiaphotosin
 In 1632, when Hooghly was attacked by the Moors,
the church was burnt down. Afterwards in 1660, a new church was built by Gomez de Soto over the ruins of the old one. On the eastern gate of the present Bandel Church, the keystone of the older one can still be witnessed. This old church was declared to be Minor Basilica by the Pope Leo XIII in the year 1988.  

Architecture of Bandel Church: In front of the church, a huge mast of a ship stands that was presented by the captain of a vessel to the church. The ship was caught in a dangerous storm in the Bay of Bengal  and its rescue was credited to the miracle of Mary. The church comprises a number of tombstones, three altars, a shrine to Mary and an organ. Constructed in the unique architectural style of the Portuguese, the Bandel Church attracts several thousand devotees from different religious communities of West Bengal. The interior of the Bandel Church is decorated with beautiful chandeliers. The colored glass windows and the Grand Tower Clock of the Bandel Church add to the glory of this religious monument. The statue of one Lady of Happy Voyage is worshiped by the Christian devotees with intense devotion and dedication. The exclusive significant religious monument of the Portuguese rule in Hooghly District, the Bandel Church brings out the glorious past of the region enriched by the Portuguese tradition and its legacy.