Historical Basilica of our Lady of Graces, Sardhana, India

Church Basilica of our lady of Graces, Sardhana, kiwicolors.wordpress.com

Our lady of Gracess, Sardhana. India sardhanachurch.org

Church Basilica of our lady of Graces, Sardhana, Altar en.wikipedia.org

The historical dusty town of Sardhana,  just 22 km away from the city of Meerut, has nothing of special interest to the tourists except one  place. It is that of a fine  catholic church built by a benevolent  Muslim Queen by the name of Zebunnissa. Perhaps. you may be haunted by a couple of questions : What made a Muslim woman build a church here? Did she not face protests from her conservative Muslim community? The historical fact is this young girl's intense romance with  a European military man changed her perception in her faith and later she became a Catholic in May 1781; her new Christian  name was Joanna. Being a young girl, she impressed on  Walter Reinhardt Sombre,  a mercenary army owner, later married him despite a big age difference between them,  and  assumed the name of Begum Samru. Walter Reinhardt worked with various Indian rulers including EIC and the French army;  his close association with Nawab Najab Khan of Bengal.was quite beneficial to him and from him  he received the jagir of  Sardhana.  He was almost like a mini ruler of the area with all luxuries associated with it with his own palace, troops, etc.

The church at Sardhana, India, Pinrest.

The church at Sardhana,, India  Statue of Sampru Begam tribuneindia.com

After the death of her husband Reinhardt, Queen Sambru assumed the reign of Sardhana and proved her administrative and military skill.  She was kind and considerate to her subjects. Being a devotee of Mary, she had been planning to build a church for the divine lady. In 1822, she had a church built designed by an Italian architect Antonio  Reghelini. It was dedicated  to Virgin Mary and  the cost of  construction work was roughly rupees four lakh, a small amount for a prosperous woman  Now this basilica comes under the parish of the Catholic Diocese of Meerut. It is the only mini basilica in North India and there are  more than 20 mini basilicas across India. Including this church many of her buildings are well taken care of by the authorities.
Church Basilica of our lady of Graces, Sardhana, India.justdialcom

Sardhana, I have head people tell me that it is a very small, quiet town  and when you are at a distance in the town  you will never fail to notice  the  tall steeples, the graceful  statue of Jesus Christ with  his arms stretched out symbolic of welcoming gesture and nice Gothic architecture.  The main alter is quite striking made  of high quality white marble  inlaid with a floral design.  In  the altar surrounded by brightly-colored artificial flowers, you will see the icon of Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus, clad in red and blue clothes. On the other side of the main hall stands a  beautiful statue of Virgin Mary with her cherubic child. On second Sunday of November every year, this place is  crowded with roughly 100000 worshipers to offer their prayer to Mary. Tradition has been that wishes made here with trust in Mary's healing power  will never  go unfulfilled. The church is at the center of a fair during this particular time.

The tomb of Begum Samru with her life-size image on it is in the left wing of the church. The statue of the Begum, that was once kept out side the church, was moved into this place and set on the  raised three-tiered pedestal.  There are fine carved features in the marble. One shows the  Begum on an elephant, with her retinue  and in the other, the Begum is offering a chalice to the Pope. On the third side stands the tableau of the Begum receiving petitions from her courtiers. While she is surrounded by Indian soldiers in the first one, the second depiction has her surrounded by Europeans.  The statues of  her son, her Hindu vizier and pastor are set below her statue. As for her son's tomb and that of her husband, they  lie at the foot of the central tableau.

It was on December 13, 1961, Pope John XXIII decided to upgrade the Sardhana Church to the status of a Minor Basilica. This recognition is given only to historically important churches. The Golden Jubilee Commemoration took place in 2007 that was attended by a  delegation from the Vatican, including the Ambassador.