Bandel Church goes green this Christmas

Kolkata: Bandel Church, eastern India’s oldest church built 418 years back, has chosen to promote caring for mother earth as its Christmas theme this year, while a newly-erected 20-feet mural of “The Last Supper” would be an added attraction for the thousands of visitors who visit the Marian shrine in West Bengal’s Hooghly district.

A giant Christmas crib made of bio-degradable and environment-friendly materials, depicting the birth of Jesus, has also been erected in the church situated on the banks of river Hooghly, 40 km from Kolkata.

Another added attraction for the visitors this year would be a rare representation of Jesus as Good Shepherd juxtaposed with Mother Mary holding Jesus in one hand and a lamp in the other.

The Marian shrine is one of the oldest churches in eastern India established in 1599 by the Augustinian monks. The Bandel Church, declared a mini Basilica by Pope John Paul II, is dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Rosario — Our Lady of the Rosary.

In his Christmas message to the masses, Prior of Bandel Church, Salesian Fr. T.L. Francis stressed on “giving and sharing with a view to building a new heaven and new earth where nature is taken care of and we live in peace”.

This year the Bandel Church is expecting a record number of visitors as the Xmas eve is on a Sunday followed by Christmas on Monday. The steady flow of visitors to the Bandel Church usually continues till the New Year day.

“Each year over 100,000 visitors, cutting across religious beliefs, visit the Bandel Church during the Christmas season.

“Along with larger-than-life sized statues of popular Christian saints like Mother Mary, Mother Teresa, Don Bosco, St. Joseph, St. Augustine, St. Francis Xavier and others, there is also the life size Station of The Cross depicting 14 scenes from the final hours of Jesus’s life with 54 statues and a Christmas crib depicting the birth of Jesus,” said Father Francis.

The crib has been constructed with natural materials like bamboo, jute and moss.

The Bandel Church had in recent years restored and put on display the historical “mast” which had fallen in the storm that struck on May 9, 2010.

The Portuguese ship’s mast was a votive offering to the Church from the captain of the ship that was miraculously saved in a tempest in the Bay of Bengal in 1655. The Archeological Survey of India had declared the mast a heritage item.