Church & Society

Legacy of Our Lady of Bandel shrine May 15, 2018

The story of the Basilica of Our Lady of Bandel dates back 1537 when a group of Portuguese merchants set up the first settlements in Bengal of erstwhile India on the bank of Hooghly River.

In 1579, the Portuguese constructed a port and a factory on the riverbank and it soon became a center of trade and commerce. A fort was set up to protect Portuguese interests and by 1580, Portuguese captain Pedro Tavares received permission from Mughal Emperor Akbar to preach Christianity.

Portuguese Augustinian Friars arrived and established a monastery at Bandel village in 1599. Bandel is Portuguese for 'port.' The Portuguese also set up two churches, a military chapel and a school.

In 1628, Bandel was in turmoil after Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan ordered the killing of all Portuguese following years of bitter relations. The Mughal army laid siege to Bandel and some two hundred Portuguese soldiers resisted for several months. In 1632, theMughal army took Bandel and killed hundreds of Portuguese Christians. Some 4,000 prisoners were sent to Agra.

Later, the emperor pardoned these enslaved Christians and allowed them to return to Bandel. A new church was rebuilt from the ruins of the old one. It was dedicated to Our Lady of Happy Voyage.

Basilica of Our Lady of Bandel is now one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for Christians from India and Bangladesh. It is looked after by the Salesians.

Photos and texts: Rock Ronald Rozario/

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