Bandel Church excursion along with the Imambara And Dutch Cementery

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Bandel Church is proof that Kolkata’s DNA is filled with colonial History, and Britisher was not the only coloniser who called Bengal their home. Therefore, today I am going to take you through my childhood memory trail to a legacy– along the Hooghly River, an arm of the Ganges. Here, the cemeteries, clock towers and the Bandel Church have been the silent spectator of the European presence for almost 400 years. It may leave you mesmerised. I visit this place every time I am on holiday at my grandmother’s house, one of my favourite weekends passes. Surprises and experiences still excite me to this day. 

Colonial essence in Bandel

t was a sun-drenched morning. Although it was a bit hot, there were no shower threats, a perfect day to get out. I typically use the local train to get to Bandel, but because of COVID-19, we had to try the roads. It is a 30 min drive, about 22Km, so we began our journey after a healthy breakfast. What’s so special about Bandel? Let me tell you; it’s the old era since Portuguese settlers established it. This place has quite a history because, in the middle of the 16th century, the Portuguese started to use Bandel as a harbour. During or around 1571, they were authorised by Akbar to construct a town in Hooghly. Thus, in 1579, the Portuguese built a port and a fort on the banks of the Hooghly river. Quite! Wise on their part, this helped trade to keep the city thriving. That’s Interesting!

Mother Mary

Upon arriving, the name drew my attention The Basilica of the Holy Rosary, commonly referred to as Bandel Church. One of the oldest and first churches in West Bengal and stands in remembrance of the Portuguese colony in Bengal. Established in 1599, it is dedicated to Nostra Senhora di Rozario, commonly called Our Lady of the Rosary. The Portuguese settlers carried out excellent architecture.

A Day Trip: Bandel Church,Imambara And Dutch Cementery
The Basilica of the Holy Rosary

As they began to settle in the region, their priests began to baptise the natives – and by 1598, the Catholics at Hooghly were about five thousand in number, including the natives and the mixed races. After the port was built the following year, Captain Pedro Tavares obtained the emperor’s permission to preach the Catholic faith and erect Bandel Church publicly. Thus the Portuguese memorial was built in 1599 after a century of Vasco Da Gama landed in India in 1498.

The Crib within the church

When I entered the Church, I saw an image of Jesus greet us. And on the other side of the figure is a big field where people gather for Christmas. As I passed the corridor, I read beautifully decorated Bible inscriptions on the walls.

The hallway of the church

 I eventually reached the hall of the Church; the serenity suddenly struck me. It was blissful to sit in front of the effigy of Jesus. I have always loved the tranquil atmosphere of the churches. 

The prayer hall

Although the first Church was set on fire when the Moors pillaged Hooghly in 1632, Gomez of Soto built a more recent church over the ruin in 1660. The keystone of the ancient Church remains visible on the eastern door of the monastery, bearing the date 1599. And on the 25th of November 1988, Pope John Paul II declared the Bandel Minor Basilica Church. The Church has a legacy to cherish; that is why I began to explore the corridors and other halls where my eyes got stuck on a quote: “Feed your faith, and your fear will starve”. It’s accurate and precise.

The east end of the church

I stepped into the room where the ship’s mast was still guarded inside a glass box. It is said that. In 1655, a Portuguese ship deep in the Bay of Bengal was confronted with a deadly storm. And the chance of surviving seemed impossible. The captain prayed to Mother Mary to save their poor souls and promised to sacrifice a mast to the Church, which he would first encounter. Thanks to Our Lady, lives and boats were rescued. One fine morning, a Portuguese ship appeared in the port of Hoogly (near the port of Bandel), and the captain disembarked the boat and gave the mast as he had promised to the Church of Bandel. It’s genuinely legendary History.

The wooden mast

Wandering around, I realised that rustic charm had been lost in the growing tech world. But I was grateful, as due to COVID-19, only a few people could be seen, and I was comfortable reliving my childhood memory. I purchased a rosary, a sign of remembrance and drove to the Imambara.

A Day Trip: Bandel Church,Imambara And Dutch Cementery

Imambara’s literal meaning is the residence of the Imam, but in this case, it means Muslim Shi’a congregation hall to observe Muharram. It was 15min drive from Bandel Church; as I entered the Imambara, an old rustic scent from the time struck my senses; there was a unique charm. Built over 20 years (1841-1861) by Hazi Mohammad Mohsin, this imposing structure consists of a two-storey building with a central rectangular court. A rather sizeable rectangular pool dotted with fountains no longer seems to work in the middle of the courtyard.

A Day Trip: Bandel Church,Imambara And Dutch Cementery

Walking down this magnificent religious complex hallway, I was humbled simultaneously by the twin towers, 80 feet high on each side.

A Day Trip: Bandel Church,Imambara And Dutch Cementery
Arched hallway

The one on the east houses a Zaridalan (main prayer room) with a black and white chequered marble floor. Here are the five Taziyas (translations) preserved inside the tower in memory of the prophet Muhamad. This magnificent religious complex is the legacy of a great Bengali philanthropist trader who played a vital role in assisting the victims of the horrible great Bengal Famine of 1776-1777.

A Day Trip: Bandel Church,Imambara And Dutch Cementery
East end of the tower

When I stood at the main entrance, the part which drew my attention was the clock tower. It stands tall, reminding us of the glorious days of the Muslim raj and the nawabs in Bengal. The architecture is elegant, with subtle motifs on the walls and engraved texts from the Holy Koran. However, I have not been allowed to mount the clock tower since it contains a bell and machinery.

A Day Trip: Bandel Church,Imambara And Dutch Cementery
Bell of the clock tower

But I went; further; there’s a room at the end of the courtyard with beautiful chandeliers and religious artefacts. The rear yard contains a sundial.

A Day Trip: Bandel Church,Imambara And Dutch Cementery

The immensity of the place amused me, so I wanted to investigate further. So I went up the 152 steps of one of the towers to meet the panoramic view of Hooghly, including the Jubilee Bridge. Time stopped for a few minutes, and the eyes could see hues – brown, green, blue and white. That was a beautiful canvas from nature. I wanted to sit for a while, but it was hot. 

A Day Trip: Bandel Church,Imambara And Dutch Cementery
View from the top of Imambara

But unfortunately, the state of the Imambara deteriorates with the passing day: the fountain stopped functioning long ago, and the crystal clear water has become green. The site needs some refurbishment and restoration, with parts of the wall damaged and requiring urgent repairs. History will be lost eventually. But, despite the state of decadence, the Imamabara is still standing, and his clock even hits every quarter of an hour. He is marking the passing of time and recalling one of the glorious days of Bandel.

A Day Trip: Bandel Church,Imambara And Dutch Cementery
Rear courtyard of Imambara

On my way home, I came across a Dutch cemetery. It is an 18th-century cemetery, which is now protected and maintained by the Archaeology of India. I didn’t realise there was a graveyard here. Amazing! I’m drawn to the quiet and serenity of this place. Although I know about Park Street in Kolkata, this cemetery was a surprise. I took a short walk through this old place before I hit the road.

A Day Trip: Bandel Church,Imambara And Dutch Cementery
The Dutch Cemetery

Bandel always reminds me of a quote by Hans-George Gadamer-” History doesn’t belong to us; we belong to it.” Quite! Fascinating Indeed.

How to Reach

By Air: 

The closest airport is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport in Kolkata, around 40 km from Bandel. A taxi is available from the airport to Bandel.

By Rail:

Bandel is connected to many major Indian cities by rail. Numerous long and short-distance trains have stopped here. Alternatively, you may choose the local train from Howrah or Naihati. From the railway station, you can take Auto.

By Road:

Bandel has only a minibus stand where people can take buses to places a short distance away. The central bus station is located in Kolkata, where people can take buses over long distances. You can also book a taxi or make your way to Bandel.



8 thoughts on “Bandel Church excursion along with the Imambara And Dutch Cementery

  1. Thanks in support of sharing such a good thinking, post is nice,
    thats why i have read it entirely

  2. For hottest information you have to pay a visit world wide web and
    on internet I found this website as a best site for most up-to-date

  3. I used to be suggested this blog through my cousin. I am not sure whether or not this post is written by means of him as no one else understand such distinctive approximately my problem. You are incredible! Thank you!

  4. This sort of thing needs to happen! Simply letting the quota happen isnt acceptable. This will help you stay above the curve.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »
error: Content is protected !!