Sometime during the middle of the 16th century, Bandel, presently an urban area within the Chinsurah subdivision of Hooghly district in the Indian state of West Bengal, began to be used by the Portuguese as a port. In the latter 1500’s, permission was granted by Mughal Emperor, Akbar, to create a town in Hooghly. As the town began to grow, AugustinianFriars, the largest religious order in Goa began catechizing and baptizing the local natives. By the end of the 16th century, there were nearly five thousand Catholics in Hooghly.
The story of Our Lady of Bandel, also known as Our Lady of Happy Voyage has an interesting back story that consists of a priest who heard a voice and faithful ship captain. Within the heart of the Basilica of Bandel, which is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, stands the statue of Our Lady of Happy Voyage. The first story begins with a siege of a Portuguese military chapel that was attacked during the battle of Hooghly by the Moors. A faithful Catholic merchant who loved the Blessed Mother tried to take the statue to a safe place on the other side of the river, but was shot by arrows. He and the statue disappeared under the water. The Moors murdered all of the priests, however, one priest miraculously survived – Fr. Joan Da Cruz.
During a story night sometime later after the Christians returned to the area, Fr. Da Cruz was standing on the river bank and heard a voice, which sounded like the merchant who took the statue for safe keeping. The voice said, “Hail, hail, hail, to Our Lady of Happy Voyage who has given us victory. Arise, arise, O father and pray for us all.” The following morning some villagers were seen near the church yelling, “Guru Ma!” (the Blessed Mother) has returned. In complete shock, Fr. Da Cruz located the once missing statue of the Blessed Virgin only a few yards from the gate of the church. He took the statue and placed it on the main altar of the church. He has been venerated ever since.
The other story is about a faithful ship captain who encountered a massive storm in the Bay of Bengal. With the ship nearly destroyed, the captain asked for the intercession of the Blessed Mother, who rescued the ship. Now a ship’s mast is in front of the church to remind the faithful of that miracle, which was the captain’s vow if he was saved and lived through the storm.
During the month of November, thousands of faithful Catholics from India travel to the Basilica of Bandel to thank Our Lady of the Rosary and to honor the miracles. The Bandel Church, raised to a Basilica in 1988 by Pope St. John Paul II, is located 26 miles (43 kilometers) from Calcutta in West Bengal, India.
Our Lady of Happy Voyage…Pray for Us
“About.” Bandel Church, http://www.bandelchurch.com/about/.
“Bandel Church – Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.” Pilgrim-Info.com, http://www.pilgrim-info.com/bandel-basilica-lady-rosary/.
“Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary Bandel.” Come2India – Explore India Guide, http://www.come2india.org/bandel-basilica.html.