Our Lady of the Mount, Bandra

By Joseph B. Gomes

(taken from the Archives of the East Indian Association Silver Jubilee)


Not very long ago a stranger has the privilege of witnessing one of our public religious functions in Bandra. What most struck him was the number and the variety of banners carried by the various confraternities that formed part of the procession. Among these, his observant eye, as the procession passed on, caught sight of  a small banner carried by a little child. There was something in the attitude of that child, struggling to keep the banner steady, that made the stranger interested and forgetting all else, he fixed his gaze on that fluttering banner and its struggling bearer. As it neared the vantage ground,  his old heart leaped for sheer joy, and tears of gratitude filled his eyes, for on the white and blue ground of that standard he had read one simple sentence “Monstra Te esse Matrem” - - “Show Tyself a Mother”. That tiny  banner carried by a tiny child contains in the simplest and fewest words possible, the secret of the true  devotion of Christians and non-Christians alike, to her, who is popularly know as and invoked the title of Our Lady of the Mount.


The history of this shrine which now draws thousands of all castes and creeds every year from all over India, goes back to early Portuguese times when that valiant nation once the mistress of the sea planted the Cross on this side of India in the first part of the 16th century. We read that Bandra passed to the Portuguese with the cession of Bassein by King Bahadusha of Gujarat, in 1534 – just 400 year ago, when Merry englant under Henry VIII drifted into schism. Inscrutable are the ways of Providence, for the loss of England – The dowry of our Lady –the gentiles were to be the portion of the Church. However, not until a full generation had passed by did this portion of the new vineyard receive attention of the missionaries who by the way were the sons of St. Ignatius to whose labours this part of Salsette seems to have been reserved.


According to tradition, a hindu temple had stood on the brow of the hill. This is said to have been pulled down and the place cleared of its idol for a Christian shrine. However this may be, history records that in 1566 the fathers built a modest little oratory of mud for their private devotion and dedicated it to Our Lady of the Nativity and a hut of bamboo and thatch as a shelter, which served them for nine years until the building of St.Andrew’s  in 1575 as the Parish Church. Such was the modest beginning of this now famous shrine.


For over 70 years the oratory remained in its pristine state.In 1640 by the command of the Captian of Salsette it was enlarged and made into a Chapel for the use of the garrison stationed at the block house (itself built in this year) at the Bandra Point, and we take it, was open to the faithful for public devotion. This then seems to be the beginning of that fame which in years to come was to reach far and wide.


The pious Captian could never have dreamt that the Chapel he caused to be built would be a place where ‘the angels of God ascend and descend’ with the prayer of the faithful. He sleeps probably in a forgotten grave; his progeny may perhaps be extinct, or if living, too widely spread to lay claim to an illustrious descent. But the shrine he built, though once destroyed by the ruthless hand of the invader, and then re-built and remodeled to suit the exigency of the times, still remains, drawing even more a stream of grateful people to pay its vows.


A Century later the Marathas over-ran Salsette. Bandra Hill, which probably had never known disturbance or witnessed warfare in its history, heard for the  first time the invaders’ war cry resounding on its peaceful heights. Bent on destruction, the soldiers made short work of the shrine. The statue of the Mother of God was flung into the sea and the Chapel set on fire. The devotion that had grown for a century thus cam to an end and for over 20 years the hill presented a scene of desolation –four bare walls looking up to heaven in mute appeal against the sacrilege committed. no ‘Aves’ no ‘Salves’ rose up to the throne of the Queen on high from this once sacred spot, nor was heard the tinkle of the Mass-bell, until 1761 when the Chapel was re-built for divine worship and the statue, which had been rescued from the sea by some fishermen, and taken to St. Andrew’s for safety, was carried in procession and restored to its original place. As early as 1882 this third building was found too small to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims, year by year, and a glass enclosed portico was added to it for extra accommodation. In the beginning of this century the old building had to give away and on its site stands the present edifice in Gothic style, begun in 1902 and completed in 1904.facing the west it commands a beautiful view of the Arabian Sea, while to the fishing folks its twin towers serve as a Mariner’s guide. There is no time to out disposal to describe its peaceful interior which has brought peace and solace to many a suffering heart. On a lofty altar of Marble stands a life-sized statue of Mary with a mother’s smile, while the infant in her arms stretches out both its arms in a welcome to the weary pilgrim.


The favours Our Lady designs to grant to her clients are so varied and numerous that the shrine may justly be styled “The Lourdes of India”.  To form an idea of the magnitude of the favours received through her intercession, one has only to watch the stream of devotees –Christians, Hindus, Jews, Mussalmans, Parsis – with their thanks offerings; wooden cradles and waxen babes; heads, hearts, eyes, ears, feet, knees – in short the gifts include counterparts of the body healed; and students of psychology will be interest to note that it is not an uncommon sight to behold those unfortunate ones  that have suffered from the heart aches of life bringing votive gifts of silver hearts, as if literally fulfilling the hanging of their lacerated hearts to the willow tree.


Verily, Our Lady of the Mount is the glory of Bandra !


She has shown herself a mother to so many in the past. She continues to show that motherly regard in the living present and we have assurance that she will not withhold her special protection in the years to come – for is she not the Mother of the afflicted?


(as broadcast from the Bombay Radio Station).


ST. ANTHONY’S SCHOOL, Palli – Bandra (taken from the Archives of the East Indian Association Silver Jubliee)


Prior to 1895 there existed at Palli a Portuguese Teaching School. As the want of an English Teaching School was greatly felt a meeting of the villagers of  Palli was held in 1894 and a Committee of the following members with powers to co-opt was appointed to find ways and means for the establishment of an English Teaching School and to carry on its management.


Messrs. Peter Anthony D’Abreo (Chairman), Ignatius M. Drego (Secretary), Anthony Fernandes (Treasurer), Peter Dominic Gonsalves, Anthony F. D’Penha, Joseph Isidore Pereira and Francis Pereira.


The Committee approached the Bombay East Indian Association to open an English Teaching School under its auspices. In the meantime, subscriptions were collected for the construction of a school building. The School was opened in 1895 under the auspices of the East Indian Association and was temporarily housed in a residential quarter belonging to Mr. Peter Gomes.


The Committee having collected subscriptions started the construction of the building but due to insufficient funds and the outbreak of plague it was not completed till some time later.


In the year 1906, the late Mr. David Gostling, Architect, a resident of the Palli Hill generously rebuilt the School and in1924 the building was further extended in order to accommodate the steady increase in the number of pupils.


The School is a Primary School teaching upto the III Standard and like other primary schools in the town serves as a feeder to the High Schools. It has 130 pupils on the roll.


The affairs of the School are vested in a Board of Management and Trustees appointed from the village of Palli.


The School is registered by the Bandra Municipality under the Bombay Primary Education Act and receives a grant from the School Board of the Municipality.


President – Mr. Leo Rodrigues, B.A. LL.B., J.P., Vice-President – Mr. L.F.Gonsalves, Hon. Secretary – Mr. M.D.Fonseca, Hon. Treasurer – Mr. I.F. Pereira, B.A., Education Secretary – Mr. C.P.Gonsalves, Trust Secretary – Mr. J.A.Drego, Members – Messrs I.M.Drego, T.V.D’Abreo, N.N. Fonseca, Edward S. Pereira, M.L. Drego, D.F.Preira, Anthony Drego, B.A.,B.T.Ammon Rodrigues, Gregory Rodrigues, B.A., P.A. D’Abreo, B.B.Conceicao, Felix Pereira.


Antique Photos of St. Andrews Church (courtesy Walter Murzello)


St. Andrew Church Built in 1575

(taken from the Archives of the East Indian Association Silver Jubilee)


Withstood the terrible cyclone of 1618


Survived the Maratha invasion of 1739


Underwent repairs in 1764


Roof and ceiling renewed in 1823


Surrounding wall built in 1862


General repairs carried out.Paved with Marble, Porch added in 1890.


Main Altar rebuilt in 1900


Roof renovated in 1931


Front and side Compound walls rebuilt and gates replaced in1934.


Monument of Christ the King erected in 1935


Coming down to us with scarcely a change or modification in its construction, this venerable building – the cradle of Christianity in Bandra and the scene of religious splendours during its long existence speaks to us  across centuries of faith, and down the corridors of Time one visualizes the line of its 70 or 80 vicars that have preached the Word of God to no less than twelve generations of Christians.  At the head of  this long line stands the Jesuit father Manoel Gomes the founder and builder of the church. In the middles distance comes Father Cactano de Mella,the last of the Jesuits, whose sad lot it was to see Bandra pass to the Marathas in 1739 and St. Andrew’s deprived of its Vicar for well-nigh ten years. Here one must pause to reflect – No priest, no sacrifice, no Sacraments, no consolation – a Good Friday lasting for decade of years ! what must have been the state of the faithful ? well might the angels have wept.


From the middle of 1749 there has been no gap in the  sacred Ministry-Thank God.


The Very Rev. Fr. D. de Sa is responsible for several important additions and improvements to St. Andrews Church notably for the monument in Carrara marble, to Christ the King which stands in front of the Church


“The Grace and Beauty and Benediction” – as a memorial unto the future.


By nature Fr. de Sa is a conservative of the right type and among the many gifts and qualities that go to the making of this cultured Vicar of St. Andrew one appreciates this trait in him – his thinking in terms of centuries which has been saved for posterity many an object precious in the sight of scholar and antiquarians. Were it not for this rare gift the incomparable pulpit and the two side Altars might have been lost.


A Roman in taste and a believer in the classic phrase : aut Caesar aut nullus (either Caesar or nobody) he is chary of new projects.”Show me a better way” he seems to say to those well-meaning souls who come to him with suggestions for changes. In Fathers de Sa’s sictionary there are no “new lamps for old” unless the old has served its purpose and is antiquated. Then the result is in keeping with the object – superb !


If religious organizations are any criterion to the spiritual life of a Parish then the various association that have received fresh life under the aegis of Father De Sa and those that have seen the light of day during his regime should have passing reference :-


The Confraternity of Bom Jesu

The League of the Sacred Heart

St.Anthony’s Guild

The Third Order of St. Francis

The Tabernacle Society

The Men’s Sodality

The Ladies’ Sodality


Well may the Parish of Saint Andrew pride itself in its enterprising and scholarly Vicar.


St. Stanislaus High School , Bandra

(taken from the Archives of the East Indian Association Silver Jubilee)


St. Stanislaus High School, Bandra, can look back with gratitude over the 73 long years of its existence. With gratitude, for the privilege of having been able to work for so many scores of Indian boys, mainly of Salsette and Bombay.


With the assistance of Government and some generous friends, the Fathers have not neglected the development of the School in the improvement of the building and equipment. Recently was completed a Shed, where the boys can play during the rainy weather. It serves besides the double purpose of being hall for drill during the year and for those musical and dramatic entertainments that go to build up the school spirit.


The playground of the senior boys has finally been rounded off into a spacious field worthy of the name.


The new lavatories fitted out according to modern requirements, the baths with an ample supply of water are improvements that every boarding establishment has to stress. We are also glad to add that with the substantial assistance of two good friends of ours we have been able to build the now well known swimming pool.


The success in the university and other examinations gives the satisfaction that the school is progressing along the right lines.


The painstaking efforts of the staff in the regular work of the school as well as their willingness in undertaking incidental extra hours has been a welcome assurance of their whole-hearted support.


The annual display organized by the Municipality could be held on a grander scale on our newly enlarged playground.  The lads certainly rose to the occasion and managed to secure as in previous years some of the most coveted trophies.


The inter-class tournaments have been more keenly contested this year sparred on by the prospect of being the proud holders of a challenge cup. This spirit of enthusiasm is due to the two challenge cups for football and swimming presented by Mr. Marshal de Mello and to be contested for by the various classes.


Rev. Fr. B. Irache, S.J. has managed to unearth the musical talent of the school and to give it form in an orchestra and choir.


The Salsette Co-operative Housing Society, Ltd.

By D. E. Pereira A.C.R.A

(taken from the Archives of the East Indian Association Silver Jubilee)


The Salsette Catholic Co-operative Housing Society, Ltd. was formed in 1918 with the object inter alia of acquiring for its members plots of land in the vicinity of the railway stations in Salsette for residential quarters equipped with the necessary amenities.


It was the late Mr. F. A.C. Rebello who with rare foresight realized that the indigenous Christians of Bombay, Salsette, Bassein and Thana were slowly being ousted out of their original holdings in Bombay, a great part of which belonged to them and felt that the same fate would overtake them in respect of their lands at Bandra. The idea conceived, was to get the Society to become the owners of plots in the area, and, as these plots belonged almost entirely to the members of the East Indian Community, to parcel them out amongst the members of the Community principally.


The area to be acquired was 69 acres, and the acquisition of these land by private negotiations, belonging as they did to a large number of owners, was a stupendous task. Mr. Rebello, and those who worked with him, soon found out that the only way of acquiring some of the lands was to induce the owners to bring their lands into the scheme on the condition that plots of 100 sq. yds. Equivalent in area to three-fourths of their lands would be given in exchange. It was understood that they would pay all betterment charges.


One of the largest owners was the Late Mr. P. C. Gonsalves and were it not for his willingness to merge his lands and his personal influence he exerted on other owners, it would have been very difficult for the society to secure the lands which it now has and on the terms on which they were acquired.


The Society purchases certain lands and persuaded other owners to bring their lands into the Scheme. But the difficulties in the title of the owners loomed large and the only solution was for the Society to apply to Government for the acquisition of the whole areas under the Land Acquisition Act so that the lands would then be free form encumbrances and other complications.


The first road to be constructed was the Perry Road, named after the very popular Collector, Mr. E. W. Perry. Government contributed towards the cost of this road as it served to give access to the lands in the Danda Government Scheme. As the total area was vast involving 69 acres, and as the resources of the Society, were limited, it took several years before progress in road construction could be made. The efforts of Mr. Rebello, of Messrs. Ign. De Monte, Leo Rodrigues and Prof. Almeida as Presidents of the Municipality and of Dr. Dias as Chairman of the Society and President of the Municipality as well of Mr. J. R. Athaide went a long way to hastening the construction of the roads.


The St. Sebastian Homes Co-operative Society, Ltd

By D. E. Pereira A.C.R.A

(taken from the Archives of the East Indian Association Silver Jubilee)


The St. Sebastian’s homes Co-operative Society Ltd. Was established in 1918, being registers under the Co-operative Societies Act II of 1912. It was founded by the Late Mr. F. A. C. Rebello.


It was primarily intended to provide cheap housing accommodation for poor Catholic students and families of the Goan Community by having a hostel for boys going to school with a work-room, garden and playground, and also to provide building plots for members desiring to build their own houses. For this purpose a tract of land admeasuring about 40,500 sq. yds. was purchased in the first instance, 33,600 square yards, from one J. D. Mistry and about 7,000 square yards from several other owners. Immediately after these purchases, the land market rose in price and it was not possible for the Society to extend its area except with the aid of Government under the Land Acquisition Act.


In 1920, the Society applied to Government for acquisition of certain area for the Society, but simultaneously Government had mooted a scheme for the development of the chapel Road area known as the Chapel Road Scheme No. VIII. Mr. F.A.C. Rebello who had taken the initiative in this matter came to know that his application for acquisition would not be successful. His next move therefore was to ask the land owners of that locality, who were chiefly East Indians, to join his Society and to bring in their lands into the Society. The Society agreed in return to grant them building plots in proportion to the land brought in by each of the land owners.


The East Indian landowners found themselves in a dilemma. They, however, preferred to join the Society, rather than allow their ancestral buildings to pass out of their hands altogether, which would have been the case, had Government acquired their lands as intended.


This influx rejuvenated the Society which acquired about 25 new members with an additional area of about 12.5 acres of land (60,500 sq. yds.) which is the total area owned by the society in the Chapel Road Scheme. The additional area solidifies the Society’s rights as a substantial owner and the Development department were forced to return land to the Society after deducting a quarter of the area for roads. With fresh invasion of members together with their lands, the idea of having the hostel, etc. was abandoned.


The Society has since been working progressively and has attained the enviable position of having paid up all its dues to the Government.


List of East Indians Office Bearers of the Society



Dr. D. A. D’Monte, K.S.G., M.D., F.C.P.S., J.P. 1921-1933

            Dr. P. A. Dias, L.M. & S., 1922 to date


Chairman, Managing Committee:-

            Mr. A. A. Pereira, 1920-1921

            Dr. P. A. Dias, 1921 to date.


Secretaries and Treasurers:-

            Mr. P. N. Pereira, 1925-1928

            Mr. L. M. Ferreira, 1929-1933

An email sent on the history of Bandra


Bandra was a tiny fishing village inhabited  Kolis (fishermen) and farmers.
It was acquired by the British East India Company while the rest of Bombay belonged to the Portuguese. 

There was an 18 hole golf course in Bandra  called Danda Green with an English style Club House on the top of the hill, surrounded by trees.  Membership was only for the British who lived in Pali Hill.. Each cottage had a stable for horses. 

Bandra consisted of the villages Sherly, Malla, Rajan, Kantwady, Waroda, Ranwar, Boran,Pali and  Chuim. Ranwar also had a tennis court and the famous Ranwar Club famous for its Christmas and New Year eve dances. Most adults in  Bandra worked for the East India Company... and hence were called East Indians (incorrect statement...admin).  In the Bandra of the forties and earlier , large cottages with large gardens were available for rent at Rs 30 a month. 

Marriages were celebrated for  8 days  from Thursday to Thursday for a Sunday wedding and the whole village was invited. Thursday was  pig slaughter day and Friday was to make pappads for drinks, Saturday to make fugias and bring water from the village well to bathe the bride or groom. Sunday was the wedding ceremony and long reception.. Monday was day of rest and to finish remaining food and on Tuesday the feet of guests were washed in exchange for cash. Then farewell dinner on Wed and guests left on Thursday by which time honeymoon was over. 

Tradition has it that the suburb was originally known as Vandra or Ape as it was the home of monkeys, then Bandor as the Portuguese called it in 1505, then called Bandera, Bandura, Bandore, Pandara, Bandorah, Bandara and finally Bandra till a railway sign board finalized it at the end of the last century. Salsette was originally separated by a tidal creek which Portuguese called Bandora creek. English changed it to Mahim creek. 

Bandra had 2 hills,  Mount Mary hill and  Pali hill. On 12th Apr 1867 the first railway service was inaugurated with one train per day between Virar and Bombay.  Bandra at one time was peopled mainly by East Indians (original residents of Bombay Salsette, Bassein, and Thana), a few Goans and Manglorian immigrants, Parsis, Muslims, Europeans and Hindu Kolis. Till as late as the 30's Bandra had only one bus service from Pali Naka, Hill road to the Rly station. Other people just walked to the nearest Rly station. After World War II the building boom started to accommodate immigrants. 

The five oldest roads in Bandra are as follows: Godbunder Rd, which originally ran from Mahim causeway, then skirted Bazaar Rd, went past the Bandra talab (lake) and continued to Godbunder. The Road was later made straight by cutting through the talab. Bazaar Rd began at Godbunder Rd opposite the mosque and ran through the market keeping close to the coast which is now the reclamation. 

Hill Rd starting from the station went through middle of Bandra town, past St Andrews to terminate at the foot of the Mount near Mehboob studio. Pali Rd began at St Peters and cut through Pali village till it reached Danda.  BJ Rd runs from St Andrews to Lands End, was built by Byramjee Jeejebhoy and opened to public in 1878. 

There are over 150 crosses at various places. Many crosses were built to ward off the plague epidemic (1896-1906).The oldest is the one relocated in St Andrew's church compound. Stands 17ft high and made of a single stone. It was originally in the Jesuit seminary of St Anne built in 1610. The bldg was destroyed in 1739 and the cross was relocated to St Andrews church. The surface is carved all over with 39 emblems of the passion of Christ. Bazaar Rd is only 2 km long but houses a Jain temple, Ram Mandir, Hanuman temple, Khoja mosque, Christian chapel and a Sikh gurduwara. 

Main roads in Bandra, Perry, Carter, Bullock, Kane, and Bates were named after British collectors and magistrates. Mr Carter was collector in 1924 and Mr Bullock was the Chief Magistrate.  Christians in Bandra are mostly of the Koli, Bhandari and Kunbi castes.. The architect of Mount Mary's church was a Bombay architect Shahpoorjee Chandabhoy. The basilica was built in 1904 at a cost of 1 lakh. Also the first time a non catholic was asked to build the church. It was built to serve the garrison posted at Castella de Aguada- the fort at Land's End road. It was destroyed in a fire in 1739 and rebuilt in 1761, the year marking beginning of Bandra feast as it is celebrated today. 

The walls enclosing the compound of St Andrew's church were built by a Parsi, Manockjee Sorabjee Ashburner in 1862. It is recorded on a slab on the main gate of the enclosure.. In 1879, Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy constructed a flight of steps from foot of Mt Mary hill to north side of church known as the "Degrados de Bomanjee" ('Steps of Bomanjee').. 

St Stanislaus started in 1863 as a 'Native Boy's orphanage', became a high school in 1923 and was the first English medium school in the suburbs. In 1661 when King Charles married Catherina of Portugal, Bombay was given to England as part of the dowry.. Salsette was not part of this treaty and remained with the Portuguese. In 1739 with the threat of a Maratha invasion, the Portuguese appealed to the British for help and they suggested to the Portuguese to destroy all fortifications around the chapel and the fortress Aguada. However the Marathas took over and ruled for 2 decades. But after the battle of Panipat in 1761, Maratha power declined and the British took over and Salsette including Bandra came under British rule.  The Portuguese were left with just Goa, Daman and Diu.. 

The English found in this newly acquired territory of Salsette thousands of Indian families who were converted to Christianity.. It was from these families the English drew their supplies of clerks, assistants and secretaries. At that time there was hardly a Hindu, Parsi or Muslim who could read Roman characters.

There was also a large influx of Christians from Goa, Karnataka and Kerala and this prompted local converts to take the name of 'East Indians' and form the East Indian Association on 26th May 1887 to distinguish the 'sons of the soil' who were the first employees of the East India Company, from Indian Christians who came from further down the West coast and shared the same names and religion, and vied for the same jobs. Crossing the Mahim creek was by ferry to the industrial town of Bombay. After many boats capsized, a road was built by Lady Jamsethji in 1843 at a cost of Rs1, 55,800. It was designed by Lt..Crawford and opened to public in 1845. 

Railway started in 1867 with one train but 6 yrs later it was increased to 24 each day and now 940 trains that stop at Bandra every day.The Tata Agiary on Hill Rd was built by Tata in memory of his wife in 1884