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Old 14th March 2010, 15:45   #1
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Default Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known

The town of Bandel stands about 70 kms north of Kolkata, en route to Bardhaman. It was stablished in the mid 15th century by the Portugese as a trade & military settlement, after erstwhile Mughal Emperor Akbar gave them permission to use the place as a port and base. The word "Bandel" actually is derived from the Bengali word "Bander", meaning port.

Today Bandel is nothing but a bustling small town. A few years back, I have had a chance to visit this place a few times for work. Mostly a "take a morning local train - do the day's work - leave by the evening local" routine. But no one told me, not that I asked or knew, that the place houses such little gems of historical interest!

The chance to know Bandel really came yesterday when Joseph (NOS Power) told me he was taking his family & relatives to Bandel church on Sunday for mass. "Not a bad idea, eh" I asked him. "Why don't I tag along with you? Wifey has been asking for a long drive for some time, and Bandel church is one place I've heard of from many people." "Sure" came the reply, "just join our convoy (2 cars) tomorrow morning". "Ok, see you on Sunday then"

__________________________________________________ ________

As it happens with most salaried slaves, Sunday morning found me snoozing waayy past the promised departure time. In fact, by the time wifey & I left home, Joseph and said convoy had already left the city and on the highway! A mad, mad dash - covering about 75 kms in an hour - saw me finally catch up with Joseph, just before Bandel town. The remaining 5-10 kms were traversed through narrow village roads, before we finally hit Bandel church.

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-village-road-1.jpg

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-village-road-2.jpg

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-village-road-3.jpg

Bandel Church

After the Portugese established the town of Bandel, they got along a band of Augustinian Monks from Goa to preach Christianity among the locals. In sync, the Bandel Church was built in 1599 along the banks of the Hooghly River.

The original church was shortlived. In 1632 the Mughals under Shah Jahan ransacked Bandel and razed the church to the ground. 4 of the 5 priests were killed, and only Father Juan Da Cruz survived. JDC was taken prisoner and ordered to be executed, trampled to death by elephants.

What happened after this is unbelievable. Apparently, one of the elephants, instead of trampling JDC, picked him up and placed him on his back. Then the elephant walked to Shah Jahan and kneeled down as if asking for mercy! Impressed by this feat, Shah Jahan ordered the prisoners to be freed. JDC was allowed to go back and re-establish the church. Whatever the real story, ultimately in 1660 the Bandel Church was rebuilt over the site of the original church.

Today Bandel Church acts as a pilgrimage for Roman Catholics all over the world. The Church has an integrated hostel. 2 famous Catholic schools are also in the vicinity.

Nuff talk. Now for some photos:

The Church

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-bandel_basilica_hooghly_westbengal.jpg

Wifey standing next to the wishing well (to her left) and a statue of Jesus

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10232.jpg

The history

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10234.jpg

Mother Mary's Altar

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10235.jpg

The view from the top

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10237.jpg

The central courtyard

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10238.jpg

Note: We attended full mass with Joseph's family. The interiors are beautiful. Sadly, taking pictures is not allowed
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Old 14th March 2010, 16:19   #2
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Default Hansheshwari Temple

Hansheshwari Temple is in Bansberia, just 5 kms north of Bandel. Bansberia housed the huge Dunlop Tyres factory, now shut down. It took us just about 15 mins over some very bad and narrow roads to reach from Bandel Church.

In Bengali, the word "Hansheshwari" means "Godess with the Swan", i.e. Devi Saraswati. The Hansheshwari temple complex actually has 3 temples - one each dedicated to Hansheshwari, Vishnu and Godess Kali. The complex was built by the erstwhile Zamindar of Bansberia - Nrisingha Dev. He passed away before the largest temple could be completed, and ultimately his widow Rani Sankari completed it.

The Hansheshwari temple is huge. It has It has 13 cupolas, viz., eight over the verandahs and their corners, then four higher cupolas in the middle, and lastly a central tower (the tallest) rising 60 to 70 feet high. On the ground floor is the shrine with a verandah on each side divided into rooms. The upper floors are accessible through three staircases in the north verandah. Except the main shrine, the entire complex is closed out to the public.

The front facade

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10245.jpg

The main shrine

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10246.jpg

Side view of the verandah

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10239.jpg

Many years ago, the sounds of ghungroos echoed through the natmandir's pillars.

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10240.jpg

The Vishnu temple is much simpler. A single storeyed, terracota temple.

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10244.jpg

The terracota pillars are elaborately carved, and not much has been lost

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10241.jpg

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10242.jpg

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10243.jpg

The temple complex has a walkway around it, and arches like this adorn every corner of it

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10247.jpg

The Hansheshwari temple intrigued me. It was a huge temple complex sitting in the middle of nowhere. I'm sure the top floors, if one is allowed access, will reveal a lot more stories.

Upon coming back home, mom revealed that a descendant of the Bansberia Dev's is a family friend. Great then, hope he can get me access to the full temple .
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Old 14th March 2010, 17:35   #3
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Nice Detailing. Any other nearby places you visited on your return?
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Old 14th March 2010, 22:52   #4
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Nice narration. Its so surprising that places like Bansberia does not really recieve the kind of attention it deserves, thanks to the pathetic state of state tourism. Infact upto a few years back temples in Bankura was in the state of dilapidation, till the ASI took over. Would love to go someday, have relatives thee but havn't paid much of a courtesy to them in the recent years!!

Wasn't there a cannon here?
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Old 14th March 2010, 23:55   #5
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Hi Predator Wheelz,

This Bansberia temple structure is unique in its own sense.
The 21-metre high, five-storeyed Hangseshwari temple's
13 domes shaped like lotus buds. The structure has similarities
with St Basilís Cathedral in Moscow, which is also known as the
onion dome church.

We really don't know what treasure we possess.

Bandel Church was always synonym with Picnic
during our college days.

Thanks for highlightling this trip.


Cheers

Last edited by Captdey : 15th March 2010 at 00:03.
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Old 15th March 2010, 00:19   #6
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Hey,nice pics and write-up.And nice t-shirt too!
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Old 15th March 2010, 04:42   #7
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Hey Predator, Wonderful narration of a town whom we so easily ignore being the next door of Kolkata. I have been to Bandel a couple of times to attend weddings (All by Bandel Local from Dum Dum Jn.). Must say a nice little town.
I heard about the Saraswati temple, the church. Also my sister (when she used to study in Kalyani) did a ferry ride from Kalyani to Bandel.

Nice pics !!

Abhi
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Old 15th March 2010, 21:33   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by btirthankar View Post
Nice Detailing. Any other nearby places you visited on your return?
One place coming right up!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1100D View Post
Nice narration. Its so surprising that places like Bansberia does not really recieve the kind of attention it deserves, thanks to the pathetic state of state tourism. Infact upto a few years back temples in Bankura was in the state of dilapidation, till the ASI took over. Would love to go someday, have relatives thee but havn't paid much of a courtesy to them in the recent years!!

Wasn't there a cannon here?
Pay a visit ASAP. I think your interest would be doubled after you read about the Imambara.

Not aware of a cannon being here. Didn't see any at least.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Captdey View Post
This Bansberia temple structure is unique in its own sense.The 21-metre high, five-storeyed Hangseshwari temple's 13 domes shaped like lotus buds. The structure has similarities with St Basilís Cathedral in Moscow, which is also known as the onion dome church.

We really don't know what treasure we possess.
You're right Captain da. In fact I've not seen this kind of architecture anywhere else in Bengal. That, compared with the sheer size of the temple, arouses curiosity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AyAn! View Post
Hey,nice pics and write-up.And nice t-shirt too!
That T-shirt is my favourite for a long day out of home. Comfy, airy cotton stuff. Needless to say, for my wife, familiarity breeds contempt! She gets angry whenever she sees me wearing it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy View Post
Hey Predator, Wonderful narration of a town whom we so easily ignore being the next door of Kolkata. I have been to Bandel a couple of times to attend weddings (All by Bandel Local from Dum Dum Jn.). Must say a nice little town.
I heard about the Saraswati temple, the church. Also my sister (when she used to study in Kalyani) did a ferry ride from Kalyani to Bandel.

Nice pics !!

Abhi
Thank you Abhi Da. I too have been to Bandel a couple of times on work, but never got a chance to check these places out.

Hooghly Imambara

After Bansberia, we drove back to Chinsurah, the district headquarter of Hooghly. Here lay our next destination, the famous Hooghly Imambara. Built by Haji Mohammed Mohasin in 1841 and completed in 1861, the Imambara houses the world's largest clock (bet you didn't know this!).

The Imambara, with and without the clock, took my breath away. Its a huge building with typical Islamic architecture. My limited knowledge of architecture seemed to suggest an Indian styling in the arches, while the interiors (the takht etc) were done up in an Iranian way. Th script on the clock was also in Farsi.

I didn't have a wide angle lens, so it was not possible to capture the entire building in one shot. Try to make out the magnitude from the pictures below.

The left wing

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10250.jpg

The centre with the main building

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10249.jpg

The right wing

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10248.jpg

How many arches?

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10255.jpg

Wifey at the gate of the durbar. Unfortunately taking pictures of the latter is not permitted

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10256.jpg

The (now dis-functional) fountain in the courtyard

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10257.jpg

The sun dial in the rear courtyard.

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10253.jpg

A word about the clock. It was purchased from England in 1861 for the (then princely) sum of Rs 11,721. It is housed between 2 80 ft towers. The clock needs to be winded every 2 days, and the only key that can wind the behemoth is 20 kgs and requires 2 people to lift and turn.

Access to the clock tower is through a spiral staircase. The caretaker told us that earlier the machine room and bell room were open to public. But now due to vandalism they have been closed down.

(Note, the round black thing you see in the picture is the rear of the clock. The actual clock is towards the road)

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10251.jpg

The machine room of the clock. Sorry, the flash ruined the photo

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10260.jpg

One of the 3 bells used for the chime

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10261.jpg

The other 2 bells

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-sdc10262.jpg
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Old 16th March 2010, 15:36   #9
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Visited the same places around 7-8 years back with parents. While going took the Kalyani Expressway via Barasat and crossed over the Ganga on Ishwar Gupta Setu to reach Bansberia Hanseswari temple, then to Bandel Church and Imambara.
Didn't know the history of the clock till date though.
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Old 16th March 2010, 20:22   #10
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Hi,
Am I the only one who thinks that the new look Bandel church (clad in polished red granite) is ghastly. The original brickwork had character. The only term that comes to mind is SACRILEGE.

Sutripta
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Old 16th March 2010, 20:28   #11
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Glad that you posted these pics predator.
I have been to Bandel several times, as a small village on the other side of the river is actually my ancestral village. There is no roadway or railway there, and one has to go there only via rowboats from Bandel.
Very nice writeup and pics !!
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Old 16th March 2010, 22:22   #12
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Thank you predator.

I have taken the Bandel local train from Howrah a number of times en route to the now defunct Hindustan Motors factory. Didn't know that Bandel has such a history. Will definitely visit the place on my next trip. God knows when.
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Old 17th March 2010, 00:34   #13
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Nice writeup PW. Good that you are bringing up these relatively smaller destinations to the forum.
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Old 4th January 2014, 14:45   #14
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Default Bandel Church revisited...

Creating a new thread on a topic is a little more egregious than bumping up an old one on the same. Hence I thought to provide some more details about Bandel Church through some recent pictures, which were not published in the OP or its successors.

As the OP states it is one of the oldest churches in West Bengal. Well , in fact it is not a church in the strict sense of the word. It is a basilica -and so declared by Pope John Paul II on November 25, 1988.

The entrance of the Basilica is characterised by Mother Mary and her infant son Jesus, astride a small ship with a mast.
Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-dsc_0039copy.jpg
The Entrance
Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-dsc_0040copy.jpg
The small ship , Mother Mary and Infant Jesus
Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-dsc_0041copy.jpg
Close-up of Mother Mary
Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-dsc_0036copy.jpg
Nativity scene displayed just outside the main entrance during Christmas, 2013
Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-dsc_0042copy.jpg
Candles lit by the devout who wished for something...
Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-dscn3685copy.jpg
at the wishing well.
Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-dsc_0035copy.jpg Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-dsc_0052copy.jpg
Beautiful frescoes decorate the building

Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-dsc_0048copy.jpg
A History of Bandel

Siege of Hooghly (1632)
The Portuguese established a prosperous trade and military settlement at Chinsura. They called Augustinian monks from Goa, who built a monastery and a church at Bandel in 1599. This church was destroyed in the Mughal Siege of Hooghly and four of the five priests were killed. Fr. Joan da Cruz survived.
Tiago and the Statue Sink
Tiago, an ardent devotee of Mary, attempted to carry the statue of Our Lady of Happy Voyage across the Hooghly to safety. A deadly arrow from the enemy pierced him to death; he sank into the water along with the statue. It was the year 1632.
The Miracle of the Elephants
Fr. Joan da Cruz and a few thousand Christians were deported to Agra fort and condemned by emperor Shah Jahan to die at the mercy of ferocious elephants. One elephant with its trunk raised and placed Fr. Joan on its back. Slowly it carried him in front of Shah Jahan and knelt before him as if imploring for mercy. The emperor and the public, impressed by the miracle, set the prisoners free.
Reconstruction and Rehabilitation
Fr. Joan da Cruz and the Christians were sent back to Bandel. Shah Jahan gave money to reconstruct the church and endowed it with 777 bighas of land, in the year 1633.
Bandel - So near to Kolkata, yet so little known-dsc_0050copy.jpg
Our Lady Returns
Fr. Joan da Cruz heard a call in the night from the river; he recognized the voice of his merchant friend Tiago. Over the water, illumined by a miraculous light, he announced that Our Lady was coming back. "She saved the Christians from death" he said. The Father thought it was a dream; but on the following morning a group of fishermen brought the statue to the entrance of the church telling the Father : "Guru, MA has come back".
The Mast
At the closing of the celebrations for the return of Our Lady's Statue, a Portuguese ship suddenly appeared on the Hooghly's waters near the church. After the main function, the Captain removed one of the masts of the ship and donated it in fulfillment of a vow made by himself and the crew, when in serious danger of shipwreck in the Bay of Bengal. He had it raised in front of the church where it still stands. The sails given along with the mast have not been preserved to the present day.
A history of the Parish
The Augustinian fathers and the church of Goa administered the shrine for three centuries. The Jesuit fathers had educational institutions. St. John Chrysostom School was founded in 1870, The Salesians took over in the year 1928. Later Don Bosco school and Seminary (1951), Auxillium Convent School (1952), a house for Retreats and Seminars (1968) and Mother Theresa Sisters Convent (1987) were established.
Bandel Today (1990)
In recent years, the shrine has been repaired and renewed with marble and granite. Several devotional spots have been constructed - the grotto, Fatima shrine, and minor chapels inside and outside the church. The local Christian community, which had virtually disappeared through the centuries because of poverty and disease , is growing. The shrine has been declared a Basilica on November 25th 1988 by a decree of Pope John Paul II
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