With just three days to go for its annual eight-day fair, preparations are on in full swing at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, or simply the Mount Mary Church, Bandra.
As enthusiasts gear up for a week of religiosity and fun beginning Sunday, the church has been spruced up, a sprawling shamiana has been erected and barricades and sign boards placed for smooth crowd movement.
Sunil Solanki, part of the core committee that organises the celebrations, said the shamiana has been widened to accommodate double the number of devotees. “Earlier, we used to create a bamboo structure, which has been replaced by a sturdier metallic one. More than 1,400 devotees can sit here at a time,” he said.
Transcending religious barriers, around 10 lakh people from diverse communities throng the three-centuries-old fair each year. On September 8, the birthday of Mother Mary, thousands of devotees visited the church for the 8.30am mass led by Oswald Cardinal Gracias, archbishop of Bombay. The basilica celebrates Mary’s birthday for eight days every year, beginning from the first Sunday after September 8.
An integral part of the celebrations is the sprawling fair, with stalls selling goodies such as savouries and household knickknacks. The civic body began auctioning the 430 stalls for the fair on Mount Mary Road, Rebello Road and St John the Baptist Road on Tuesday.
A highlight of the fair is the offering of limb-shaped wax candles to Mother Mary. “Devotees offer the limbs asking Mother for better health. Of late, wax houses and planes have also become popular,” said the owner of a stall at the church’s steps.