The Bandra fair is back. Braving the sun beating down on them, thousands of pilgrims made their way to the Basilica of Mount Mary, Bandra (West), on the first day of Octave, the eight-day fair that started on Sunday.
For more than 300 years, the fair is celebrated every September to mark the birthday of Mother Mary.
Many pilgrims, undeterred by the mega block, had travelled from as far as Panvel, Kalyan and Dahisar. Clotilda D’souza and Jyoti Madhe, who had started early in the day from CBD Belapur, said the visit to the church gave them peace.
“I felt very calm after attending the morning mass. This time, the shamiana is quite spacious and arrangements more organised,” said Madhe.
Like Madhe, many among the pilgrims belong to different faiths, and throng the venue not just for the carnival, but also to pray at the church.
Sakshi Shelar, a resident of Kalyan, offered a wax candle to Mother Mary before plunging into the hundreds of colourful stalls lining the streets. “Some things are peculiar to the fair, such as pink guava cheese, roasted grams and other home-made snacks,” she said.
While traditional delicacies such as vindaloo and sarpatel are now restricted to a few stalls, the tradition of offering wax limbs to Mary for good health has also seen a tweak.
“Now, people want wax currency notes, houses, cars and even planes, seeking settlement abroad,” said Carol Gonsalves, a college student who has set up a stall on Cement Road.
Not everyone is pleased with the change. Pali Hill resident Peter DeSouza, who uploads his clicks of the fair on the church’s official website, said he continues to return to the fair for nostalgia’s sake, but doesn’t encourage or expect his children to do so.
“The September Garden hosted jam sessions in the past, where local kids showcased their skills in music and dance. Attractions such as Funny Mirrors have also disappeared, taking away some of the fair’s charm,” he said.