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The return of the faithful

It’s that time of the year again when the city converges on Bandra to share in an annual festival of religion, culture, and increasingly, commerce, reports Aarefa Johari.

mumbai Updated: Sep 13, 2009 00:51 IST
Aarefa Johari

It’s that time of the year again when the city converges on Bandra to share in an annual festival of religion, culture, and increasingly, commerce.

The week-long Bandra Fair begins today, and as it does every year, is expected to draw visitors in the lakhs.

The fair is an extended celebration of the Feast that honours Mother Mary’s birthday on September 8.

What began nearly 300 years ago with a few religious stalls around Mt Mary Church is now a teeming carnival of shopping, food, games and amusement, spread across St. John the Baptist Road, Chapel Road and Boran Road.

And with that tidal wave of humanity comes litter, noise and the crush of traffic, compounded this year by the surge of vehicles trying to get on to and off the newly opened sea-link.

The locals understandably are not pleased. “The fair was very beautiful 50-60 years ago — now it’s lost much of its attraction,” said Father Larry Pereira of Mt Carmel Church, referring to the auctioning of stalls by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, and the increasingly commercialised nature of the wares they sell.

What cuts through all that clutter — the traffic, the mass marketing, the litter — is the faith.

Only a tenth of the 10 lakh or so who come for the festival are Catholic, the rest are people across faiths, brought together by the legendary wish-fulfilling powers associated with the festival.

“It is also a tradition among Catholic families in Bandra to clean their houses and cook special Feast food for guests who might drop in,” said Father Warner D’Souza, also from Mt. Carmel Church, which is popular during the fair for its giant wheels.

The money collected by the church during the festival supports a range of charitable causes.