The formation of the city of Bangalore and the formation
of St. Mary’s Church are found to be interlinked with the
history of Karnataka. During the 17th Century, few
Christians came from Ginjee, of Tamil Nadu, found that
the land was fertile to sow white rice and began to
settle down and built a small village. This village took
the name ‘Bili akki palli’ because it is said that the rice they cultivated
was white and also because a number of white birds were found in
those rice fields. The people in order to practice their religion built a
thatched hut and named it as ‘CHAPEL OF KANIKKAI MADHA’.
The Italian Jesuits of the Malabar Mission, were the founders of the
Mysore Mission in the 17th Century, who were succeeded by the French
Jesuits from Madura and Carnatic Missions in the 18th Century.
In 1799, Fr. Jean Dubois came in lay dress with the English troops at
the siege of Seringapatam and only when he said the Mass in the
Church, people did recognize him as a Catholic Priest. When the
Cantonment was established in Bangalore, the Christians, both
Europeans and Indians attended the Mass said by Fr. Jean Dubois. In
1811, he built a small chapel with a residence for priests. Later on,
Rev. Fr. Andreas an Indian priest from Pondicherry succeeded him and
he expanded the Church building in the shape of Cross, with a hall
facing East and West and with two aisles North and South.
In 1832, due to some communal riots, the church was pulled and
pillaged. Fr. Beauchaton, the Parish Priest, narrowly escaped death by
the tactful handling of the situation by the Christian people. Troops
arrived to restore peace and the government had the Church guarded
first by the European soldiers and later by Indian sepoys for many
months. After some years great plague had spread through out the
Blackpalli and people sought the intercession of Mother Mary to relieve
them from the clutches of disastrous death. Mother Mary interceded
the victims’ prayers and the plague vanished from the vicinity. Since
she cured the people from the dreadful disease and gave them good
health, she was also called as ‘Annai Arokiamarie’ (Our Lady of Good
In June 1875, the construction of the present Church began. It was
during the time of then Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. E.L.
Kleiner, who later became the Bishop of Mysore. In view
of the historic importance of St. Mary’s Church, the then
British authorities from Delhi paid a grant for the
maintenance of the Church, every year till 1948.
The present Church of St. Mary’s built by
Rev. Fr. Kleiner was solemnly consecrated on
8th September 1882 by Msgr. Joannes Maria Y.
Coadou, Vicar Apostolic of Mysore, in the presence
of 35 priests and about 4000 Catholics of Bangalore.
It is interesting to note that, all the other parishes of
Bangalore were born out of this ancient parish of St. Mary’s Church.
It was during the tenure of Most. Rev. Dr. P. Arokiaswamy, the then
Archbishop of Bangalore and Rev. Fr. Paul Kinatukara, then Parish
Priest of St. Mary’s Church, with the strenuous efforts of the
Archbishop Most Rev. Dr. D.S. Lourdusamy, the
then Secretary General for the Sacred
Congregations for Evangelization of Peoples at
Rome, Holy Father Pope Paul VI, elevated St.
Mary’s Church to the title of ‘ANNAI
AROCKIAMARIE BASILICA’ (St. Mary’s Basilica)
on 26th September 1973, which was officially
announced and celebrated on 26th January 1974.
Since then, every year this day stands as a remarkable significance of
God’s grace. For several years, a grand car procession carrying the
Eucharist was held and the Archbishop administered solemn blessing
of the Blessed Sacrament.
Due to an increase in the population, and more devotees flooding to
visit the Shrine of Our Lady, the space that was available for the
devotees to stand and pray was found to be very congested. At this
juncture, the then Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. T. Jabamalai, successor of
Rev. Fr. Paul Kinatukara constructed a hall like structure facing east
and placed the statue of Our Lady in a prominent place. This enabled
thousands of devotees to see her without any hindrance and pray to
her more devotedly. The statue of Infant Jesus was placed where the
Our Lady’s statue remained originally. During the
year 2004, a new exquisite altar with tabernacle
was erected by Msgr. T. Jabamalai, Parish Priest,
who was also then Vicar General of the Bangalore
Archdiocese. During the year 2005 – 2007, the
church was completely renovated by him and was
rededicated on 29th August 2006 by the present
Archbishop of Bangalore. In the year 2007 (1882 -
2007) St. Mary’s Basilica celebrated the 125th year
of its consecration. During the month of June
2007, the Church and Shrine was bifurcated and
His Grace the Archbishop of Bangalore appointed
Rev. Fr. A.S. Anthony Swamy as the Parish Priest and Rev. Fr. L.
Arulappa as the Rector of the Shrine. On 8th of September 2007,
Annual feast day and birthday of Blessed Virgin Mary, His Grace the
Archbishop officially declared and honoured this Basilica as the
DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH
St. Mary’s Basilica is a spacious gothic Church,
designed by a French architect and built in the
form of a Cross. It is 172 feet long and 50 feet
broad. The imposing and magnificent tower
forming the façade of the Church is 160 feet
high. A beautiful statue of Mother Mary holding
Child Jesus in her arms, 6 feet in height, set up
in an attractive shrine just outside the Church
building, is the chief object of veneration and
source of inspiration for the people. Every day,
Our Mother Mary is draped in a ‘Saree’ the
typical dress of the Indian lady. It is said that
in 1875 when the new Church was built, people
tried to remove this statue in order to install it
on a prominent altar inside the Church, but
they failed in their effort since the statue
remained immovable. This strange happening is considered even
today as a sign of Our Lady’s miraculous power.
MIRACULOUS STATUE OF OUR LADY
At the main entrance of the Shrine you will find another Statue of Our
Lady, a smaller one, which has a story behind it.
It is believed to have happened in the year 1832,
when the Church was attacked by some
miscreants and every thing was destroyed except
this small statue. It is also said that when they
attempted to pull it down, they were struck blind.
Soon police and military contingents arrived on
the scene and restored just when the mob had
set fire to the Church. The statue thus
miraculously saved, is the one that is placed in an
imposing, flower decked, illuminated palanquin
taken in procession during the important days of
Marian devotion. It is true that for several years
even Muslims were in the habit of taking out in
solemn procession, the same statue of Our Lady.
THE ANNUAL FEAST
The Main feast is celebrated with all grandeur on the 8th of September,
the Feast day of the Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary, every year. This
feast is considered by the people, not only as the Feast of the Parish,
but also for the whole of the Archdiocese and State of Karnataka.
In preparation to the Feast, nine days novena is observed, wherein
Holy Masses are celebrated through out the day, in which thousands of
people participate with ardent devotion. Throughout the Feast the
devotees are found to be dressed in ‘Saffron’ clothing. Archbishop
blesses the flag and joins the Chief Guests in hoisting the flag. This
hoisting of the flag symbolizes that our hearts too are to be raised
towards the Almighty God with the perpetual help of Our Lady.
Thousands of people gathered around the flag post, join in singing the
praise of Mary Our Mother – ‘Ave Maria’ (Praise to Mary) and the song
fills the air. As per tradition, the flag is hoisted everyday, beginning
from the Flag Hoisting day till the ninth day of Novena.
On the Feast day, September 8th people gather in Lakhs, without any
distinction of caste, creed or religion, not only from all parts of
Bangalore, but also from all over India to pay their homage to Our
Lady. The whole city embraces the festive mood on that day. Through
out the day people flock in with lighted candles and flowers to pray
and thank Mother Mary. In the evening, around 5.00 p.m., a grand car
procession – a chariot carrying the 6 feet statue of Mother Mary,
draped in a wonderful silk saree, with spectacular illuminations and
decorations, is carried on the streets of Shivajinagar.
Mary, Mother of God is the mother of all generations, and she
embraces everyone, without any discrimination of caste, creed,
religion and language. While we approach her, all that we need to
possess, is true faith and selfless love in her and her son Jesus. She is
not the end of our lives, rather she is the one who will lead us safe,
just like a mother who will lead her child by holding its little hands, to
the eternal kingdom of God.
GLORY TO GOD AND PRAISES TO MOTHER MARY.