Home > Bengal History, Day Trips from Calcutta (Kolkata), General > Bandel ~ Church and Imambara

Bandel ~ Church and Imambara


Church & Imambara

Almost a century after Vasco da Gama reached the West Coast of India the Portuguese started making their inroads into Bengal. Soon settlement started growing up along the rivers and the area around present day Hooghly became the Portuguese stronghold. By 1599 a church was constructed on the banks of the Hooghly, making it the oldest Christian Church of West Bengal.

Bandel Church “Our Lady of the Happy Voyage,” Bandel, Hooghly, West Bengal

Bandel Church “Our Lady of the Happy Voyage,” Bandel, Hooghly, West Bengal

But the good old days of the Portuguese were short lived. In 1632 The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan attacked the Portuguese settlement which also had a small fort. The Portuguese were severely defeated and their Fort & Church were reduced to ruins. Several Portuguese and local Christians were killed. Father Joan De Cruz was taken prisoner to Agra, where he was thrown in front of a ferocious elephant. But the rogue elephant instead of trampling the priest to dead lifted him by his trunk and placed him in his back.

Bandel Church, Different Prespective

Bandel Church, Different Prespective

The miracle impressed the Emperor to such an extent that he not only set the priest and his followers free but also provided tax free land for the construction of the new church. But the miracles continued. It was during the siege a local Christian by the name of Taigo, in a desperate bid to save to statue of Mary dived into Hooghly, and was never seen again. Strangely on the day of the inauguration of the church the statue appeared in the banks of the Hooghly. The statue was re – established and came to be known as “Our Lady of the Happy Voyage.”

Imambara, Bandel, Hooghly

Imambara, Bandel, Hooghly

When the celebrations of the inauguration was in progress a Portuguese ship, with tattered sails appeared on the river bank. It came to known that the ship only a few days ago had encountered a terrific storm and the crew was lucky to be alive. During the storm the captain of the ship had promised to offer the main mast of the ship to the first church he sighted.

The captain kept his words and the mast can still be seen in the compound of the Church. The Portuguese word for mast was bandel and the church came to known as the Bandel Church, which can well be your next weekend gateway.

Imambara Arch

Imambara Arch

Today Bandel is accessible from both Howrah and Sealdah Station. Rickshaws are available from the station and a short bumpy ride takes you to the church. The church, with its towering clock tower, has been modified largely over the years and nothing much remains of its past structure.

The entrance is through an arched gateway on the banks of the Hooghly and is crowned with a statue of Mary, with baby Jesus, on a boat. After entering the church take the stairs to the top balcony where devotees light candles in front of the “Our Lady of the Happy Voyage.” The balcony also provides spectacular views of the Jubilee Bridge spanning across the Hooghly. The Jubilee Bridge built in 1887 on the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign is one of the oldest operating rail bridges in the world.

Get down from the balcony and head for the main alter housing the statue of Our Lady of Holy Rosary. The other two alters on the side contains a statue of Jesus and St. John Bosco. The entire complex contains several statues dedicated to different Christian Saints. The complex also contains a graveyard and the mast.

Sun Dial, Imambara

Sun Dial, Imambara

Bidding farewell to the Bandel Church, head for the Hooghly Imambara. Imambara literally means the residence of the Imam, but In the Indian subcontinent, the word stands for a house or an assembly hall built by the Shiites for observing Muharram. Build in the memory of the great philanthropist Hazi Muhammad Mohsin, the imposing structure was took 20 years to build and was completed in 1861.

Designed by architect Keramtulla Khan, the two storied building is cnetred round a rectangular courtyard, decorated with fountains and pools. But the prime attraction of the Imambara are it two 85 feet high towers. The two towers are respectively reserved for men and women and each contains a set of 152 stairs and offers spectacular views of the Hooghy including the Jubilee Bridge.

The three storied structure connecting the tower contains a clock at the top story, while the lower stories contain the bells and the clock machinery. However these are out of bounds of the public. The room at the far end of the courtyard is contains beautiful chandeliers and is decorated with religious artifacts. The courtyard at the back contains a sun dial.

Jubilee Bridge over Hooghly River, from Imambara Tower

Jubilee Bridge over Hooghly River, from Imambara Tower

But sadly the Imambara is in a rundown state, the fountain has long stopped working and the crystal clear water has turned green. But the Imamabara still stands and its clock still strikes every quarter of an hour marking the passage of time and reminding one of the glorious days of Bandel & Hooghly.


Necessary Information:

Getting There: Bandel is well connected from both Howrah (39km, Rs19) & Sealdah (46km, Rs21).

Getting Around: Cycle Rickshaws are the only option. Rickshaws charge Rs100 for the trip. Do bargain hard.

Places to eat: There are basic eateries near the Church & Station.

Note: Rates are as on July 2011.

  1. indrani
    September 11, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    Marking these places if I get to visit Kolkata again.
    Great shots!

    • October 4, 2013 at 2:07 PM

      Thanks Indrani, do visit Kolkata again.

  2. September 11, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Reblogged this on Anil Cm's another Blog.

  3. October 4, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    Thanks Anil for the reblog.

  4. October 28, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    I asked one of my Portuguese friends if she knows anything about the word Bandel. She said she cannot remember any word like that. Do you have any article or reference for that word please? I am fascinated how foreign words get incorporated into other language and the they becomes a part of it.

  5. October 28, 2013 at 9:53 PM

    Thanks Soma for the comment. Bandel probably means mast of a ship in Portuguese. Bandel Church still contains a mast of Portuguese ship.

    • October 28, 2013 at 9:58 PM

      I have read that in your post but couldn’t find any reference online for that word. Where did you find the information? I write a food blog and would like to write an article on Bandel cheese and would love to use the information if I can get a reference. Thanks!

      • October 28, 2013 at 10:41 PM

        Dear Soma, the reference is from a bengli book titled “Hugli Jelar Purakorti” by Narendranath Bhattacharya and Published by West Bengal State Archeology. Its a quiet authentic source.

        Regarding Bandel Cheese I have already written an article in my blog, probably you have seen it but still sharing the link https://rangandatta.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/bandel-cheese-the-taste-of-portugal-in-bengal/

      • October 28, 2013 at 11:52 PM

        Thanks Rangan da. Yes, I have read the Bandel Cheese post and was very happy to see it actually. Mine will be very food-y post as I write almost a food history blog. Thanks for the reference. I’ll use it too.

  6. Gaurav Ghosh
    January 18, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    Hey Rangan, I really like your blog. I am palnning to visit Bishnupur after reading your blog.

    I had the opportunity to visit Bandel in Feb 2013.
    I would like to add that the Bandel Church is a “Basilica” under a decree on November 25th, 1988 when Pope John Paul II had visited India.

    I happen to be a probashi settled in Maharashtra. Would love to have more places to visit around Kolkata.


  7. February 14, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    Thanks Gaurav for the comment, I have replied your comment in the Bishnupur post. Hope its not to late.

    Yes Bandel Church is a Basilica but not sure if Pope John Paul II visited Bandel Church. Also Pope visited India in 1986 not 1988.

  8. April 29, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    The word ‘Bandel’ is a corrupted form of the word ‘Bandar’ meaning port. This Portuguese called this place ‘Ugolim’ and they named Goa as ‘ Candolim’. Bandel was a Portuguese colony and was a sister city of the famous port city of Saptagram or Satgaon (Today known as Debanandapur and Adisaptagram). Debanandapur is the birthplace of the eminent bengali author Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.
    I’m live in Hooghly which includes these areas namely Chinsurah, Bandel, Hooghly.

  9. anirban
    January 13, 2015 at 1:25 AM

    auto rikshaw is also available now to reach church & imambara … take only rs.10 per person … everyone must visit … awesome place … !!

  10. Shafi Alam
    July 12, 2015 at 2:19 PM

    I was grown and brought up near Hoogly Imambara,also I
    studied in Abbot Shishu Hall which is infront of the main entrance oh Imambara,I have seen it for more than 20 years

    • July 13, 2015 at 10:57 PM

      Thanks Shafi, for sharing your childhood experience.

  11. subh
    July 21, 2015 at 1:49 AM

    Hello! Thanks for the post! I am planning to visit it. Do you have any idea whether there are any timing restrictions for visiting the church on Saturday or Sunday.

    • August 18, 2015 at 9:44 PM

      Dear Subh the Bandel Church is open all days from dawn to dusk, not sure of the exact opening and closing hours.

  12. Supriyo Chakraborty
    August 18, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    Hey Rangan, after reading your blog about bandel church.. I’d like to visit the holy church. But in your blog you have said the cycle rickshaw fare is rupees 100.. But in this comment Mr. Anirban has said it is 10 rupees per head.. Is it a typing mistake,Mr. Rangan? Please clear the matter!!

    • August 18, 2015 at 9:43 PM

      Dear Supriyo, we booked a rickshaw for the from the station to Bandel Church and Hooghly Imambara and then back to the station, it was Rs100 (including waiting charges) three years ago.

      Anirban mentioned about auto rickshaw and the fare was from station to Bandel Church only and didn’t include waiting charges.

  13. mono_low_caste black_vishnu
    February 10, 2016 at 3:57 PM

    went to visit these places..

  14. February 26, 2016 at 12:31 PM

    Thanks for sharing a nice info on the church!!!

  15. kishankumarbahety
    December 10, 2016 at 9:57 AM

    Can you let me know which route is better howrah or sealdah if i plan by road .

    • June 4, 2018 at 11:12 AM

      Howrah is better as there are direct trains. For Sealdah who have to change trains at Naihati.

  16. December 14, 2016 at 1:41 AM

    Excellent documentation with images .Thank you very much, Rangan.

    • June 4, 2018 at 11:12 AM

      Thanks Amal da, your comments are always a source of inspiration

  17. April 10, 2017 at 12:11 PM

    HEY Rangan,

    great article about bandel church I was planning to visit Kolkata soon I would like to visit bandel and do check out the places that you have mentioned.
    great article great information kudos to you sir.


    • June 4, 2018 at 11:13 AM

      Thanks Ankur, do visit Bandel and do share your experience

  18. Ahona Banerjee
    May 10, 2018 at 6:42 PM

    Can you please name a few eateries in Bandel? And nice places to stay?

    • June 4, 2018 at 11:14 AM

      Apart from few sweet shops, there are hardly any eateries. Do carry dry fruits like biscuits and cakes.

  1. November 24, 2022 at 1:32 AM

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