40 Kms from Calcutta on the banks of River Hoogly, lies Bandel with the oldest church four centuries old, which is a pilgrimage center for the worshipers of Mother Mary. Well connected by rail and road, its serene, calm and quiet atmosphere make this an attractive place to visit. The Ecclesiastical province of Calcutta comprises practically the old Indian province of Bengal, where the Catholic Faith was introduced very early. About the middle of the 16th century Portuguese merchants were trading with the ports of Bengal. But they did not stay in the country; their ships came to Bengal with the monsoon at the end of May, and went back to Cochin in October. About 1571 they obtained very important concessions from Akbar, the great Mogul emperor then residing in Agra: they were allowed to build a town in Hugli, to erect churches, send for priests and baptize the natives who might wish to become Christians. Portuguese merchants and settlers soon flocked to Hugli, many natives became christians, so that in 1598 the number of Catholics in Hugli was five thousand, of Portuguese, native, or mixed origin. It is a lovely spot nestling on the banks of the Hoogly river. Bandel Church, the oldest place of Christian worship in Bengal is easily approachable by rail and road. Frequent suburban local trains from Howrah Station to Bandel take just over one hour to cover the distance. By road the trip can be done in about two hours.
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