Walking from MG road to Commercial Street is like walking from 2019 to early 90s. The glittering branded stores suddenly give way to a thickly populated bazaar that reminds us of a bygone era when I used to go to school in a small provincial town where nobody had even heard of Levis. The narrow street was hard to negotiate and it reminded me of Old Delhi in peak hours but suddenly I saw a looming tower on the horizon.
This is not the first time I am having a longish stint in Bangalore. However, just like on previous occassions, I had not bothered to explore it much. The Dilli-snob in me generally finds this city montonous (everyone seems to be working in IT). The traffic, and the perennially under-construction metro also makes it worse. Nevrtheless, a few weeks ago, I was in a desperate situation. I had not travelled for a while and simply had to go out of my room. I asked Sukanya of Red Wings Trails, who generally conducts all-women tours accross the country, but has been living in Bangalore for many years. She suggested that we take a quick walk towards the Commercial Street.
So, one Sunday afternoon we just started we walking of small congested marketplace teeming with people, rickshaws, and cattle. But if you look closer, you will find many shops selling antiques, crockery, ceramics, apparels, and much more. I am sure it will have many options for shoppers but we had no plans for the same. So, we kept going ahead towards that looming tower. A few times we brushed against people, cowes, and rickshaws and one several occassions had to pause for the commotion to clear. The classical chaos of the Indian cities, often exoticized by foreign travellers and abhored by locals, was on full display.
After around 40 minutes of walk, we finally reached the tower of the St. Mary’s Basilica, one of the oldest churches in Bangalore from an era when it was not even a city. As far as I could figure out, the original church dates back to early 1700s and was established by some Christian settlers from Gingee, Tamil Nadu. Gingee is otherwise knwon for its fort, which was once occpied by the Marathas.
Nevertheless, the current building seemed pretty new as the church has gone trhough several renovations over the years. The impressive tower is 160 feet high and the interiors also looked impressive with colourful stained glass windows although I did not go inside as a mass was going on. Many online sources mention that this Gothic design was conceptioalized by a French architect but somehow none of them mention the name!
Nevertheless, the more interesting aspect of the church is in the nearby building on the left, which houses a statue of saree-clad Mother Mary holding the child Jesus. Everyone gets Indianized in India! In fact, this staue seemed to attract more devotees than the rest of the church. An yearly feast is organized every September in her honour.
We spent around an hour at the compund and returned towards MG Road, which was another long walk. The next plan was to hunt for street art around MG Road, but that is another story.