Nestled among the hills and trees of Bandra West, Mumbai, there is a beautiful church. Outside the main gates vendors sell neon candles in a variety of shapes, rosaries, prayer cards, charms, bracelets, a variety of small prayer items, everything you could imagine, really. The colors are vibrant and the atmosphere is quiet and peaceful.
There is a sign hanging on the wall near the side entrance (which everyone uses) that requests that everyone keep their shoes on.
Traditionally one takes off their shoes before entering a Hindu temple or a Muslim mosque, but not so a Catholic church. Still the practice of removing ones shoes is so common in India that people tend to do it anyway.
Inside the church, Mary and baby Jesus are dressed in beautiful sequined cloth. A pink chandelier graces the ceiling and the Stages of the Cross are painted large in bright colors on the walls of the interior. No candles are lit inside, but can be offered at the foot of the alter.
Across the street there is an arched double staircase on top of which there is a small shrine and a place where candles can be lit and prayers offered.
Having grown up in the U.S., it’s fascinating to see how Catholicism looks in this particular part of South Asia. Much is familiar, but much has a distinctly “Indian” feel. I’m looking forward to checking out more churches when I head South next month!