Our Saturday in Bangalore included St. Mary's Festival and a shopping trip to Commercial Street.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Saturday in Bangalore
St. Mary’s Festival is a 10-day celebration of Mary’s birthday. Mass is held multiple times a day for the 9 days leading up to her day of birth (September 8th). On the 10th day there is a chariot procession and a feast. The festival is not only attended by Christians; Hindus, Muslims, and other religious groups attend as well because Mary is Holy Mother of Good Health.
We left Visthar at 5:45a to get to St. Mary’s Basilica. We piled into a coach bus that sits 20 despite our count of 24 people. As we made our way into Bangalore I was struck by how I couldn’t tell it was 6:00a. Though the streets weren’t crowded, they also were far from empty. Many people had already started their day’s work—preparing newspapers, sorting garbage, sweeping streets. Back home at 6:00a, there isn’t much to see, maybe some walkers and a few cars. Traffic picked up as we drew closer to our destination. The bus pulled over and we filed off onto a street filled with people in saffron colored clothing—a symbol of renunciation. Loudspeakers blared Catholic hymns sung in languages unfamiliar to me. We made our way to the basilica as one single file line of non-Indian people attracting curious stares while dodging and weaving through the buses, motorcycles, pedestrians, rickshaws, beggars, and unidentified substances on the cement. We arrived at the building that held the statue of Mary. It was a long rectangular building with the shrine at the far end. The line moved slowly, though saying there was a line is misleading—it was a mob. I couldn’t stand without touching at least two other people, which was concerning because most people were holding candles. Within fifteen minutes, I made it to the glass-encased shrine featuring a statue of Mary covered in flowers. I’m sure there was more to it, but not being Catholic or having any idea what was going on I just gave it a glance and walked on. Then we made our way into the basilica for a half hour mass. Again, it was packed—standing room only. The space seemed to be heavily influenced by Western churches—stained glass windows, an alter, ornate statues—however, there were strings of lights that hung from the ceiling that gave it a sort of Indian twist. Mass was being held back to back to back in seven different languages (Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Konkani, Hindi, and English). The service I attended was in Tamil. There was scripture, call-and-response, hymns, and prayer. I recognized the tune of hymn or two, but was otherwise without a clue. We stopped for coffee and browsed a vegetable market before loading up the bus and heading back to Visthar.
After lunch, we loaded up the bus again and went into Bangalore for our first shopping experience. I was not looking forward to battling traffic and beggars and shopkeepers after the long morning, but I put on big girl pants and off I went. When we got to Commercial Street we were taken to a money exchange to get rupees. We then broke off into small groups to more easily navigate and shop in the neighborhood.
To my surprise, the main street we were on had fixed prices, therefore, no bargaining (though it’s always an option). Although, now that I’ve been shopping and I’ve interacted with shopkeepers, I know that I could handle it.
Overall, the shopping trip was successful. We went into a store Martin recommended called Fab India where we each bought two or three items. I purchased a long shirt and two pairs of pants. I was going to upload a picture, but it takes twenty minutes... When we were finished shopping and couldn't bear to go into any more shops we went to a restaurant and ordered mango lassis before heading back to Visthar.
It’s been a long day with a lot of new experiences. I'm very much looking to a relaxed Sunday.
Here's a picture of Commercial Street: