Christmas in Ranwar: The History of Crosses & Its Connection to a Deadly Plague

Here's how Christmas was celebrated in the lanes of Bandra's Ranwar village this year.

1 min read

Over the years, Ranwar village, a Portuguese hamlet in Bandra, has become the hotspot for both Mumbaikars and tourists during Christmas for its eye-catching decorations. Amidst the quaint bungalows lined up along Veronica Street, crosses are a common sight. According to the residents, more than 150 crosses were erected in every second corner of the Catholic village.

But what many don't know is that Ranwar was actually an isolation zone for victims of the deadly and highly contagious bubonic plague that hit the city in 1896, according to the British Medical Journal.

While the plague continued to occur in Bombay (now Mumbai) for the next 15 years, the British government decided to set up the Bombay Improvement Trust (BIT) to create more sanitary living spaces and ease congestion in the city. The first few BIT chawls were built in Dadar and Sion.

On the other hand, nuns and priests in the churches of Bandra were working tirelessly towards treating the diseased. As per locals, the Mount Mary Church even suspended mass a few times to avoid gathering large groups in an enclosed space, fearing that the plague would spread.

Owen Pereira, a local resident, told us, "In order to ward off the plague, several people erected a cross outside their homes and at the entrance of the village. By the grace of God, nothing major happened in this village after that."

"These are blessings. Even during COVID-19, only one person passed in the village; people did get sick, but they came out of the illness very quickly," he added.

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