Visit The Afghan Church in Colaba: The Church That is a War Memorial (2023)
The Afghan Church holds religious and contemporary historical importance in Mumbai. The Church is centuries old. It is one of the few churches that have an architecture and props that are a hark back to the British Era. The British started building this Church in Colaba, Suth Mumbai sometime in 1847, and it was around the year 1865 when the work was completed.
The Afghan Church History
The actual name of Afghan Church is Church of St John the Evangelist, and there’s history as to how the Church got its present name. The British built this Church to commemorate the dead during the Afghan War of 1842 when they had to retreat from Kabul.
The architecture of the Afghan Church in Colaba captures your imagination. The arches, the spire, and especially the stained-glass windows are a visual delight.
The Afghan Church Experience
The exterior of the Afghan Church is imposing as well and gives an idea of the architecture ideas more than 200 years ago. Gothic designs inspire architecture. All around, you will see inscriptions and carvings that tell you about Christianity and the soldier’s sacrifice. The Church is unique, as it is one of the few that has a dark color on the inside of the dome. Most other Churches have a white dome or even some intricate carvings all over.
Churches are generally great places to get some calm and peace, and the Afghan Church does the job very well. In most cases, the Caretakers of the Church do not disturb you and do not even tell you to move from your seat, unless there is a Holy Mass about to take place.
Another unique aspect of the Afghan Church is the pews. Traditionally, Churches have long benches on which the devotees sit. However, Afghan Church has chairs that have a very quintessential Southern India look.
When you are visiting the Afghan Church, or any other Church, you need to keep some aspects in mind. One, there will be a caretaker and if you do not know what to do and what not, ask the caretaker. Catholic places of worship are a bit lenient when it comes to video and mobile photography, but you want to be sure, you can always ask them., Also, dress conservatively. Some Parish Priests are quite particular about what the devotees wear, whether male or female.
There are few Churches in Mumbai that give you such a surreal experience, like the Bandra Church and the I C Colony Church. There is a Church in Bhayander as well.
Like all Churches, there are times that the Holy Mass takes place. But if you do not want to attend Mass, you can still visit the Church in the afternoons or mornings to spend some time with yourself.
A typical Catholic Mass is around forty-five minutes. So, if you are attending Mass and want to explore the place, you might spend around an hour and a half at the Church. Otherwise, it is a half-hour experience for you.
Places To Visit Near Afghan Church
The Afghan Church is in Colaba, one of the poshest locations in Mumbai. So, after your Afghan Church sojourn, you have several places that you can visit in and around Colaba.
Colaba has Colaba Causeway, an alive, searing slice of the Mumbai life that you can access any time of the day. You can buy accessories, trinkets, clothes, etc. at cheap rates, provided you know how to bargain.
You also have Mani Bhavan, one of the few places where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during his time. Mani Bhavan is today a museum that tells you about the life and times of the Mahatma through several books, a statue, and several photographs of the Mahatma, from his birth until death.
You can also spend an hour or so at the Back Bay, the original Chowpatty of Mumbai. The beach is clean, hygienic, and allows you to take a stroll. This beach is also the one where the Ganesh Idol immersion takes place. And of course, because it is Mumbai, you will see a lot of commercial activity in and around Chowpatty, so be ready to taste some of Mumbai’s famous finger food, candies, etc.
Colaba is such a serene and silent place that you will have a great experience just walking through the streets. Traditionally, the town side of Mumbai is calmer and peaceful, as compared to the suburbs. Colaba is also home to one of the iconic locations, the Regal Cinema. Watching a movie here is an experience like none other. It is not that the seats are different, or the ambiance is now – it is just a piece of the Bombay life that still exists.
If you are looking for some more time to spend, you can visit Churchgate and spend the evening at the Gateway of India or have dinner at some of the iconic restaurants in and around Churchgate.
Some of the other places that you check out on your way are Kala Ghoda, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangralaya, and others.
How to Reach Afghan Church
Afghan Church is in Colaba, and it is easy to reach the place. You can travel by bus, train, or hire a cab. Colaba is near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. So, you should first board a train to CST, and you can then board a bus or take a cab to Colaba. You can also board a bus from wherever you are in Mumbai, but that will be a longer route, and you might also experience traffic at strategic locations. Alternatively, you can hire a cab from one of the many cab aggregators that are now available in Mumbai.