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Velankanni, also spelt as ‘Vailankanni’ or ‘Velanganni’ meaning ‘the Virgin of Velai’, is a humble panchayat town of the Nagapattinam District that is positioned along the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal approximately 12 kilometers to the south of Nagapattinam. Formerly flourishing as a thriving sea port and a booming commercial centre trading with remote foreign countries like Greece and Rome, this tiny hamlet of Tamil Nadu has now attained worldwide recognition as a preeminent catholic pilgrimage destination and one of the most frequented Christian religious sites of the Indian Subcontinent. Velankanni is the home to a mid 16th century Roman Catholic Shrine; the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health.
This church dedicated to the Blessed Mother Mary worshipped here as ‘Our lady of Good Health’ functions as a parish under the ‘Tanjore Roman Catholic Diocese’. The Virgin Mary enshrined in the Velankanni Church is believed to possess miraculous healing powers and a pilgrimage to Velankanni cures the devotees of their various physical ailments. Since similar to the ‘Lourdes in France’ thousands of Christian devotees throng the Church of Velankanni all round the year, this Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health is reckoned by the sobriquet; the ‘Lourdes of the East’. Not only that, in 1962 AD Pope John the XXIII from the Vatican City affirmed ‘Velankanni’ as a sacred Christian conurbation and raised it to the status of a Basilica.
Devotees offer the wax replicas of the diseased body part at the feet of Mother Mary and seek her blessings which heal them of their affliction. The Velankanni Town is cram packed with jillions of devotees particularly on the occasion of its annual ‘Arokkaiyamatha Festival’ i.e. ‘The Feast of Our Lady’ celebrated for ten days from 29th August to 8th September. Apart from its immense religious magnitude, the enchanting beach of Velankanni endowed with infinite natural allure also contributes in its ever accelerating tourism acclaim. Velankanni was one of the most affected areas during the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004.