|Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health||Situated at Velankanni in the Nagapattinam District of Tamil Nadu|
|The Velankanni Church Museum||To be found right opposite the Shrine Basilica within the premises of the Arogya Matha Church|
|The Old Church||Sited in the proximity with the water tank of Our Lady|
|Velankanni Beach||Located very close to the Velankanni Church|
|Nagapattinam||Cuddled up along the coastline of the Bay of Bengal at the approximate distance of 350 kilometers to the south of Chennai|
|Vellayar Beach||Sited on the banks of the river Vellayar|
Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health
The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health situated at Velankanni in the Nagapattinam District of Tamil Nadu is a 16th century Roman Catholic Church dedicated to Mother Mary, also known here as ‘Sacred Arogya Matha’ and ‘Our Lady of Velankanni’. Established by a troop of Portuguese Sailors who were mysteriously rescued from a furious sea tornado by the grace of Our Lady, this Basilica of Velankanni owes its genesis to three miraculous events i.e. the apparition of Mother Mary and Infant Jesus to a sleeping shepherd boy, the healing of a disabled buttermilk vendor and the salvation of some Portuguese sailors from a fierce sea storm.
Also reckoned as the ‘Lourdes of the East’ and deemed amongst the most visited religious destinations of India, the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health receives over 2 million pilgrims every year. Since its inception till today, the structure of Velankanni Basilica has undergone several renovations and expansions. Designed in the gothic style of architectonics the towering edifice of this Shrine Basilica painted in sparkling white and crowned by tiled red roof accommodates three chapels, the Tank of Our Lady, the Church Museum, Stations of the Cross & Rosary, Offering Center, Priests’ Residence and the Shrine Mega Mahal within its premises.
The structure looks exceptionally magnificent when illuminated with thousands of electric lights particularly on the festive occasions. The idol of the Virgin Mary enshrined in the Basilica portrays Mother Mary wearing the traditional Indian sari with a royal crown covering her head. She is seen holding a monarchial scepter in her right hand and Baby Jesus in her left hand. It is believed that a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health heals you of your diseases. The ailing pays homage at the feet of Arogya Matha and offers her a wax replica of the diseased body part.
The Shrine Basilica of Velankanni celebrates its annual ‘Arokkaiyamatha Festival’ i.e. ‘The Feast of Our Lady’ for ten days from 29th August to 8th September when millions of devotees throng the Basilica premises. The festival is concluded with the celebration of the ‘Feast of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary’. The Velankanni Shrine was raised to the status of Basilica on 3rd November 1962 by Pope. The Basilica is going to celebrate its Golden Jubilee on 3rd November 2012 in a grand manner. A Tamil movie named ‘Annai Velankanni’ depicts the story and miracles of Mother Mary of Velankanni.
The Velankanni Church Museum
The Velankanni Church Museum to be found right opposite the Shrine Basilica within the premises of the Arogya Matha Church is a treasure repository where the priceless offerings made by the devotees to Our Lady of Good Health are stored and displayed. The wide-range of exhibits showcased in this museum include hands, legs, eyes, hearts, other body parts and stethoscopes made of silver and gold, miniature gold and silver cows, cars and crosses, a replica of the Velankanni Basilica made of coins, and many other precious articles. All the exhibits are neatly preserved in glass show cases and from time to time their positions are also changed.
Furthermore, the museum also houses four large portfolios which contain countless letters of gratitude written by the devotees to the Blessed Mother Mary, reports and declarations of the devotees indicating how they were obliged by the benediction of Virgin Mary. A shelf inside the museum holds hollow pieces of wood which are believed to have floated to Velankanni from different parts of the world. People sent offerings and messages to the Mother in those pieces of wood and as per the prevailing conviction a message sent to the Arogya Matha of Velankanni from any part of the globe invariably reaches the shores of Velankanni.
The museum also showcases several distinctive coconuts which are supposed to have been offered to Mother Mary all the way from Fiji through ocean. The Velankanni Church Museum is an eloquent specimen of how Our Lady showers bountiful blessings on her devotees and it also illustrates the gratefulness of the devotees towards the Velankanni Amman. The upper floor of the Velankanni Church Museum houses a book stall named ‘Annai Book Centre’ where innumerable religious and other books are available. The interior walls of the Church Museum delineate different biblical incidents. This museum is kept open for public visits from 6:30 am to 8:00 pm.
The Old Church
The Old Velankanni Church believed to be established by the Portuguese Sailors who were saved from the violent tempest is sited in the proximity with the water tank of Our Lady. This lotus shaped water tank also reckoned as the ‘Ladies Tank’ denotes the exact venue where the apparition of Mother Mary and Baby Jesus had appeared before a slumbering shepherd boy. This small tabernacle also enshrining the icon of Our Lady of Good Health displays an image of Mother Mary accepting the milk or yoghurt pot from the shepherd boy.
A tour to Velankanni can never be considered complete without paying a visit to the Scared Velankanni Beach and soaking your feet in the holy waters of the Bay of Bengal blessed by the Mother Mary of Good Health. The Beach of Velankanni accessible through a narrow lane fringed by variety of shops on both the sides is always cram packed with devotees taking a solemn dip into the sea waters and the tourists taking a leisurely stroll along the coastline. This sandy seaside of the Bay of Bengal cradling the divine town Velankanni on its northern banks once flourished as a boomy sea port trading with Greece and Roam. The Beach of Velankanni is supposed to be the very shore where the group of Portuguese Sailors landed after being saved from the wild typhoon.
Additionally, the hollow wooden pieces and coconuts displayed in the Velankanni Church Museum are believed to have arrived at Velankanni Beach from far away corners of the globe drifting with the tides of the sea. The devotees hold a faith that the message sent to Mother Velankanni Amman from any sea shore of the world reaches the Velankanni Beach without fail. The Velankanni Beach is crowded by scores of shops and street hawkers selling devotional music CDs, rosaries, candles, images of Mother Velankanni & Jesus Christ and other religious items. Due to the ever increasing influx of devotees, the surroundings of the Velankanni Beach are now getting dirtier and they need to be cleaned as soon as possible.
However, the soft and creamy swirls of the sea and the stretches of the velvety golden sand beckon jillions of visitors to this coastal strand of Velankanni. The beach gets even more attractive on the full moon nights. The port of Nagapattinam is located about 14 kilometers from the Velankanni Beach and the distant ships of Nagapattinam are easily visible from here. Tourists can indulge in shopping at the Velankanni Beach and also relish the mouth watering tastes of crab fry, prawn fry and other delectable sea food here. The Velankanni Beach remains populated till past midnight, and if you are looking for a peaceful stroll visit the beach only after 9:00 pm. The Beach of Velankanni was seriously devastated in December 2004 due to the ravaging Tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
Nagapattinam, cuddled up along the coastline of the Bay of Bengal at the approximate distance of 350 kilometers to the south of Chennai and reckoned far and wide for its proximity with the world famous Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health of Velankanni is an important trade centre and a thriving commercial seaport reposed on the eastern seaboard of the Indian Peninsula. Also functioning as the governmental headquarters of the Nagapattinam District in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the town of Nagapattinam boasts of its elongated and illustrious history. Dating back to the Sangam period, the present day Nagapattinam grew as a prospering seaport under the domination of Portuguese, Dutch and British East India Companies.
The economy of Nagapattinam is primarily supported by the sea-borne trade and fishing, however the tourism industry also contributes equally in the income of the town. Nagapattinam is laden with a number of pilgrimage sites and tourist destinations, the most prominent being; the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health, Sikkal Singaravelan Temple, Thiru Soundararaja Perumal Temple, Thiru Kayarohana Udanurai Neelayadakshi Amman Temple, Nellukadai Mariamman Temple, Sri Raagavendra Madalayam, Adhibaktha Nayanar, the Nagore Dargah, Puhar, Tarangam Padi Fort, and so on. The Nagapattinam Town was ruthlessly damaged in December 2004 by the Indian Ocean Tsunami.
Vellayar; a small tributary of the Cauvery River running towards the south of the Velankanni Town eventually meets the Bay of Bengal close to Velankanni. The Vellayar Beach sited on the banks of the river Vellayar is one of the most sought after tourist attractions located in the vicinity of the Shrine Basilica of Virgin Mary.