The Lourdes of the East
|State||: Tamil Nadu|
|Type of Tourism||: Pilgrimage|
|Area||: 5.5 sq km|
|Population||: 10,144 (As per Indian census- 2001)|
|Altitude||: 87.78 meters|
|Best Tourist Season||: Through Out the Year|
|Telephone Code||: India (04365), International (+91)|
|Pin Codes||: 611111|
|Clothing recommended||: Light Cotton in Summer, Woolen in Winter|
|Languages spoken||: Tamil and English|
|What To Buy||: Images and Figurines of Mother Mary & Jesus Christ, Long Colorful Candles, Rosaries & other Religious Items, Marine Products, Cosmetics, Hand Looms, Silk Saris and Handicrafts.|
|Food Specialties||: Idly, Dosa, Uttappam, Aval, Rice, Wada, Sambhar, rasam, Upma, Pongal, Kootu, Koozh, Aviyal, Puttu, Milagai Podi, Coconut Chutney, Sevai, Parotta, other South Indian items, Chapathi, Puris, Banana, Yam or Potato Chips, etc.|
|Local Transportation||: Auto Rickshaws, Cabs|
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.
History Of Velankanni
Prevailing as a blooming mercantile harbor during the ancient eras and engaged in business relations with Rome and Greece, Velankanni gradually lost its commercial importance to the burgeoning sea port of Nagapattinam and came into limelight on the international frontage as a sacred Christian pilgrim destination. The Basilica of Velankanni dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health dates back to mid 16th century AD when it was established subsequent to three miraculous phenomenons. They being; (1) the apparition of Mother Mary and Baby Jesus to a shepherd boy, (2) the healing of a lame buttermilk seller and (3) the survival of Portuguese sailors in a violent sea storm. The Church of Blessed Virgin Mary was erected at Velankanni by the Portuguese sailors in 16th century AD as a sign of their gratitude who were saved in the tempest by the grace of Mother Mary. With the growing fame of Velankanni Church and the increasing influx of the pilgrims this tabernacle underwent several modifications, renovations and expansions over the years. In September 1771 AD, Vailankanni was made an independent Parish. The Shrine of Mother Mary was extensively revamped in 1920 and 1933 AD. The Church was anointed to the rank of ‘Basilica’ by His Holiness Pope John the XXIII on November 3, 1962. The Basilica was expanded and opened to public in the year 1975 and in 1985 the little chapel at Our Lady’s Tank was built and consecrated.