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Miracles in Velankanni.

In spite it was a breezy night, the sea was pretty good and calm. The Portugal ship was sailing towards Columbia from the shore of Calcutta through the Bay of Bengal. When ship reached the east of latitude 79 degree and 51 minutes the captain Augustinos came out of his cabin and passed his eyes through the extend to the sky. He saw a shining star far away. He asked his co-sailor to stop the engine and then he ahead to the prayer hall in the ship and was followed by others.
The ship was passing in front of Velankanni shrine. Being a part of mere practice this prayer was followed by everyone, no matter they had believe in it or not. It is said that this prayer rescued the Portuguese sailors from a tempest that occurred a centuries back.


The shrine is built apart on the sandy shores of Bay of Bengal where sea and river joins. It is India’s most sacred pilgrimage of Mother Mary situated at Tamil Nadu on the bank of river Velliyar, which is a minor branch of Cauvery River. It lies on the beautiful Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. The Roman Catholic Latin Rite Basilica is devoted to the Lady of Good Health and is country’s one of the biggest Catholic pilgrimage center.


Historical evidences about the church are not available and oral tradition is the only source. It is believed that the church was built in 1570. The church has gained popularity after the Holy Mary appeared for a Hindu boy from Mathakkulam in Annapilla Street, one kilometer away from the Basilica church. Years after Hail Mary had again appeared for another boy who was handicapped. After this incident the boy had recovered from his disability. It is built in the Gothic style, was modified by Portuguese and then further expanded later on due to the influx of pilgrims.
The church building was raised to the status of basilica in 1962 by His Holiness Pope John XXIII. Other miracles are the apparition of Mary and Jesus that leads to the curing of a lame buttermilk vendor and the survival of Portuguese sailors assaulted by a violent sea storm. There is no much evidence about the visit of Vasco Da Gama at Velankanni but in the year 1501 a Portuguese man Alvere Kombral, the follower of Gama, has appointed eight Franciscans missionaries at Velankanni.
During Portuguese rule major construction work were not happened in the church. The shrine that started as a thatched chapel in the mid-sixteenth century became a Parish church in 1771 when Catholics in India were under persecution from the Dutch. . Later in 1962 it was granted a special status of a Minor Basilica by Pope John XIII.


The early part of the 20th century marked rivalry between Jesuits and Franciscans regarding their influence on missionary work in Velankanni. In 1928, the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was demolished and the statues were brought to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Health. In 1933 the Shrine was expanded with two new things, to the right and to the left of the ‘Main Altar’, meeting the naïve at right angles. A spacious vestry was provided immediately behind the altar.
In 1956, a new welcome arch was blessed and opened by Bishop Sundaram. The illuminated arch stood to show the way to eager pilgrims who sought the protection of Mary. In January 1961, a new central altrar, executed in white marble, replaced the former one made of cement concrete. In 1974-75, an extension of the basilica was built behind the existing central altar to accommodate the multilingual pilgrims. The extension included a two-storied church with 93 feet (28 m) high dome and 82 feet (25 m) high gothic spirals. It was designed to resemble the Basilica in Lourdes, France.

Features and Pilgrimage

The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health erected by the Portuguese and the Indians stands at this site. The iconic depiction of the Mary is unique in that it is one of two only icons where Mary is portrayed wearing an Indian Sari. It is about 3 feet high in a yellow sari wearing ornaments. There are about 500 statues of Mary around the Church.
For Goan and Konkani people, she is called “Shantadurga”. This especially includes use of Kotimaram, which has been described as an extended influence of Hinduism on Catholicism, thus making the Basilica a meeting point of two of the major religions of the world. The portrayal of the Virgin Mary as a curer of illness and a victor over all demonic forces is seen by local Hindus as an attribute equivalent to the Hindu goddess Mariamman.
Being a Roman Catholic Marian church, it is dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health. Mary is depicted wearing a sari. The usual time for pilgrimage is during the annual festival between August 29 to September 6 and Christmas. Some pilgrims, instead of using a mode of transport, perform “walking pilgrimages” to it. They attend mass, novenas, flag-hoisting and carry a Palkhi of Mary in a procession.
A major event is the procession, where only women are allowed to pull the first car and a statue of Mary is in the last and most decorated one. People of other religions also take part. The pilgrims sometimes shave their heads as an offering and perform ear-piercing ceremonies, both being Hindu traditions. Another ritual considered sacred is dipping oneself in the pond. There is a holy flag which is lowered to signal the end of the festival.

Feast Day

September 8 is commemorated as the feast of Our Lady of Good Health. The celebration starts on 29th of August and ends on the day of the feast. Every year on 29th August, the feast festival gets started with a flag hoisting ceremony at the church by evening 6 pm followed by the procession of Our Lady of Health. Due to the number of pilgrim visits during festival season, the Indian Railways introduced special train and bus services to the town of Velankanni.
Before becoming a big town, the pilgrims were given shelter near to the Church. Later this shelter facility was extended due to the rapid increase in the number of pilgrims. Now, the Church has 13 buildings offering free shelter for 1620 pilgrims. Apart from halls and dormitories, rooms on daily rent are also available. For this, 24 hours working Facilitation centers are situated near the bus-stand. Other lodges are also available. The church canteen provide free food for the pilgrims will be open from 6 am to 10 pm. Food is cheap and is available in small “eating houses” and food stalls on the main road. This church has become one of the most visited religious places in India.

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