Velankanni Festival is celebrated annually from 29th August to 8th September at the renowned Roman Catholic shrine dedicated to Our lady of Good Health. This Virgin Mary Church is the ‘Courdes of the East’ or also popularly known as ‘Sacred Arockia Madha Church’ is believed to have miraculous power of healing.
Our Lady of Vailankanni church is located in the small town of Vailankanni in Tamil Nadu located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal 350 km south of Chennai and 12 km south of Nagapattinam on the Coromandel Coast.
“Our lady of Good Health” shrine is one of the most visited pilgrim centres in India. It is believed that one is cured of any sickness when one who offers prayers with a true faith. This shrine draws pilgrims from all over the world where not only Christians but also the people of other faiths come to this church to pray.
The history of this holy shrine dates back to the 16th century. There are mainly there legends associated with this church. The first of the apparitions in Vailankanni occurred sometime during the sixteenth century. Our Lady with her infant son first appeared to a Hindu boy who was selling milk.
When the boy was resting under a tree near a pond, a woman appeared to him and requested milk for her son. The boy readily agreed. On reaching his customers place he recited the incident and apologised for less milk but on inspection the man found that the milk pot was full. On reaching the spot with boy the woman reappeared and on learning that it was Mary with her son, Catholic community became elated and the tank where the apparition took place came to be called as the “Matha Kulam” or Our Lady’s tank.
The second incident occurred when Our Lady appeared in front of a lame boy who was selling buttermilk and asked him for buttermilk. When the boy complied she asked the boy to give a message with a certain wealthy Catholic man in the nearby town of Nagapattinam of her appearance. The crippled leg of the boy was miraculously cured by Our Lady and he ran to give the message to the man. When the man came with the boy Our Lady appeared to both. The man erected a thatched chapel for Our Lady at the site of her second appearance.
The third event is when Mother rescued a few Portuguese merchant sailors from a violent storm, which wrecked their ship. When the merchants reached the shore of Velankanni local fishermen took them to the thatched chapel. The sailors as a mark of their tribute built a permanent chapel and dedicated the chapel to Our Lady on September 8th to celebrate the feast of her nativity.
Velankanni festivals celebration
The celebrations, which begin on August 29, attract thousands of pilgrims each seeking good health and wellbeing. This festival is celebrated with great pomp and gaiety. The entire town is illuminated with lamps. The flag of our lady is hoisted every day during these nine days of the novena the feast. Another important event during the festivities is the car procession that takes place at 8 pm every day. Every day after the car procession cultural are held in an open auditorium near the shrine.