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Velankanni, a picturesque town located in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, is home to a beautiful church situated on the Bay of Bengal’s shores. It is most renowned for the Basilica dedicated to the “Lady of Health,” a holy site that draws pilgrims from around the world and across various religious faiths. This religious center has a broad appeal, attracting Hindus, Muslims, and Christians alike. Velankanni holds the distinction of being declared a holy city by the Pope, and it is affectionately referred to as the “Lourdes of the East.” Additionally, the town features a museum situated opposite the Basilica, which houses a diverse and extensive collection of exhibits.

Velankanni, also known as “Velankanni” or “Velanganni,” derives its name from “Virgin of Velai,” the town, and is situated on the sandy shores of the Bay of Bengal. This quaint village is positioned 350 kilometers to the south of Chennai, the previous name of the capital of Tamil Nadu, a southeastern state in India. Additionally, it is located 12 kilometers south of Nagapattinam, a coastal town on the Bay of Bengal. Early writers and the Portuguese referred to Nagapattinam as “the city of Coramandel,” as documented in the Imperial Gazetteer of India, XIX, 3. The Vellayar river, a minor tributary of the Cauvery River, meanders to the south of the village before flowing into the sea.

It may surprise readers to discover that Velankanni once served as a port, and there is historical evidence supporting this claim. Historical records indicate that the inhabitants of this region engaged in trade with Rome and Greece, two ancient commercial hubs in the Western world.

Over time, Nagapattinam expanded, and Velankanni, once a modest trading center, gradually lost its significance. The canal originally constructed for navigation between Nagapattinam and Vedaranyam still exists to the west of Velankanni. The location of this significant Christian shrine suffered extensive damage during the tsunami that followed the Indian Ocean earthquake on December 26, 2004.

Velankanni Church Mass Timings

Week Days
5.40 am : Morning Prayer in the Main Shrine
6.00 am : Mass in Tamil in the Main Shrine
7.00 am : Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica
8.00 am : Mass in Telugu in the Upper Basilica
9.00 am : Mass in Malayalam in the Lower Basilica
10.00 am : Mass in English in the Lower Basilica
11.00 am : Mass in Hindi in the Upper Basilica
12.00 noon : Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica
6.00 pm : Rosary and Litany in Tamil followed by Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica

All Sundays
7.30 am : Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica (Instead of at 7.00 am during the week)
5.00 am : (Additional) Mass in Tamil for the Parishioners of Valankanni in the Lower Basilica
6.00 pm : Rosary, Novena Prayer, Benediction and Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica

All Saturdays
7.00 am : Mass in Tamil at Our Lady’s Tank Chapel
5.45 am : Car Procession of Our Lady of Health around the Shrine Benediction and Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica

First Friday
6.00 pm : Mass in Tamil Eucharistic Procession around the Shrine Sermon and Benediction from the front view of the Upper Basilica

First Saturday
5.30 pm : Car Procession of Our Lady of Health thought the Beach Road Blessing of the Sick with the Blessed Sacrament Benediction and Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica
9.00 pm : A Three-Hour Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament in the Main Shrine

Second Saturday
9.00 am : A Healing and Fasting Prayer Service from 9 am to 4 pm at Vailankanni Retreat House

Third Saturday
One Hour Intercessory Prayer Service at Our Lady’s Tank Chapel after 7.00 am Mass

Fourth Saturday
6.30 am : Mass in Tamil at Naduththittu Chapel
8.00 pm : Children’s Evangelization Programme in front of the Presbytery

Month of May
Our Lady’s Car Procession around the Shrine on all the days

Velankanni, nestled in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, India, is a quaint town celebrated for the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health—a revered Roman Catholic pilgrimage destination dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This holy place draws a multitude of devotees, both from across India and around the world, with a special influx during the annual September festival.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health stands as a momentous spiritual icon in Velankanni, believed to possess miraculous curative abilities. Within its premises, pilgrims will find an array of chapels, a museum, accommodations, and various amenities to cater to their needs.

Beyond the basilica, Velankanni boasts a picturesque beach where visitors can unwind and relish the scenic vistas. The town exudes a serene and tranquil ambiance, making it an idyllic locale for spiritual retreats and relaxation.

Velankanni enjoys excellent road connectivity to major cities in Tamil Nadu and can be easily accessed by travelers. The nearest airport, Tiruchirappalli International Airport, is approximately 150 kilometers away from Velankanni. Additionally, buses and trains offer convenient transportation links to various parts of Tamil Nadu and neighboring states.

If you plan to embark on a journey to Velankanni, it is advisable to stay informed about the local weather conditions, make accommodation arrangements in advance, and familiarize yourself with any specific guidelines or regulations pertinent to the pilgrimage site.

Velankanni History

The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health in Velankanni has a rich history dating back to the 16th century, with its origins tied to a series of miraculous events associated with the Virgin Mary.

In the mid-16th century, a shepherd boy named Tamil, responsible for tending cattle in the vicinity, had an extraordinary encounter near a pond. He encountered a beautiful woman cradling an infant, and he was compelled to offer her milk for the child. The woman accepted his offering, and Tamil returned home to share his experience with his skeptical family.

The following day, the same woman reappeared near the pond, instructing Tamil to inform a wealthy Catholic resident in the nearby town of Nagapattinam about her apparitions. The boy faithfully followed her instructions and conveyed the message.

Upon hearing about the apparitions, the wealthy man, along with the villagers, visited the site and bore witness to the miraculous appearance of the woman and the infant. This event was believed to be the apparition of the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus, garnering attention and drawing devoted followers.

In time, a modest chapel was constructed at the location where these apparitions had taken place. This humble chapel gradually evolved into the present-day Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health, undergoing multiple expansions and renovations to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims.

The Catholic Church officially recognized the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health and conferred upon it the designation of a minor basilica in 1962. Today, it stands as a prominent pilgrimage destination for both Catholics and individuals of other faiths, who come seeking the blessings and intercession of the Virgin Mary.

Each year, the Basilica celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Good Health, also known as the Velankanni Festival, with great fervor. This celebration attracts millions of devotees from various parts of the country and spans from late August to early September, culminating in a grand feast day on September 8th, commemorating the nativity of the Virgin Mary.

നൂറ്റാണ്ടുകളുടെ പഴക്കമുള്ള വേളാങ്കണ്ണിയിലെ ദേവാലയത്തിന്റെ ചരിത്രത്തെക്കുറിച്ചു തെളിവുകൾ ഏറെയൊന്നുമില്ലെങ്കിലും പല കഥകളും പ്രചരിക്കുന്നുണ്ട്. മാതാവിന്റെ അദ്ഭുതദര്‍ശനവുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെട്ടാണ് ഈ ദേവാലയത്തിന്റെ പിറവി. ഒരു ഹൈന്ദവ ബാലനായിരുന്നു, മാതാവിന്റെ ആദ്യത്തെ ദര്‍ശനം ലഭിച്ചത്. അതിനുശേഷം മോരുവിൽപനക്കാരനായ ഒരു മുടന്തൻ ബാലന് ദർശനം ലഭിക്കുകയും അവൻ ആരോഗ്യവാനാവുകയും ചെയ്തതോടെ മാതാവ്, ആരോഗ്യമാതാ എന്നറിയപ്പെടാൻ തുടങ്ങി.

അന്നാണ് മാതാവിന്റെ അരുളപ്പാട് പ്രകാരം, ആ മോരുവിൽപനക്കാരൻ ബാലന്റെ മുതലാളി ഓല മേഞ്ഞ ഒരു പള്ളി നിർമിച്ചത്. ഈ സംഭവങ്ങൾ നടന്നത് എ.ഡി 1500-1600 കാലത്താണെന്നാണ് പറയപ്പെടുന്നത്. അതിനുശേഷമാണ് ഇന്നു കാണുന്ന ദേവാലയത്തിന്റെ നിർമിതിക്ക് ആധാരമായ സംഭവം നടക്കുന്നത്. പതിനേഴാം നൂറ്റാണ്ടിലാണത്. ബംഗാൾ ഉൾക്കടലിലെ കടൽക്ഷോഭത്തിൽപ്പെട്ട ഒരു കപ്പൽ അദ്ഭുതകരമായി രക്ഷപ്പെടുകയും അവർ തങ്ങളുടെ കപ്പൽ വേളാങ്കണ്ണി തീരത്തേക്ക് അടുപ്പിക്കുകയും ചെയ്തു. മാതാവിന്റെ അനുഗ്രഹത്താലാണ് തങ്ങൾ രക്ഷപ്പെട്ടതെന്ന് വിശ്വസിച്ച കപ്പലിലുണ്ടായിരുന്നവർ അന്നുണ്ടായിരുന്ന ദേവാലയത്തെ കുറച്ചുകൂടി വലുപ്പമുള്ളതാക്കി മാറ്റി നിർമിച്ചു. പിന്നീട് വേളാങ്കണ്ണിയിലൂടെയുള്ള ഓരോ യാത്രയിലും അവർ അവിടെയെത്തുകയും ദേവാലയത്തിന്റെ നവീകരണത്തിൽ മുഴുകുകയും ചെയ്തു.

വാസ്കോഡ ഗാമയും പോർച്ചുഗീസുകാരും ദേവാലയവുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെട്ട നിർമാണപ്രവർത്തങ്ങളിൽ ഏർപ്പെട്ടതായി ചരിത്രരേഖകളിൽ പറയുന്നില്ലെങ്കിലും ഇപ്പോൾ കാണുന്ന മഞ്ഞപട്ടുടുത്ത ഉണ്ണിയേശുവിനെ കൈകളിലെടുത്തുള്ള മാതാവിന്റെ പ്രതിഷ്ഠ സ്ഥാപിച്ചത് പോർച്ചുഗീസുകാരാണെന്നാണ് വാമൊഴികൾ. പിന്നീടെത്തിയ ഡച്ചുകാർ 1771 ൽ ഈ ദേവാലയത്തെ പാരിഷ് ചർച്ചാക്കി മാറ്റി. 1962 ലാണ് മൈനർ ബസിലിക്കയായി വേളാങ്കണ്ണി പള്ളി ഉയർത്തപ്പെടുന്നത്.

അഞ്ചേക്കറിലാണ് വേളാങ്കണ്ണിയിലെ ദേവാലയം സ്ഥിതിചെയ്യുന്നത്. കിഴക്കിന്റെ ലൂർദ് എന്നറിയപ്പെടുന്ന ഈ ദേവാലയം, കടലിനു അഭിമുഖമായി സ്ഥിതി ചെയ്യുന്നതുകൊണ്ട് കാറ്റിനെ അതിജീവിക്കാനായി പാറമേൽ പണിതുയർത്തിയതായിരിക്കും എന്ന് വിശ്വസിക്കുന്നവരാണ് ഏറെയും. എന്നാൽ ആ ധാരണ തീർത്തും തെറ്റാണ്. മണലിൽ തന്നെയാണ് ഈ വലിയ ദേവാലയ സമുച്ചയത്തിന്റെ മുഴുവൻ നിർമാണ പ്രവർത്തനങ്ങളും നടത്തിയിരിക്കുന്നത്. എല്ലാദിവസവും ഇവിടെ സന്ദർശകരെ അനുവദിക്കാറുണ്ട്. പ്രാർഥന അർപ്പിക്കാനും കുർബാന സ്വീകരിക്കുന്നതിനുമൊക്കെ അവസരങ്ങളുമുണ്ട്. ദേവാലയത്തിൽ 5.45 നാണ് ആദ്യകുർബാന.

തമിഴ്, ഇംഗ്ലീഷ്, മലയാളം, തെലുങ്ക്, കന്നഡ തുടങ്ങിയ ഭാഷകളിലെല്ലാം കുർബാന അർപ്പിക്കപ്പെടുന്നുണ്ട്. രാവിലെ അഞ്ചിന് തുറക്കുന്ന ബസിലിക്ക അടയ്ക്കുന്നത് രാത്രി ഒമ്പതു മണിക്കാണ്. ക്രിസ്തീയ ആചാരങ്ങൾ കൂടാതെ ഹൈന്ദവ ആചാരങ്ങളും നിലനിൽക്കുന്ന ഇവിടെ നേർച്ചയായി തലമുണ്ഡനം ചെയ്യുന്നവരും കുട്ടികൾ ഉണ്ടാകുന്നതിനായി അമ്മത്തൊട്ടിൽ കെട്ടുന്നവരും വിവാഹബന്ധം വേര്‍പിരിയാതിരിക്കാനായി ആമപ്പൂട്ട് പൂട്ടി താക്കോൽ കടലിലേക്ക് വലിച്ചെറിയുന്നവരും ധാരാളമാണ്. അതുപോലെ തന്നെ ആഗ്രഹസാഫല്യത്തിനായി ദേവാലയ മുറ്റത്തുനിന്നു കിലോമീറ്ററുകൾ മുട്ടിലിഴയുന്നവരും വിവാഹം നടക്കാനായി മഞ്ഞച്ചരട് വഴിപാടായി സമർപ്പിക്കുന്നവരും ധാരാളം.

വേളാങ്കണ്ണിയിലെ ഈ ദേവാലയത്തിനോട് ചേർന്ന് ഒരു മ്യൂസിയം സ്ഥിതി ചെയ്യുന്നുണ്ട്. മാതാവിനോട് പ്രാർഥിക്കുകയും ഫലം സിദ്ധിക്കുകയും ചെയ്തവരുടെ സമർപ്പണങ്ങളും നേർച്ചകളും സൂക്ഷിച്ചിരിക്കുന്നതവിടെയാണ്. ആ നേർച്ചകളും സമർപ്പിക്കപ്പെട്ട വസ്തുക്കളും കാണുമ്പോൾ തന്നെ മനസിലാകും എത്രയെത്ര മനുഷ്യരാണ് ഈ തിരുമുറ്റത്ത് വിശ്വാസികളായി എത്തുന്നതെന്ന്. രാവിലെ 6.30 യ്ക്കാണ് ഈ മ്യൂസിയം തുറക്കുന്നത്. രാത്രി 8 മണിവരെ ഇത് സന്ദർശകർക്കായി തുറന്നിരിക്കും.

വേളാങ്കണ്ണി ദേവാലയത്തിന്റെ ഏറ്റവുമടുത്തുള്ള റെയിൽവേ സ്റ്റേഷൻ പന്ത്രണ്ട് കിലോമീറ്റര്‍ മാത്രം അകലെ സ്ഥിതി ചെയ്യുന്ന നാഗപട്ടണമാണ്. എയർപോർട്ട് 155 കിലോമീറ്റർ അകലെയുള്ള തിരുച്ചിറപ്പള്ളിയാണ്.

Velankanni Encounter

“Hail, Mother Mary”

The Pilgrimage

With immense joy and fulfillment, I recount my inaugural journey to the sacred land of Our Lady of Good Health, Velankanni. The desire to visit Velankanni had been dwelling within me for quite some time, and when the opportunity arose to embark on this spiritual voyage with a group of seven relatives, I eagerly seized it. We loaded our minivan with provisions, cooking utensils, and luggage securely fastened to the roof, commencing our night-long journey from Kerala, the “God’s Own Country,” to Velankanni.

Our route took us through stretches of desolate terrain, signposts guiding us toward Velankanni, toll booths, and picturesque rivers meandering through lush green fields. Our arrival in Velankanni was marked by the clock striking two in the afternoon. Although I longed to catch my first glimpse of the church, we decided to secure a hotel room and freshen up first. Velankanni offered a wide range of accommodations, and we chose one in close proximity to the church that provided cooking facilities. By four o’clock, we were ready and brimming with enthusiasm to visit the church.

The Environs

The path leading to the church was lined with shops on both sides, and the air was filled with beautiful Christian hymns sung in various languages. To our amazement, a shopkeeper began playing Malayalam songs upon seeing us, discerning our mother tongue. Perhaps years of selling cassettes to tourists had honed his ability to recognize our native language. Amidst this melodic backdrop, we could hear the soothing sound of waves crashing against the seashore.

Young children were selling rosaries, photos, Mother Velankanni’s rings, imitation jewelry, toys, and food items. As we approached the church, numerous vendors hurried over with garlands, coconuts, and candles. After procuring garlands and candles, we made our way to the church, which was bustling with people of diverse backgrounds.

The Church

The striking white architecture of the Basilica, standing tall before us, was a sight to behold. Neatly laid stones surrounded the entire basilica, and the entire premises exuded a radiant aura of hope and piety. This immaculate environment was maintained by over 225 dedicated workers. The Shrine Basilica consisted of three churches: the Main Church, Annex Basilica, and the side Church, with an additional Chapel at the Lady’s Tank.

The main shrine featured a decorative arch constructed by the Portuguese, and the high altar was adorned with rare porcelain plates illustrating biblical scenes brought from China by the Portuguese. The centerpiece was Our Lady of Health cradling a child, dressed in a beautiful red sari, the traditional attire of Indian women. A statue of Jesus Christ stood by her side. Devotees made their offerings on the left side of the main altar, presenting items like cows, goats, paddy, tea, coffee, cardamom, oil, and saris to the Mother. When Annai (Mother) received a new sari as a gift, small pieces of her old sari were distributed to the devotees as blessed tokens. We joined a long queue of devotees to offer our garlands, which were collected by a volunteer standing beside the altar and then placed on the Mother. The continuous cycle of adorning the Mother with fresh garlands was a sight to behold. Afterward, we moved from the main Basilica to the side wing, affording us a side view of Our Lady of Health and her child. We lit candles and proceeded to the main altar to kneel down and pray, experiencing indescribable happiness and peace in the presence of our beloved Mother.

Beside the main shrine, two donation boxes were placed – one for money and the other for gold and silver. Devotees created various gold and silver models, offering them as tokens of gratitude for the numerous blessings bestowed by Mother. The annex basilica, constructed in 1975, was used for special occasions like the annual festival. Its entrance was a testament to exquisite aesthetics, with two long entrances on either side leading to the main entrance. The church itself was an imposing edifice, characterized by Gothic architectural elements.

The Holy Path

A path covered with sand led pilgrims from the main shrine to the place where Mother Mary first appeared to a shepherd boy, known as the “Holy Path.” Along this path, beautiful sculptures depicted the Stations of the Cross on the left side, portraying the life of Jesus on the cross, while on the right, images represented the life of Mother Mary, known as the “Stations of the Rosary.” Many devotees were seen praying with rosaries in their hands. It was common to witness devotees of all ages and ailments walking on their knees along this path from the church to the chapel.

At the ‘Place of Apparition,’ a charming small chapel known as the Lady’s Tank was situated. Here, one could see the image of Mother Mary accepting yogurt from a young boy. The place of the Mother’s appearance was marked by a lotus-shaped tank referred to as the “Lady’s Tank.” The church compound also housed a hardware shop, a carpenter’s shed, a soap and washing powder manufacturing unit, and a large generator room capable of supplying round-the-clock electricity when needed.

Chapel of Our Lady’s Tank

Our next stop led us to the Church museum, located in a building adjacent to the Church. This museum was constructed to house the offerings made by devotees as tokens of gratitude for the abundant blessings they had received. People had donated various items, such as eyes, hands, legs, stethoscopes, and hearts crafted from silver and gold, depending on the ailments that had been cured. Some had contributed miniature gold or silver cars, cows, and crosses. There was even a remarkable replica of the church made from coins. These precious offerings were neatly displayed in showcases and rotated periodically.

The museum also contained numerous letters expressing gratitude to the beloved mother, along with beautiful articles made of silver and gold. Four large portfolios were filled with reports, letters, and declarations from people indicating their deep appreciation. On a shelf, you could find pieces of wood that had drifted ashore.

Velankanni Museum

People from all over the world had sent pieces of hollow wood to Vailankanni, carrying messages and offerings for the mother. It was said that these messages always reached the shores of Vailankanni. The museum also preserved coconuts with distinct features, believed to be offerings that had come from Fiji across the ocean. It was a moving experience to witness these living testimonials, demonstrating the providence of God through Mary.

The church spread over a vast area, was exceptionally well-maintained and surrounded by lush greenery with numerous beautiful trees. Within its compound, there was a home for the elderly, an orphanage, the Mercy Home for the Handicapped, and a hospital offering medical care at a nominal cost. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity operated a home for the elderly and handicapped. Additionally, there were a higher secondary school, an English medium school, and a girls’ school nearby. The church also ran schools and chapels in four neighboring villages.

The entire neighborhood was an oasis of charity, with multiple charitable and religious activities taking place. An institution affiliated with Rome offered a diploma in Mariology (the study of the Holy Mother), with around 15 students, including laymen and parish members, enrolled for the course. There was also a meditation center and a retreat home with 80 rooms, where visiting priests could stay for free but had to cover their food expenses.

We observed childless couples hanging numerous small cradles on a tree as a way of seeking Mother Mary’s blessings for a child. Nearby, there was a “Tonsure Hall” where pilgrims shaved their heads. We also visited the Mega Mahal, a vast hall covering 44,000 square feet, capable of accommodating hundreds of people for Mass ceremonies during special occasions like Christmas, New Year, or Easter. Outside the main shrine was a small chapel with an image of Annai holding Jesus on her lap after he was taken down from the cross. The flagpole was said to contain a piece from the original Portuguese ship that had landed there.

Countless miracles and healings were attributed to the offerings at Vailankanni. Many couples were blessed with children after praying to the Mother. Numerous diseases were cured, and many individuals found employment. Parents witnessed their children happily married, and homes were filled with health, wealth, and happiness, all through the grace of Mother Vailankanni. People of all religions visited Vailankanni throughout the year, some with worries, some with illnesses, and others to express their gratitude. They all left the church with a common look of peace, serenity, and satisfaction, touched by the boundless love of Our Mother, who never turns away any request.

The Vailankanni Beach

A trip to Vailankanni would not be complete without a visit to the Vailankanni Beach. As dusk gently descended upon the Land of Our Lady of Good Health, we made our way to the beach, which was bustling with people as expected.

We sat and watched the sky fill with the crimson hues of the setting sun. The sense of peace and serenity we experienced while sitting by the side of Our Mother Vailankanni, gazing at the vast ocean swallowing the fiery globe, was beyond words. As the last rays of the setting sun disappeared, we headed back to our rooms with hopes of waking up to a bright morning for the first Mass.

Prayer

Holy Mother, Our Lady of Good Health, we beseech you to shower your blessings upon all of us who turn to you for help. May this website serve as a conduit for our prayers and expressions of gratitude for the abundant blessings you bestow upon us. In the name of Jesus Christ and Our Holy Mother, Amen.

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