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Velankanni... also known as Lourdes of the East.

Somewhere in the 17th century, a few Portuguese merchants were caught in the midst of a raging cyclone near the coast of Bay of Bengal. Their ship got wrecked and they were starting to lose hope when they saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin holding her divine infant in her arms... they were astounded by this sudden appearance in the middle of the ocean and as they watched she guided them safely to dry land. These merchants landed in an obscure little place called Velankanni and they learnt that the Virgin Mary had appeared two more times in the same village during the 16th century, once to a crippled boy whom she cured and this other time to a Hindu brahmin boy who was resting near a pond with a pot of milk. She asked the Hindu kid a little milk for her son and the boy complied and today this place is called Our Lady's Pond. The Portuguese merchants then proceeded to erect a shrine to the Blessed Mother out of gratitude and  devotion,   they sculpted a statue of her in the image of the apparition and to this very day the statue holds a very sacred place in the Basilica. Legend has it that many decades ago during the church festival, while the faithful were carrying this statue of Mother Mary on a procession round the hamlet she suddenly disappeared... apparently the statue vanished into thin air and reappeared in the Basicila. The same thing happened next year and since then the statue has never been removed from the church. Millions of people visit Velankanni every year and Our Lady has been known to bestow her graces and miracles on the faithful. She is called Our Lady of Health cause she healed the crippled boy and people from all over the world go to her with various ailments and she cures them. The basilica itself is pretty awesome... here are a few pictures.






The church built near Our Lady's pond.
So it is a tradition in the family I married into to visit Velankanni once a year and I just returned last week. A whole lot of hindus and muslims visit the place and over time due to the conversion & intermingling of various faiths, a few customs get carried over... like the sacred yellow thread of the hindu faith, you find these tied at various places with a kerchief or a turmeric stub symbolising the need for a kid or a good spouse. People also carry coconut with a dash of red and yellow and some leaves as offertory...  
Hindu devotees who visit the shrine...
The yellow thread hanging from trees...
And branches...

And here she is taken on a procession (this is not the same statue sculpted by the Portuguese, but a replica) round the basicila and the faithful follow on either side praying the rosary... it was nice.

Well, that was my trip... and it was entertaining.


Faith can move mountains, but don't be surprised if God hands you a shovel.  Author Unknown

Comments

Susan Deborah said…
Culture is always so intriguing and interesting. Imagine a Christian worship place having turmeric and vermilion. Now that is what is called the mixing of the local and universal.

And how nicely you have written about this!

Joy always,
Susan
Beth Niquette said…
I had never heard this story before. I love stories! Your photography is exquisite.
Karen Xavier said…
Candice Martins - nice post and lovely pics. I havent been to velankanni even once
Karen Xavier said…
Yeah Susan, my thoughts exactly... a Christian worship place that accepts these customs and the different religions. Will any other religion do the same?

Beth, I know you love stories... you bring them to life by your talents. And the photography is really exquisite, but the first two pretty ones were taken from the net... the rest are mine.

Tina, its a small place... yet to develop, food is a problem and sometimes it can get really really crowded. But the basilica is pretty and the devotion you see on the faces of people is humbling...
mahesh said…
The quote at the end was a fitting tribute to a wonderful post about a church whose fame and splendour grows with each passing day.
Haddock said…
Some good photographs here of the church.
Karen Xavier said…
Mahesh, yeah I liked the quote too...

Hey Haddock, thanks for dropping by.
PurpleHeart said…
What a holistically beautiful experience ! It surprises me how I never got to visit Velankanni, back home, despite being only a few hundred KMs away. In her blessings, may the world live in peace.
Karen Xavier said…
Sandhya, Amen to that... in her blessings may the world live in peace.
Hi,

i have been to velankanni about 4 times i guess.it is lovely place...very peaceful...cant wait to go again!!

Sameena@
www.myeasytocookrecipes.blogspot.com
Karen Xavier said…
Hey Sameena, nice of you to drop by here.

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