Velankanni

This section addresses relevant issues and facts about different parts of India through the 6Ws and 1H question answer format.

Velankanni:

Why is the Velankkani Church famous?
Where is the Velankanni Church located?
What is the legend behind the church?
Who built the church?
When was the church built?
Which are the important dates associated with the Velankanni Church?
How many pilgrims visit the church each year?
Why is the Velankkani Church famous?
The Velankanni Church is one of the biggest Christian pilgrimage centres in India. It is dedicated to Mother Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Many miracles are said to take place there. Many of these miracles are health-related. Thousands and thousands of people have reported being cured of their ailments after praying at the church. That’s why The Blessed Mother Mary is known as Arokya Matha – Our Lady of Health – at Velankanni.
Where is the Velankanni Church located?
Velankanni is a small seaside town 12 kms from Nagapattinam, in Tamil Nadu. It lies 350 km from Chennai. The town is now known all over the world because of the church there.
What is the legend behind the church?
According to legend, Mother Mary appeared three times in and around the town. In the 16th Century, she appeared to a young milk seller. He had stopped to rest under a banyan tree near a pond when a beautiful lady holding a baby approached him and asked for some milk. He gladly gave it to her, and she fed the baby. When the boy reached the house where he was to deliver the milk, he found that the can was full once again. Some years later, another young boy, who was lame from birth, was selling buttermilk under another banyan tree when a lovely lady appeared and asked him for some buttermilk for the baby she was holding. The baby happily drank the cup of buttermilk given by the boy. The lady told the boy to go to Nagapattinam and ask a particular man there to build a church for her. The boy was about to tell her he couldn’t walk when, miraculously, he found that his legs had become normal. In the 17th Century, sailors on a Portuguese ship sailing to Sri Lanka were caught in a heavy storm and thought they would surely drown. They prayed to Mother Mary to save them. The sea became calm and they were able to reach the Velankanni shore safely. All three incidents happened on September 8th, the birthday of Mother Mary.
Who built the church?
As the Divine Mother Mary had told him to, the boy whose legs were healed went to Nagapattinam and found the man he was asked to meet. He told the man everything that had happened. That man, who had also had a vision of Mother Mary, built a small church with a thatched roof at the spot where she had appeared.
When was the church built?
In the 17th Century, the Portuguese sailors who were saved from the storm repaired and rebuilt the thatched church. That little church has now become a huge, impressive building. The Velankanni Church has been given the high status of a ‘Basilica’ by the Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Christians. Velankanni has been named a ‘heritage city’ by the Government of India.
Which are the important dates associated with the Velankanni Church?
The period between August 29th and September 8th is very important at the Velankanni Church. The Birth Anniversary of The Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated with piety each year. The celebrations begin with the raising of the flag. The annual festival concludes with the celebration of the ‘Feast of Mary’ on September 8th.
How many pilgrims visit the church each year?
The Velankanni Church attracts so many pilgrims that it is known as the ‘Lourdes of the East’. (The church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes in France is a major pilgrimage centre.) Around 20 million pilgrims from across India and also from abroad visit the Velankanni Church each year. Not only Christians, but people belonging to other religions too visit this church. Around 3 million people attend the annual festival. Some of these devotees walk to the church from faraway places.
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