one of the most important Marian shrines (dedicated to Mary,
Mother of Jesus), in India, is often referred as the 'Lourdes
of the East'.(Lourdes, in France, is one of the most famous Marian
shrines in the world).
The history of Vailankanni, as a place of pilgrimage, can be traced
back to the end of the 16th century. The first written reference
to Vailankanni is a letter written by Fr. Paulo da Trinidade
to his superior, in 1630. The chapel that existed here was referred
to as 'Ermida' (Portugese for 'sub station' or a 'place of pilgrimage').
Vailankanni was made a parish (local christian community) in 1771.
The shrine was granted the 'Special status as a Minor Basilica'
in 1962 by Pope John 23rd, the head of the Roman Catholic
church. (A Basilica is a consecrated church that is constructed
facing the east in one of the classical styles of architecture and
should be a celebrated place of pilgrimage).
church in its present structure has several classical and gothic
elements even after several extensions and renovations. The 93 feet
high dome and the two 82 feet high Gothic spiral towers are a dominating
feature of the topography of Vailankanni and can be seen miles away.
Father Sebastiao Xavier de Noronha, a foreign missionary
was instrumental in giving the church its present structure.
The annual feast day of the birth of Mother Mary is celebrated
on September 8th. The flag-hoisting ceremony on August 29th marks
the beginning of the feast celebrations and prayers. A conservative
estimate of the crowds on these days would be around a lakh and
a half (which is more than ten times the local population).During
feast days the flag of Mother Mary is hoisted at noon and the car
procession bearing the statue of Mother Mary takes place at 8.00
month of May is also special, because it is dedicated to Mother
Location: 6 kms from the Inter State Highway, 150 kms from
Tiruchi Airport, 12 kms from Nagapattinam Railwaystation
Access: Vailankanni is accessible by road. There are numerous
bus (private and state), taxi and van services. From Nagapattinam
Railway station to the shrine it costs Rs 120/- to Rs 150/- to travel
by private Taxi. By van, it would work out to Rs 10/- to Rs 15/-
per head. Local buses are not advisable because they are crowded
and irregular. From Tiruchi to the shrine would cost Rs 1,750/-
to Rs 2,000/- by private Taxi.
Nearest Rail hub: Nagapattinam
Nearest Airport: Tiruchi
Accomodation: The shrine offers 5,000 units of accommodation.
Besides this, there are around 90 lodges offering another 5,000
|Text : Joseph Pradeep Raj R