Basilica of Our Lady of Good HealthVelankanni (officially written as Vaikalkanni), a small town located in the coastal district of Nagapattinam (Nagai Mavattam), Tamil Nadu is regarded as one of the most prominent Catholic pilgrimage centres in the country. Velankanni is located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, approximately 333 km south of the southern metropolis of Chennai and 12.3 km from Nagapattinam (via East Coast Road/Nagapattinam - Vedaranyam Road).
The holy town is the home to an important Roman Catholic Church that is consecrated to Our Lady of Good Health (Mother Mary), known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health. The renowned Roman Catholic shrine is popularly called as the 'Lourdes of the East'. Velankanni shrine is one of the most visited sacred destinations of Tamil Nadu. The shrine Basilica of our Lady of health receives hundreds of thousands of devotees from all over the world, throughout the year - not only people from Christian denomination but people of various religious faiths visit this Basilica.
History of the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health
The history of the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health can be followed back to the mid-16th century. The history of this celebrated shrine is principally imputed to three miracles at holy spots around where the holy shrine remains.
It is crucial to point out that these chronicles are purely based on unwritten tradition and there are no scripted or historical documents found in support of them. The Holy See - the ecclesiastic legal power of the Catholic Church in Rome, the pontifical see of the Roman Catholic Pope has not approved these miracles or appearance of Mother Mary.
The three miracles that are attributed to the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health in Velankanni are:
- Our Lady’s Vision to a Shepherd Boy
- Apparition of Our Lady to the Buttermilk Vendor
- The Portuguese Ship caught in a Storm
Our Lady’s Vision to a Shepherd Boy
The first apparition of Mother Mary is supposed to have happened during the year 1570 (in the month of May). About 400 years ago, a local sheepherder boy was supplying milk to a wealthy man in Nagapattinam, on a regular basis. On his way, he rested under a banyan tree on the bank of a small pond. The boy soon fell into a deep sleep. All of a sudden, the boy broke through his slumber by the sight of a lady of heavenly beauty holding an adorable child in her arms. The heavenly lady asked for some milk for the baby in her arms.
The boy joyously offered her some milk for her child and he proceeded to continue on his way to supply the milk. When he arrived at the home of the wealthy man, the little sheepherder offered his apologies for the delay and for the reduced quantity of the milk. But then, when the milk pot was opened, the pot was overflowing with milk to his surprise. The little boy explained whatever happened on his way and the rich man was hypnotized by the over-the-top phenomenon experienced by the milk boy and he hurried to the exact location where the holy lady had appeared.
With distinguished awe, the man bowed down on the ground in reverence. The whole news disperses widely all over the vicinity. The Christian population in the region of Nagapattinam was positive that the apparition was that of the Mother Mary with the Child Jesus. The local population felt extremely happy and blessed that the Holy Mother preferred Velankanni to make her apparition. The local population started to fondly call the tank as ‘Matha Kulam’ in the local language of Tamil, which can be translated as 'Our Lady’s Pool'. Infinite miracles are occurring even today by applying the holy water on people who require medical care.
Apparition of Our Lady to the Buttermilk Vendor
The second apparition is stated to have occurred during the year 1597, close to the 'Our Lady’s Pool'. A divinely beautiful lady with a little boy in her arms came along to a young lame little boy selling buttermilk for a living. The lady looked at the crippled boy with a magical smile and demanded him buttermilk for the baby in her arms. With a feel of deep gratification the little boy witnessed the beautiful lady giving the buttermilk to her baby. The holy lady appreciatively receipted the little boy’s generousness and asked for another favor.
The sonny boy was to go to Nagapattinam and give notice to a particular rich Catholic man of the noble women's apparition to him and to explain him of her wish to have a chapel constructed at Vailankanni. While the boy was mystified about the mission that was assigned by the holy lady (due to his physical condition), he then shortly realized that he was no longer crippled. Without the buttermilk boy understanding it, a miracle had been delivered to him! The boy just did what he was told to and the Catholic gentleman of Nagapattinam along with the local people shortly constructed a modest chapel at Vailankanni.
The Portuguese Ship caught in a Storm
The 16th century, particularly was acknowledged for the sails by European merchandisers to launch commercial enterprises in India. The Portuguese were pious Catholics with a special veneration to the Mother Mary, the 'Star of the Sea'. The third miracle is said to have happened when a Portuguese ship was voyaging to Sri Lanka and was caught in a violent storm in the Bay of Bengal.
They pleaded for the help of the Virgin Mary and consecrated to establish a church in her honor after reaching the land safely. All of a sudden, the violent storm subsided and more than 100 sailors on board were saved. On setting ashore, the sailors fell on their knees and thanked the Blessed Virgin for saving them. They begin straightaway to reconstruct the thatched chapel. Unusually, all these over-the-top outcomes occurred on September 8, the feast of the Birth of the Mother Mary.
The holy shrine that originated as a modest thatched chapel in the mid 16th century became a parochial church during the year 1771. Subsequently, the shrine was awarded a special status of a Minor Basilica by Pope Saint John XXIII (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, 28 October 1958 to 1963) during the year 1962. The sacred Vailankanni church was upgraded to the status of 'Minor Basilica' and integrated with the Major Basilica of Mary (Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore) in Rome, Italy on 3rd November 1962 by Pope John XXIII.
Architecture of the Velankanni Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health
The Velankanni Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health is constructed in the Gothic architectural style. The northern side of the basilica was extended in 1933 and the southern side was extended during the year 1928. The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health comprises of three chapels, apart from Our Lady's Tank, Stations of the Rosary, Priests' Residence, and Stations of the Cross and so on. The church building is painted in the achromatic color of maximum lightness - white, and the roof of the basilica is made of roofing tiles that are of bright red color.
Quick Facts - Velankanni Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health
Dedication: Our Lady of Good Health
Status: Minor Basilica
Type of Architecture: Gothic
Location and Contact Details:
Very Rev. Fr. P. Xavier
Vailankanni - 611111
Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu
Phone Number: 04365-263 530 (Father's personal), 04365-263 517 (Father's Fax), 04365-263 423/263 584/264 890 (Shrine Number)
5:00 AM to 9:00 PM (all days of the week )
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
7.30 AM: Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica
5.00 AM: Additional Mass in Tamil for the Parishioners of Vailankanni in the Lower Basilica
6.00 PM: Rosary, Novena Prayer, Benediction and Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica
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 and Benediction and Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica
6.00 PM: Mass in Tamil, Eucharistic Procession around the Shrine and Sermon and Benediction from the front view of the Upper Basilica
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: Three-Hour Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament in the Main Shrine
9.00 AM: Healing and Fasting Prayer Service from 9 am to 4 pm at Vailankanni Retreat House
One Hour Intercessory Prayer Service at Our Lady’s Tank Chapel after 7.00 AM Mass
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
Annual Feast of Our Lady of Health is celebrated from 29 August to 8 September
Pilgrims rest shelter, Book stall, Retreat house, Lavatories, Hospital, Karunai ilam, Cloak room, Post office, Community hall, Bank, Railway booking office and so on
How to Reach?
Bus Services: Regular buses are operated from Nagapattinam (every 15 minutes), Chidambaram, Madurai, Chennai, Puducherry, Tiruchirappalli, Tanjore, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Marthandam
Nearest Bus Stand: S E T C Bus Stand, Velankanni
Nearest Railway Station: Nagapattinam Railway Station (11 km)
Nearest Airport: Trichy International Airport (IATA: TRZ, ICAO: VOTR)
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