Velankanni is at a distance of 90-km from
Chennai. It is the
site of the famous Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Good Health and
people of all religions flock to this church for the celebrations. During
the annual feast days, the Basilica and Velankanni take a new life, and
the vicinity is decorated even in its farthest corners.
It is believed by tradition that the merciful Mother rescued a few Portuguese merchant sailors from a violent storm, which wrecked their ship. When the merchants reached the shore of Velankanni local fishermen took them to the thatched chapel. The ship safely reached the shore in Velankanni on the September 8, on the feast of the nativity of our lady. In memory of these two great events, the annual feast of our lady of good health is also celebrated on this day.
Large concourses of devotees witness the flag hoisting on the 29th August every year. The following nine days of preparation itself will be feast here. Today, the celebration of this feast is an annual festival, which lasts for 9 days and draws more than a million and a half pilgrims. Novenas, special liturgical and Para liturgical services are conducted in the church for the pilgrims on these days. A conservative estimate of the crowd is around 1.5 million on these days.
Velankanni attracts more pilgrims than any other sacred shrine in India. Not only do multitudes of Catholics travel there throughout the year, but many non-Christians visit as well. Hundreds of miraculous cures are reported every year.
Flag- Hoisting Festival
Large concourses of devotees witness the flag hoisting on the 29th of August every year. The flag of our lady is hoisted every day during these nine days of the novena the feast. During this ceremony an intense feeling is aroused leaving behind rapturous eyes and murming lips, proclaiming her praises.
Another important and crowed pulling event of those festive days is the car procession that takes place at 8 p.m. every day. This follows the liturgical service of the evening. Since Velankanni is the coast, the people from the beginning carry the "Chapparam"(cars) as pulling will be next to impossible.
People in the east consider that participating in the festival, pulling the cars or witness the flag hoisting are scared and sacramental. These are all symbolic expression of their love and commitment to god. When the cars and the big chariot are brought in front of the main church, prayers are offered for world peace and for the motherland for universal church and for the national leaders.
Cultural Programs During Flag Hoist
Every day after the car procession, there will be cultural items like musical concerts, plays, Bharathanatyam performances, etc in an open auditorium near the shrine itself. Artists and other professionals from various fields deem it as a singular privilege to give performance in the virgin's land. Most of them also are deeply devoted to our lady here and come to fulfil their vows as gratitude.
Air: The nearest airport is the
Chennai airport, at
a distance of 90-km.
Rail: The nearest railway station is at Nagapattinam, at a distance of 10-km.
Road: Buses are available for Chidambaram, Chennai, Madurai, Pondicherry, Trichy, Thanjavur and for many other parts of the state.
Accommodation is available at the hotels in Velankanni.