Saturday, 13 March 2010

Vailankanni: The Lourdes of the East

(Source: NRI America)

Some interesting points about Vailankanni:
  • Small town located on the south eastern coast of India in the state of Tamil Nadu, 12km south of Nagapattinam and 350km south of Chennai. It was once a trading port, which traded with Rome and Greece, that gradually lost its commercial importance to the larger Nagapattinam.
  • It is associated with two apparitions of Mary and the rescue of Portuguese sailors during a violent storm.
  • First appearance: Sometime in the sixteenth century, around 1560, Mary appeared with her infant son to a Hindu boy carrying milk to his master. He was resting under a banyan tree near a tank. She asked the boy for some milk for her son, and the boy gave it to her. On reaching his master’s house, the boy apologized for his lateness and the reduced amount of milk by relating the incident that occurred on his way. His master didn't believe him until the milk jar miraculously began to overflow with milk. Wanting to see the place where the apparition occurred, the man accompanied the boy to the place where Mary appeared. Our Lady appeared once again appeared to both of them. The tank where the apparition took place became known as "Matha Kulam" or Our Lady’s tank.
  • Second appearance: Towards the end of the sixteenth century, Mary appeared with her infant son to an invalid boy who sold buttermilk on the outskirts of Vailankanni. She asked him for a cup of buttermilk for her son, and the boy complied. Our Lady asked the boy to inform a certain wealthy Catholic man in the nearby town of Nagapattinam of her appearance. When the boy informed her he could not walk, she asked him to stand up. He was cured of his ailment, and he immediately went to see the gentleman. The man had a vision the previous night in which Our Lady asked him to build a chapel for her. Delighted to see the boy, the man went with him to the site of her appearance. Then Our Lady appeared again to both of them. The man erected a thatched chapel for Our Lady at the site of Her second appearance.
  • Rescue of Portuguese sailors: In the seventeenth century, a Portuguese merchant ship travelling from Macau to Sri Lanka encountered fierce storms in the Bay of Bengal. In desperation, they prayed to Mary and vowed to build a church in her honour wherever she led them, if she saved them. The storm calmed down and the sailors came ashore near Vailankanni on the on the feast of the Nativity of Mary (Sept. 8). Falling on their knees in thanksgiving, local fishermen recognized them as Catholics and directed them to the shrine of Our Lady. A few weeks later they started building the church which they had promised to build in her honour. On subsequent visits they improved on it, using rare porcelain plates and statues they acquired in China and elsewhere. The modest church the Portuguese built has been extended many times and transformed to the magnificent basilica it is today.
  • It draws around 20 million pilgrims each year - more than any other sacred shrine in India.
  • The feast of the Our Lady of Vailankanni or Our lady of Good Health is an annual festival which lasts for nine days, starting on 29 August and ending on 8 September. It draws more than a million and a half pilgrims.
  • The pilgrims include people of many faith backgrounds, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs as well as Christians.
  • Hundreds of miraculous cures are reported by pilgrims every year. Many of these favours are received by non-Christians.
  • The Asian Tsunami on 26 December 2004 wrought much destruction in Vailankanni, killing thousands, but miraculously the basilica and 2,000 pilgrims inside were spared of any damage. What makes this more extraordinary is that buildings on the same elevation, further inshore, were destroyed.


Kiran Ignatius said...

I make it a point to visit Vailankanni atleast once in two years. It has some kind of mysterios attraction and I am sure atleast three miracles in my life are attributable to Our Lady's powerful intercession.

JI said...


The last time I went to Vailankanni was in 1989, so another visit there is long overdue. Perhaps on my next trip to India I will try to get there.

I still remember the beautiful basilica, and the throng of people.