Velankanni – Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health

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Written By Santana

Unveiling India's Treasures from the eyes of an insightful author

  •  Country: India 
  • State: Tamil Nadu
  • Ideal Trip Duration: 3 days
  • Nearest City:  Nagapattinam
  • Best Time to Visit: September to March, as these months offer the best climate
  • Peak Season: September and December

Velankanni is not an unknown destination to tourists and devotees. You can find one of the biggest Catholic pilgrimage centers here at Velankanni.

This church is devoted to Our Lady of Good Health, also popularly known as the “Lourdes of the East.”

Velankanni Church

Nearly 20 million pilgrims visit this shrine from everywhere in India and abroad. The major festival at Velankanni is from August – September.

The ancestries of the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health date back to the 16th century. The establishment of this church is attributed to three miracles that occurred in that particular place.

Miracles – It is believed that once there was an apparition of Jesus and Mary to a sleeping shepherd boy during the 16th century, then the curing of a buttermilk vendor and the unbelievable survival of Portuguese sailors who were beaten by a heavy sea storm during the 17th century.

 The construction of the Velankanni Church is in the Gothic style, which the Portuguese reformed. Later, it was expanded because of the arrival of many pilgrims worldwide.

This church was brought to the position of Basilica by Pope John XXIII in the year 1962. The annual festival begins on the 29th of August until the 8th of September.

This festival is a long 11 days celebration with an enormous feast on the last day. 

There is no scientific evidence of the miracles that happened at Velankanni, but every devotee believes the story. You should surely know about these interesting stories before you visit this shrine.

Velankanni Church Museum

The First Miracle

It is said that the first miracle happened in May 1570 when a local shepherd boy delivering milk to the houses nearby saw a beautiful woman with a child in her arms.

She asked for some milk from this shepherd boy for the child. The boy gave some milk to her, and he went on delivering milk to other houses.

He then realizes that the jug of milk he was carrying was still full of fresh milk even after giving milk to several houses.

Later, a small church was constructed near the area where the boy saw that beautiful lady and child, and the location is called Matha Kulam, meaning Our Lady’s Pool.

Well, the pool is situated where Velankanni, the first apparition of Mother Mary, occurred

The Second Miracle

The next apparition occurred in 1597 near the place of Matha Kulam. There was a crippled boy who was selling buttermilk, and a beautiful woman appeared holding a child.

The little child asked for some buttermilk, and after drinking it, the woman told this crippled boy to go see a gentleman in the town nearby.

She also asked him to tell that man to build a chapel in her honor at the location where she met the boy. When the boy stood up and set out to meet the man, he realized that he was not crippled anymore.

A small chapel was built in that area, named in Tamil – “Arokia Matha” in which Arokia means health. 

Velankanni Church Museum

The Third Miracle

The last incident happened when the ship of Portuguese sailors from Macao to Sri Lanka met with a violent storm in the Bay of Bengal.

The sailors prayed for help from the Blessed Virgin Mary, as she is also titled the Star of the Sea. The storm started to subside, and all the 150 men who were on board were saved.

This accident and miracle happened on Feast Day, September 8th.

These sailors built the shrine to Our Lady of Good Health in thanksgiving and continued to develop it whenever their voyages brought them to this divine land.


The History of the Shrine

Primarily, when the shrine was constructed, it was only a small thatched chapel during the mid-16th century, and late by 1771, it was renovated into a parish church.

Finally, in 1962, this church was granted a special status of a Minor Basilica.Fr. Antonio de Rozario was the first parish priest of Velankanni.

The town where the church is located had always been under the religious jurisdiction of the Bishop of the Diocese of Mylapore, along with the king of Portugal.

This basilica is identified as a location for pilgrims across India, and you get to see millions of people assembling in this church during Christmas.

On special occasions like Feast Day, the prayers are in different languages like Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, English, and East Indian.

Towering a white painted Basilica of Woman of Good Health is built uniquely and has three chapels. 

You can also find the Lady of Tank, the Church Museum, the Priest’s Residence, Stations of the Cross, the offering center, the shrine Megha Mahal, Rosary Stations, and more nearby.

The church structure is white and has 82 feet high spires roof made using tiles. The Lady of Tank is a dome-shaped tank with golden inlay work at the center of the church area.

All the people who visit here dip in the tank to get blessings to do away with their sickness.

Velankanni is also a place where you can shop for handloom products and silk fabric. Another attraction is the unique handicrafts you can take to gift someone.  

How to Reach 

 By Air: To reach the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health by air, Thiruchirapalli is the nearest airport, about two and a half hour drive from the Tiruchirappalli International Airport to the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health.

 By Road: Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) and State Express Transport Corporation (Tamil Nadu) (SETC), along with the private bus operators, operate express to luxury buses such as Volvos and Mercedes from Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Salem, Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli, Nagercoil, Trivandrum, Ernakulam, and Bangalore. Local transport in Velankanni includes Buses and auto rickshaws that are quickly available to travel around Velankanni.

 By Rail: The railway station near the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health is Nagapattinam Junction. The station is about 12km away, and regular buses and taxis are accessible for transport from the railway station. Velankanni is openly linked to the capital city of Chennai by rail.

A daily train called Velankanni-Chennai Egmore Link Express connects Velankanni and Chennai Egmore. Another weekly express, Vasco-Velankanni Express, functions between Vasco da Gama in Goa and Velankanni. Apart from the express trains, Passenger trains are operated daily from Karaikal and Nagapattinam to Velankanni.

 Sample itinerary for a trip to Velankanni

Day 1: Arrival in Velankanni

  • Arrive at Velankanni by train/bus/flight
  • Check into your hotel and freshen up
  • Visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health, one of India’s most famous Catholic shrines.
  • Explore the nearby beach and enjoy the sunset
  • Have dinner at a local restaurant and retire for the night

Day 2: Velankanni Sightseeing

  • Start the day with breakfast at your hotel
  • Visit the Velankanni Church Museum to learn about the history of the basilica.
  • Visit Velankanni Beach and enjoy water sports like boating, swimming, and surfing.
  • Have lunch at a local restaurant and try the seafood delicacies
  • Visit the Nagapattinam Lighthouse and enjoy the panoramic view of the Bay of Bengal
  • Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight stay

Day 3: Excursion to Thanjavur

  • Start early and drive to Thanjavur, located about 1.5 hours from Velankanni
  • Visit the Brihadeeswara Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest temples in India
  • Visit the Thanjavur Palace and Art Gallery to see the exhibits of the Chola and Nayak dynasties
  • Have lunch at a local restaurant and try the famous South Indian thali
  • Visit the Schwartz Church, a Protestant church built by a Danish missionary in the 18th century
  • Return to Velankanni in the evening and have dinner at your hotel

Day 4: Departure from Velankanni

  • Have breakfast at your hotel
  • Check out and depart from Velankanni by train/bus/flight.

Best Places to Visit / Other Tourist Attractions

1. Shopping at Velankkani 

You can see a striking market near Velankkani Beach. Few beaches can be seen where silk and handicrafts are sold to tourists.

Whoever visits the Basilica of Woman of Good Health, Velankanni, shop from here for colorful silks materials and clothes.

 2. Velankanni Church Museum

This museum is just 1min from the church. You can take a walk of about 45m to reach the museum.

What you can find in this place is the exhibition of the offerings made by the pilgrims in silver, gold, and other variety of metals.

These offerings are given as a token of the affection and gratitude they received from Mother Mary.

Make a note of the time to visit. It is open from 0630 am till 800pm every single day. 

3. Velankanni Beach 

Located just 3 km away from the Basilica of Woman of Good Health, this beach is a vital tourist spot. You can find many churches in the nearby area, and markets are all open through the evening.

This beach is a peaceful place to have some fun with your family. A walk through the beautiful palm trees can make you feel relaxed by enjoying the sunset.

Velankanni Beach 

 4. Sikkal

About 25 min away from the Basilica of Woman of Good Health, Velankanni, and 5 km from Nagapattinam, this is a beautiful temple.

Sikkal Temple is a Shiva temple with Lord Shiva bearing the name Sri Navaneetheswara.

When you visit the temple, you can see that the main deity is Lord Subrahmanya, Singaravelevar.

You can also see the deity of Goddess Parvathi here in this temple, situated in a small village. 

 5. Nagapattinam

The nearest town on the coastline of the Bay of Bengal is Nagapattinam. This town holds vital historical importance and is known as Deva Desam of Velankanni, meaning pilgrim center.

There are many temples and mosques to see around other than churches.

Nagapattinam was derived from Nagur, meaning the land of serpent gods.

This historic town is one of the segments of Chola Mandalam and is one of the oldest and prominent ancient Tamil Kingdoms.

Nagapattinam lighthouse view and church
Nagapattinam lighthouse view and church

Stay a few more days in Tamil Nadu to explore a variety of locations. There are many famous tourist destinations with the natural beauty you can visit.

Some of the tourist spots include Vedaranyam, famous for its Salt Sathyagaraha and Kodikarai [Pt. Calimere] with a lighthouse. Kodikarai was destroyed by the Tsunami of 2004.

The forests found in Point Calimere prevail the last of the dry evergreen forests. It that were once typical of the ecoregion of the East Deccan dry evergreen forests.

Moreover, if you would like to spend some quality time in any hill station, then you have the breathtaking Ooty and Kodaikanal, which is a little far from the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health.

 Additional Info

  • STD Code: 04365
  • Languages Spoken: Tamil, English
  • Major Festivals: Arokiya Matha Festival, Christmas & New Year
  • Nearest Hospital: Punitha Arogya Matha Hospital | 0832 – 264409
  • Nearest Police Station: Vellankanni Police Station | 0832 – 263100

Also Read: The captivating Chennai – Places to visit

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