- 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, which is also popularly known as the “Lourdes of the East.”
Nearly 20 million pilgrims visit this shrine from everywhere in India as well as abroad. The major festival at Velankanni is during August – September.
The ancestries of Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health dates 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 vendor of buttermilk 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 was reformed by the Portuguese. Later, it was expanded because of the arrival of a large number of pilgrims from around the world.
This church was brought to the position of Basilica by Pope John XXIII in the year 1962. The annual festival conducted, begins on the 29th of August till 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 the story is believed by every devotee. You should surely know about these interesting stories before you visit this shrine.
The First Miracle
It is said that the first miracle happened in May in the year 1570 when a local shepherd boy who was 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.
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 is not crippled anymore.
A small chapel was built in that area, and it was named in Tamil – “Arokia Matha” in which Arokia means health.
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 to 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 in which 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 a special occasion like Feast Day, the prayers delivered 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 in a unique style and has three chapels.
You can also find Lady of Tank, Church Museum, Priest’s Residence, Stations of the Cross, offering center, shrine Megha Mahal, Rosary Stations, and more nearby.
The church structure is white and has 82 feet high spires roof that is 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 take a dip in the tank to get blessings to do away 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 with you 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 is about two and a half hours 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 Chennai by rail.
A daily train called Velankanni-Chennai Egmore Link Express connects Velankanni and Chennai Egmore. Another weekly express, Vasco-Velankanni Express is being functioned between Vasco da Gama in Goa and Velankanni. Apart from the express trains, Passenger trains are operated daily from Karaikal and Nagapattinam to Velankanni.
Best Places to Visit / Other Tourist Attractions
1. Shopping at Velankkani
You can see a striking market near Velankkani Beach. Only very few beaches can be seen where silk and handicrafts are sold to tourists.
Whoever visits 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 just 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 their 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 3kms 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.
About 25 min away from the Basilica of Woman of Good Health, Velankanni, and 5 km from Nagapattinam, this is a beautiful temple to visit.
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, known as Singaravelevar.
You can also see the deity of Goddess Parvathi here in this temple, situated in a small village.
The nearest town on the coastline of the Bay of Bengal is Nagapattinam. This town holds vital historical importance and is also known as Deva Desam of Velankanni, meaning pilgrim center.
There are many temples and mosques to see around other than churches.
The name 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.
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.
- 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