Velankanni Church (Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health)
Nicknamed the “Lourdes of the East,” this Gothic-style basilica stands on the spot where, according to local legend, an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared three times, once asking a local shepherd for milk, another time to cure a local buttermilk vendor, and a third while rescuing a group of Portuguese sailors from a storm. While none of the supposed miracles have been approved by the Pope, the shrine still draws millions of visitors each year, and some multi-day tours of the region stop here.
Things to Know Before You Go
Velankanni Church is a must-visit for those with an interest in religion and culture.
Dress conservatively, with shoulders and knees covered, out of respect for local customs.
The church is wheelchair-accessible.
How to Get There
Velankanni Church is located in the town of Velankanni, around 220 miles (350 kilometers) from the Tamil Nadu capital of Chennai. It's about a 7- to 8-hour taxi ride between the two cities, while Madurai is a 5- to 5.5-hour drive away. Getting to Pondicherry takes three to four hours by car.
When to Get There
Mass is held here multiple times throughout the day, starting at 6am (morning prayers start at 5:40am). Services are held in different Indian languages (Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi, and Tamil), with an English mass at 11am on weekdays. Saturday and Sunday mass is in Tamil, and there's a car procession every Saturday morning at 5:45am.
Other Things to Do in Velankanni
While the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health is the star attraction in Velankanni, it's worth sticking around to check out some of the area's other points of interest. These include the main Velankanni Beach, Pongu Sani Temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva), and a handful of other churches, including the gargantuan Morning Star Church, known for its huge Jesus statue.
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