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Marian festival at Velankanni (India)

Last modified: 2009-05-30 by ian macdonald
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[Marian festival at Velankanni (India)] image by Ivan Sache, 18 April 2009

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Marian festival at Velankanni (India)

The Roman Catholic church of Our Lady of Good Health was built at Velankanni (loc., Vailankanni, Tamil Nadu) to commemorate apparitions of the Blessed Virgin (16th century, oral tradition only) and the miraculous saving of Portuguese sailors in the 17th century. A parish church since 1971, the Velankanni church was erected a Minor Basilica by Pope John XXIII on 3 November 1962, while Valankanni was declared a "Holy City".

The Velankanni Annual Feast is one of the most important Christian festivals in India, including several flag events. The 2008 Feast program included:

  • Friday 29 August 2008, 6 PM: inauguration of the feast by a flag procession, followed by the blessing and hoisting of Our Lady's flag by the Bishop of Thanjavur.
  • Everyday from 30 August to 7 September, the hoisting of Our Lady's flag takes place at 12 noon and Our Lady's car procession starts at 8 PM from the entrance of the main shrine.
  • Monday 8 September 2008, 6 PM: lowering of Our Lady's flag

A black and white photo of the hoisting of the flag appears embedded in a video available on YouTube (2:42) at A video footage of the flag hoisting ceremony of 1 September 2008, showing only the blessing, is available on YouTube. The flag is white with a blue-violet border and a yellow fringe, an image of the Blessed Virgin and "MARIA" in yellow letters outlined in green. The flag raised in 2007, as seen on another, low quality video available on YouTube, seems to be of different design, except the blue-violet border and the yellow fringe.

During the flag procession, the pilgrims cycle rickshaws or motor rickshaws, which they have customized with posters of the Virgin, garlands, flags, multicolor art work, the holy cross, etc. Colour photos presented by "Senthil" on Picasa show such decorated rickshaws:
with a (seemingly) plain yellow flag:,
with a blue charged with a white cross:
with a white flag embroidered with an image of the Blessed Virgin:

Ivan Sache, 18 April 2009