Velankanni officially spelled as Vailankanni also spelled as "Velanganni" is a panchayat town in Nagapattinam district in Tamil Nadu. Velankanni is a small town located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal 350 km south of Chennai (Madras) and 12 km south of Nagapattinam on the Coromandel Coast, in Tamil Nadu, India.
Once a port that traded with Rome and Greece, the tiny commercial center gradually lost its importance to the larger city of Nagapattinam. The canal built to link this town with Vedaranyam still lies to the west. The Vellayar, a minor branch of the Cauvery River, runs south of the town and discharges into the sea.
The town is home to a significant Roman Catholic shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health.
Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health
The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health church can be traced to the mid-16th century and its founding is attributed to three miracles: the apparition of Mary and Jesus to a slumbering shepherd boy, the curing of a lame buttermilk vendor, and the survival of Portuguese sailors assaulted by a violent sea storm. It is built in the Gothic style, was modified by Portuguese and then further expanded later on due to the influx of pilgrimages.
Although all three miracles combined to cause the erection of a shrine, it was the promise of the Portuguese sailors that caused a permanent edifice. The chapel was dedicated on the feast of the Nativity of Mary (8 September), the day of their safe landing. More than 500 years later, the festival and celebration is still observed and draws nearly two million pilgrims each year. The Shrine of Our Lady of Velankanni, also known as the "Lourdes of the East", is one of the most frequented religious sites in India.
In 1771, Velankanni acquired the status of a parish with Antonio de Rozario as the first parish priest. The church building was raised to the status of basilica in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.
Every year, 10 days of festivals are celebrated in August and September, attracting about 1.5 million people. Masses are conducted in at least eight languages including Tamil, English, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu, Konkani, Hindi and Marathi.