Annual Velankanni festival begins with flag hoisting

A wave of devotees thronged Velankanni to participate in the annual, 10-day long festival of St Mary’s Nativity, which began with flag hoisting on Monday.

Published: 30th August 2022 05:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th August 2022 05:38 AM   |  A+A-

The annual festival of St Mary’s Nativity began with flag hoisting on Monday. Several thousand devotees witnessed the event | H Jashwanth Kumar

Express News Service

NAGAPATTINAM: A wave of devotees thronged Velankanni to participate in the annual, 10-day long festival of St Mary’s Nativity, which began with flag hoisting on Monday. After a gap of two years, the festival is being conducted in the presence of several devotees. The festival ends on September 8. Owing to the pandemic outbreak, the festival was streamed online for the past two years.

This year, however, the devotees finally had the chance to visit Velankanni again and take part in the events. Earlier, the adminstration had said that they were expecting the footfall of around 10 lakh devotees. Several pilgrims set out on foot from Chennai and across Tamil Nadu for the festival. Most of the hotels and lodges in Velankanni are fully booked, sources said.

With most of the hotels and lodges in the area fully booked, many of the devotees resorted to lodging in their vehicles. V Kiruthiga, a homemaker from Chennai, said, "We came here as a family and it has been difficult to find accommodation." People from the neighbouring States of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra too arrived in Velankanni.

Masses have been planned in churches in Tamil, English, Malayalam, Konkani and Hindi. Large gatherings were spotted across Velankanni, including the the premises of the Shrine Basilica of Our Lady Of Good Health, at the beaches, commercial streets and roads. V Bala, an airport employee from Chennai, said, "We missed the festive spirits in the last two years.

We are glad to return. We want to pray for the wellbeing of our family, friends and relatives." The arrival of devotees brought cheers to traders, including hotelkeepers, lodge owners, , snack vendors and eatery owners. Some even make a living by taking photographs of tourists and selling balloons on Velankanni Beach. T Noel, a shopkeeper from Beach Road, said,

"We are expecting good business this year. The gathering on the first day itself is promising." Many pilgrims, however, said it was a challenge to get food at fair prices. Despite warnings not to venture into the sea off the coast of Velankanni, many people were spotted taking a dip in the waters.

Police officials warned them not to venture too far. Fr C Irudayaraj, the Rector of Velankanni Shrine Basilica, said, "We are expecting a large number of devotees and have made arrangements for the tourists and pilgrims as per the advice of the district administration. We request people not to bath in the sea." Collector A Arun Thamburaj oversaw the conduct of entire event on Monday.



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