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Vailankanni Basilica1.jpg
Velankanni is located in Tamil Nadu
Location in Tamil Nadu, India
Coordinates: 10°42′N 79°48′E / 10.70°N 79.80°E / 10.70; 79.80Coordinates: 10°42′N 79°48′E / 10.70°N 79.80°E / 10.70; 79.80
Country  India
State Tamil Nadu
District Nagapattinam
 • Total 5.5 km2 (2.1 sq mi)
Elevation 87.78 m (287.99 ft)
Population (2001)
 • Total 10,144
 • Density 1,800/km2 (4,800/sq mi)
 • Official Tamil
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
PIN 611111
Telephone code 914365
Vehicle registration TN 51

Velankanni (Tamil: வேளாங்கன்னி Vēḷāŋkaņņi) officially spelled as Vailankanni (Virgin of Velai, the town), also spelled as "Velanganni" (due to Tamil to English Transliteration), is a panchayat town in Nagapattinam district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It lies on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, 350 km south of Chennai (Madras) and 12 km south of Nagapattinam.

Once a port that traded with Rome and Greece,[citation needed] 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 was among the worst hit by the tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

The town is home to a significant Roman Catholic shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health.


As of 2001 the Indian census indicated Velankanni had a population of 10,144. Males constitute 48% of the population and females 52%. Citizens there have an average literacy rate of 69%, higher than the national average of 68%: male literacy is 75%, and female literacy is 64%. 12% of the population is under 6 years of age.[1]

Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health[edit]

St Sebastian Church at the entrance of the city

Velankanni is home to one of the country's biggest Catholic pilgrimage centres. The Catholic Basilica devoted to Our Lady of Good Health is popularly known as the "Lourdes of the East".[2] The origins of this church can be traced back to the 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 pilgrims. The church building was raised to the status of basilica in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.

Annually, 20 million pilgrims flock to the shrine from all over India and abroad,[3] out which an estimated 3 million people visit the shrine during its annual festival from 29 August to 8 September.[2] The 11-day annual festival concludes with the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of Mary on 8 September.[4]

Geography and climate[edit]

Vailankanni is located 350 kilometres (220 mi) south of Chennai and 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) south of Nagapattinam on the Coramandel coast, at 10°24′N 79°29′E / 10.40°N 79.49°E / 10.40; 79.49 in Nagapattinam district of Tamil nadu state.[5]

Summer Winter
Max. 36 °C (97 °F) 29 °C (84 °F)
Min. 28 °C (82 °F) 21 °C (70 °F)


Our Lady of Health Higher Secondary School, Our Lady of Health Middle School, Our Lady of Health Elementary School, Infant Jesus Primary School (English Medium) and Christ the King High School Special School for Handicapped and Deaf & Dumb Children are five schools situated in Vailankanni town.[6]


Vailankanni is well connected by Road and Rail to the other parts of the country. Many government and private buses are operated between vailankanni and important cities in Tamil Nadu and also to other States. Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) and State Express Transport Corporation (Tamil Nadu) (SETC) along with the private operators operate express to luxury buses such as Volvos and Mercedes from Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Salem, Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli, Nagercoil, Trivandrum, Ernakulam and Bangalore. TNSTC–Kumbakonam region operates short distance Interstate buses to Tiruchirappalli, Thanjavur, Pudukkottai, Karaikudi, Tiruvarur, Kumbakonam, Pondicherry and Nagappattinam from Vailankanni.[7]

Vailankanni is directly connected to the state capital Chennai by rail. A daily train called Vailankanni–Chennai Egmore Link Express connects Vailankanni and Chennai Egmore and another weekly express Vasco–Vailankanni Express is being operated between Vasco da Gama in Goa and Vailankanni. Apart from the express Trains, Passenger trains are operated daily from Karaikal and Nagappattinam to Vailankani.[8]

The nearest International Airport is Tiruchirappalli International Airport which is 165 kilometres (103 mi) away, operating domestic flights to Chennai, Bangalore, Kochi and International flights to Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Colombo and Hambantota.[9]


Vailankanni town was among the worst hit by the massive 26 December tsunami that was triggered by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. The tsunami struck at around 9.30 am on that Sunday, when pilgrims from Kerala were inside the church attending the Malayalam Mass. The water did not enter the shrine as it was built on high ground, but the receding waters swept away hundreds of pilgrims who were on the beach.[3]

The shrine's compound, nearby villages, hundreds of shops, homes and pilgrims were washed away into the sea. About 600 pilgrims fell victim to the tsunami.[10] Rescue teams extricated more than 300 bodies from the sand and rocks in the vicinity and large number of unidentified bodies were buried in mass graves.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]