|• Total||5.5 km2 (2.1 sq mi)|
|Elevation||87.78 m (287.99 ft)|
|• Density||1,800/km2 (4,800/sq mi)|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
|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, 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.
As of 2001[update] 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.
Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health
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". 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, out which an estimated 3 million people visit the shrine during its annual festival from 29 August to 8 September. The 11-day annual festival concludes with the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of Mary on 8 September.
Geography and climate
|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.
Vailankanni is well connected by Road and Rail to the rest of the country. The East Coast Road (ECR) that runs from Chennai to Cuddalore, connects the town to the rest of the country. The nearest operational airports are Tiruchirappalli International Airport, 165 kilometres (103 mi) away and Chennai International Airport,300 kilometres (190 mi) away.
Due to the large number of pilgrims that visit this town, the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC), State Express Transport Corporation (Tamil Nadu) (SETC) and several private bus operators ply to cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, Coimbatore, Ernakulam, Madurai, Nagercoil, Salem, Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Trivandrum.
Velankanni is the terminal station on the 10 kilometre long Nagapattinam - Velankanni broad gauge line. The foundation stone of the line was laid in 1999 and it was completed in 2010 at a cost of Rs. 48 crores. The line is part of the Tiruchirappalli railway division of Southern Railway zone of the Indian Railways.
The Vailankanni–Chennai Egmore Link Express runs daily. The Vasco–Vailankanni Express is operated weekly to Vasco da Gama, Goa. Apart from the express Trains, regular passenger trains are also operated daily to Karaikal and Nagappattinam.
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.
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. 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.
- "Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns (Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2008-11-01.
- "Hindus join in India's Marian pilgrimage". Catholic World News. 3 September 2007. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
- "Velankanni: Death in the churchyard". Rediff.com. 28 December 2004. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
- "Velankanni festival ends with feast mass". The Hindu. 9 September 2007. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
- "Details About Vailankanni Church Campus". www.velankannichurch.com. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- "Special buses to Velankanni". The Hindu. 20 August 2010. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
- "Nagapattinam-Velankanni BG line completed". The Hindu. 28 February 2010. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
- "A new weekly train to Vasco". The Times of India. 28 August 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
- "Tsunami sufferers question faith". BBC News. 27 March 2005. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
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