National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom, Vallarpadam
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|National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom, Vallarpadam|
National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom (major pilgrim centre of India), Vallarpadam-Ernakulam, Kochi
|Denomination||Roman Catholic Latin Rite|
|Status||National shrine Basilica(minor) major pilgrim centre of India|
The National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom, Vallarpadam-Ernakulam, is a large centre of pilgrimage, and the major Christian pilgrim centre of India. According to the Holy See, the apparition of the Virgin Mary in Vallarpadam is the only approved one in India. Vallarpadam Basilica is the most important Marian Shrine in India. People from all parts of the world irrespective of caste or creed go to the church to seek the blessings of Mary, the mother of Jesus, popularly known as "Vallarpadathamma".
Vallarpadath Amma is believed to have miraculously saved her devotees several times from violent storms. The feast of Vallarpadath Amma is held every year on 24 September. The celebrations last more than a week and are accompanied by a big fair.
Change of status
The Roman Catholic Church has raised the historic Marian pilgrimage destination on the Vallarpadam Island to the status of a National Pilgrim Centre. The documents related to the raising of the status of the Our Lady of Ransom Church on the island was handed over recently to the Archbishop of Varappuzha Daniel Acharuparampil by the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, Cardinal Telesphore Toppo.
Vallarpadam is situated next to Bolgatty Island on the west, and linked to the Ernakulam mainland via the new Goshree bridges. It is about 3.5 kilometers (2.2 mi) in length in the north-south direction and hosts a population of 10,000 people. Vallarpadam is about one kilometer (½ mile) away from the Ernakulam mainland.
The picture of Mary and Infant Jesus, installed at the top of the main altar of the Vallarpadam Church, was brought by Portuguese merchants under the leadership of Vasco Da Gama in 1524. In 1676 the old Church, which was known as the Church of the Holy Spirit, founded by the Portuguese missionaries, was destroyed by a heavy flood, and the picture was found floating in the backwaters. Nobody except Paliyath Raman Valiyachan, the Prime Minister of Maharaja of Cochin, could recover it. The present church at Vallarpadamis built on land donated by Paliyath Raman Valiyachan. A sanctuary lamp which he donated has been burning day and night from 1676 onwards in his honour.
In May 1752 a miracle is believed to have taken place which made Vallarpadam a centre of pilgrimage. In Vallarpadam there was a young Nair Lady named Meenakshi Amma, who was a member of a noble family called Palliyil Veedu. Together with her son she was sailing to Mattancherry. There arose a storm and the boat capsized. Meenakshi Amma and her son went deep down into the backwater. While they were in danger Meenakshi Amma promised Vallarpadathamma that if they were rescued by her they would be her Adimas (servants) until their death. On the third day, as per instructions in a dream, the parish priest asked the fishermen to cast net in the river, and Meenakshi Amma and her son were rescued. This incident is depicted in the picture mentioned above. From that day onwards, people, especially those who travel by water, come to Vallarpadam and pray for their safe journey. Meenakshi Amma and her son were baptised as Christians, and were named Mary and Jesudas respectively. They lived in the churchyard itself. Her family is still living quite near the church. Pope Leo XIII elevated its main altar to the status of Altare Privilegiatum in Perpetuum Concessum in 1888.
The Feast of Vallarpadathamma is celebrated from 16 to 24 September every year. Thousands of pilgrims come to Vallarpadam to participate in the Feast, especially on 24 September.
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