The annual festival of Our Lady of Lourdes in Villianur concluded on Sunday

The fireworks which lit up the sky on Sunday marked the last night of the ‘car procession’ of the 137th annual 10-day festival of Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Villianur. As per tradition, the statue of Mother Mary, adorned with a special diamond crown, was placed in the decorated car and taken through the streets of Villianur, with hundreds joining the procession with songs and prayers.

Chief Minister N. Rangaswamy also joined the crowds late in the evening. A special mass was held on all days of the festival.

Around 1 lakh devotees came on the last day of the Novena (Sunday), according to parish priest Father S. Richard. “We get a good gathering of people belonging to all religions. Around 70 to 75 percent of the participants are non-Catholics. We even get visitors from France, Thailand, Singapore, Mauritius and other places,” he said.

The Villianur church, built in the late 19th century, is dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, said Father Richard. The pond, on the premises of the church, is a rare feature among Catholic churches, he added.

While the church will be preserved in its current state, a new church, which can accommodate around 5,000 people, is being constructed on the premises.

Across the churchyard, devotees with family members across generations were a common sight.

Mary from Cheyyur in Kancheepuram district came to the festival with her daughter and four grandchildren.

“I have been coming here regularly for many years now. The children have come home for the holidays. We will stay here tonight. I want to participate in the procession but it is difficult with the small children,” she said. “Today is the biggest day!” grinned 12-year-old Pradeep Roshan, her grandson.

Devotees from afar make the church premises their home during the festival and come ready with mats to spend the nights.

The festival gives a fillip to business, with vendors selling toys, household goods, plastic ware and vessels on the roads leading to the church.

For police officials on duty, it was a tough vigil. “As Saturday and Sunday see the biggest turnout of people, we have got police personnel from all stations under the Villianur circle area for these two days. Policemen who have to move along with the procession find it quite difficult to manage the crowds,” said K. Ponni, a police officer with the Villianur All Women police station, who was posted inside the gates of the church.

The festival concluded with the dismounting of the flag on Monday morning.