The annual festival of the Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours (Puthean Pally) began here on Friday.

Various religious and cultural programmes have been organised in connection with the four-day festival.

The celebrations, which started on November 18 with the hoisting of the festival flag, will conclude with a colourful display of fireworks on November 28. Irinjalakuda Bishop Mar Pauly Kannookkadan performed the solemn Mass on Friday. Assistant Police Commissioner T.K. Thomas switched on the illumination of the basilica and Bible Tower in the evening.

On Saturday, a Mass led by Auxiliary Bishop of Thrissur Archdiocese Mar Raphael Thattil, will be followed by ‘Kooduthurakkal' ceremony and procession. Various parish units will take out processions to the basilica.

Festival Mass by Thrissur Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath will mark the celebrations on Sunday. A procession from Lourdes Metropolitan Cathedral Church to the basilica in the evening will be accompanied by various sets of bands, melam, panchavadyam and illuminated chariot.

Dollu Kunitha, a popular drum dance of Karnataka accompanied by singing, and Perumbara Melam will be the highlights of this year's procession, according to the church sources.

Special prayers

Special payers for the departed souls will be conducted on Monday.

Fireworks will follow Panchavadyam led by Pallavoor Sreedharan Marar in the evening. In connection with the festival, the basilica will provide assistance for housing, education, medical care and wedding for financially backward families. Built in Indo-Gothic style of architecture, the Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours, popularly called Puthen Pally, is the biggest and tallest church in Asia. The Bible Tower of the basilica is the tallest church tower in Asia.