Kochi

Hindu families carry out rituals as Vallarpadam church fete begins

Pilgrims sweeping the floor as a gesture of thanksgiving at the Vallarpadam Basilica on Friday.   | Photo Credit: THULASI KAKKAT

Representatives of two Hindu families were in attendance at the Our Lady of Ransom Basilica at Vallarpadam, known as Vallarpadathamma, abutting the Kochi backwaters on Friday as Varappuzha Archbishop Joseph Kalathiparambil lighted a candle to show the path for a series of festivities that will culminate in 2024 with the church turning 500 years.

The day also marked the end of the annual feast.

The Hindu families are deeply linked to the church lore and history. The floods of CE 1676 washed away the church set up by the Portuguese in CE 1524, also taking apart the island comprising today’s Panambukad, Vallarpadam, and Raman Thuruth. But the portrait of “Our Lady of Mercy”, depicting Mother Mary and Infant Jesus, was salvaged by Paliath Raman Valiachan while on a ferry to Chendamangalam. Subsequently, the Paliam household allotted land tax free for the construction of a new church and offered to continually provide oil for an “undying lamp” (Kedavilakku), donated by it which hangs from the church ceiling in front of the altar, said U.T. Paul, coordinator of the basilica’s history commission.

Varappzuha Archbishop Joseph Kalathiparambil launching the three-year-long celebrations in the run-up to the 500th year of the Vallarpadam basilica in 2024. Standing next to him is the manager of Paliam Trust, Krishnabalan Paliath.

Varappzuha Archbishop Joseph Kalathiparambil launching the three-year-long celebrations in the run-up to the 500th year of the Vallarpadam basilica in 2024. Standing next to him is the manager of Paliam Trust, Krishnabalan Paliath.  

In line with the custom, Krishnabalan Paliath, manager of the Paliam Trust, on Friday replenished the oil lamp at the church. “The church officials were a little apprehensive about observing the day in view of the pandemic. But I encouraged them and here I’m today, repeating an age-old tradition,” said Mr. Krishnabalan.

The other Hindu family comprises the descendants of Meenakshiamma of Palli Veedu. The legend has it that in CE 1752, Meenakshiamma and her baby were on their way to Mattancherry for the baby’s first meal ceremony when the boat capsized. Everyone thought that they had drowned. But the vicar of the Vallarpadam church had a revelation following which the mother and the baby were rescued from a part of the backwaters three days later. “The woman submitted herself to the service of Vallarpadathamma for the rest of her life. Sweeping the church courtyard with a broom is an offering even now,” said Fr. Antony Valumkal, parish priest.

The legend is so entrenched in the lore that an image of a mother holding a baby was painted in a corner of the original portrait of St. Mary and infant Jesus that adorns the altar of the basilica now.

Pope Leo XIII made it a “privileged altar” in 1880 and the government of India recognised it as a major pilgrim church in 1951. It was declared a national shrine in 2004 and Pope John Paul II made it a minor basilica, Fr. Valumkal said.

The quincentenary celebrations will also see a a study of manuscripts and old documents in the possession of the basilica.


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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 2:15:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/hindu-families-carry-out-rituals-as-vallarpadam-church-begins-fete/article36658802.ece

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