3 Feb 2013

Shrine Basilica festival in Tuticorin

Tuticorin or Thoothukudi is a port of Tamil Nadu, also known as “Pearl City”, it’s famous for pearl fishing and diving. Shipbuilding is also another thriving industry here. Tuticorin is a stunningly beautiful city, and being a port city, has historically been home to many foreign visitors such as the Dutch, the Portuguese and of course, the British.

While these are the industries Tuticorin is famous for, one of the big events that draws scores of people to Tuticorin every year is the eleven day long Shrine Basilica festival. As it is a family celebration, people flock in from all corners of the world to spend this time with their families in Tuticorin.

Speaking volumes about the rich colonial past of the city, the Shrine Basilica festival is hosted in Our Lady of Snows Shrine Basilica. The Shrine name is a reference to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, where legend has it, it snowed during the summer. The church was built in the sixteenth century and the history of the shrine is associated with the mass conversion of the paravar community to Christianity.

The shrine reflects a Gothic style of architecture, which is what the Portuguese (and all of Europe) were influenced by between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries. One can see the pointed arches, the ribbed vaults and buttresses, which are telling of this form of architecture. Walking into the shrine, you will see the entire structure is covered with rib vaulted ceilings and high arches. Larger windows are covered with coloured glass and there are paintings depicting traditional Catholic beliefs on the dome above the altar. A statue of Our Lady of Snows stands at the altar with elegant screens hanging on either side in buttress style. The Our Lady of Snows Shrine Basilica is colourfully decorated for the festival.

It is fascinating to watch the celebration unfold, and impressive to see the kind of crowd this festival draws. The festival of Our Lady of Snows Shrine Basilica is definitely a sight to see, and worth taking any of the Tuticorin flights for.