Friday, 20 September 2019

Portuguese legacy - St Antony' church in Uvari, Tamil Nadu


St. Antony' church in Uvari,Tamil Nadu,redeff
St Antony' church in Uvari, Tamil Nadu. catholiconline.in
St Antony' church in Uvari, a fishing hamlet in Thirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu in Peninsular India, is a unique place of worship close to the beach just like the famous Velankanni church at Velankanni in Nagapatnam district, Tamil Nadu. This place was once called ''Neital'' meaning a  land close to the ocean. The ancient name of this place was ''Obeer Patnanam'' ruled by the Pandya rulers of Madurai.  People lived here were referred to as ''Bharathar'' who, under the influence of Portuguese and Spanish missionaries became Catholic converts. Since then, they have been following the Christian faith and many of them have Fernando as surname bestowed by the Portuguese.
St Antony' church in Uvari, Tamil Nadindianetzone.com
The legend has it about 450 years ago the crew of a Portuguese ship, when were passing off Uvari in the bay of  Bengal, contracted Cholera. To avoid  imminent death, the ship's carpenters did something to ward of the dreadful disease. Surrendered themselves to the divine dispensation of the almighty, they made a wooden image of St. Antony of Padua. Surprisingly,  soon the entire crew recovered from the deadly disease.  Upon docking the ship in this hamlet,  the sailors installed the wooden image of St. Antony on the shore of the village in a small hut  as a token of their gratitude to the saint for saving their lives. In the 1940s,  the villagers built a church and installed the statue of St. Antony holding the infant Jesus in his hand on the altar.
Velankannimata (Virgin Mary)saving Portuguese sailors rchive.is

The legend associated with St. Antony's church  is more or less similar to that of the Velankanni Arogiamata church (the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health) in Nagapatnam district. Believe it or not,  annually, 20 million pilgrims come to the shrine from all over India and abroad  to get blessed by Virgin Mary who is known to have  performed many apparitions.  In the 17th century,  the merchant  ship on the way to Ceylon  was caught in a severe cyclonic storm almost facing shipwreck off the coast of Velankanni village in the Bay of Bengal. The Portuguese sailors having no other  recourse took refuge in Virgin Mary's divine protection. Soon, the cyclone weakened and the sea became calm;  later the ship was washed ashore safely.  Having been saved from near death by Virgin Mary's miracle, to express their gratitude, the Portuguese sailors established a small shrine in a thatched building which later developed into one of most popular Basilica in SE Asia. 
St Antony' church in Uvari, Tamil Nadu commons.wikimedia.org/
It is said that St. Antony at Uravi performed many miracles  to the delight of the people,  giving  peace of mind and mental solace to those who sought his blessings in this church. Later, it became a shrine and the name of this church reached far and wide and people of all faiths began to visit this place for good health and welfare. 

Annual festival, St Antony' church in Uvari, Tamil Nadu,maalaimalar.com
Annually two important festivals are held here. one is from June first to 13th  and the other one being from  the last week of January or first week of February. Both festivals are attended by people in thousands The latter one starts 3 Sundays before Ash Wednesday and will be for 13 days. The devotees get neem oil blessed by St. Antony and people  can  either apply on the head or drink. The belief has been that  the devotees will soon be cured of their ailment. Here, trust is the driving force and  is something  similar to
''thertham'' offered in all Hindu temples.  

https://www.maalaimalar.com/devotional/devotionaltopnews/2019/02/06082739/1226332/st-anthony-church-festival-start.vpf