A special celebration was held for those suffering. The shrine’s history is linked to the fate of a statue of the lost Virgin found in a Tamil Nadu forest.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The shrine of Our Lady of Periyanayagi, in Tamil Nadu (pictured), will celebrated World Day of the Sick tomorrow.
“We are celebrating the Day with a special mass for the sick,” said Fr Devasagaya Raj M Zackarias, pastor of the Shrine, speaking to AsiaNews.
“After the Mass all the sick will be blessed. Some 85 students from the deaf school run by the nuns will also take part in the service.”
"At the shrine, childless couples of all faith come and offer saris to Mother Maria because the statue is made in Indian style with saris and earrings,” explained the clergyman.
Built in 1720 by a Jesuit missionary, Father Beschi, the shrine’s history is important.
"The site where the shrine is located was once in the forest where people came to let their flocks graze.
“In the 17th century, Father Beschi, a great Italian missionary, preached across Tamil Nadu. He brought two statues of Our Lady to consecrate in Elakuruchi/Thirukavalur (now in the Diocese of Kumbakonam), where he worked.
“As he travelled through the forest on the road to Elakurichi, he felt tired and fell asleep under a tree. Children who minded their livestock nearby hid one of the statues behind a bush as a joke. When he woke up, Fr Beschi was shocked to find that one of the statues was missing and went on his way saddened.”
The shrine’s history is also linked to that of another man, named Kachirayar, from Mughasa Parur, who had no children of his own. He prayed to God every day to have one.
“One day Mother Mary appeared to him in a dream and said to him: ‘Kachirayar, I am alone in the forest; if you build a chapel for me, I will give you a child.’ After that she disappeared.”
“When he realised this, he felt cheerful and started looking for the statue in the forest. He found it behind a large bush.”
Later, “People built a small chapel, placed this statue in it and began to worship it. It is the statue in the shrine. The miracle happened as he had dreamt: his wife gave birth to a child.”
“After a while, Fr Beschi, having heard the story, came to Konankuppam and saw the small chapel built for the statue he had lost. He was very happy and decided to make Konankuppam his workplace. He built the shrine that exists today.
"It is said that it was the first place of worship that he erected and when it was completed, he went to Madras and asked the bishop of Mylapore to get him a statue from Manila, an image of the Virgin, in typical Tamil Nadu dress with the child Jesus in her arms, according to a sketch he had made. Eventually, it arrived.”
This life-size statue (pictured), which stands on a pedestal about ten feet high, is made of wood and painted in bright colours.
In its honour, Fr. Beschi wrote a poem, Thembavani, in Tamil, which is by far the most celebrated and greatest of his works. He completed it in 1726. The Tamil conference held in Madura between 1728 and 1729 approved his work and published it.