Category Archives: Annai Vailankanni Shrine

Annai Vailankanni Shrine

Annai Vailankanni Shrine, Chennai, India, 2007, credits: P.-Y. Trouillet

SITE – Basic information

Country: India
City: Chennai
Location: Besant Nagar
Type of religious site: Church/Basilica
Religious communities attending: Christians, Hindus, others
Languages used for ceremonies and prayers: Tamil, English
Year of construction: 1971-1973
Pilgrimage location: YES
Pilgrimage season: August/September
Names and dates of the main festivals celebrated in situ: 1 main annual festival, the Feast of Mary (first 10 days of September)
Website page of the site:
Name and title of the in-charge of the site: Rev. Fr. B.K. Francis Xavier (The rector and parish priest)

SITE – Overview of the site

Located in the Besant Nagar area in Chennai (Tamil Nadu), this church is called Annai Vailankanni Shrine in reference to the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health (Mary) situated in the locality of Vailankanni (or Velankani, in Nagapattinam district), which is one of the biggest Catholic pilgrimage centres in South India. Actually, the Chennai Annai Vailankanni Church can be regarded as an urban ‘copy’ or ‘replica’ of the original shrine.
This church has grown in popularity since its construction in the 1970s, for it attracts now crowds of devotees during its yearly festival, among which many non-Christian people, mostly Hindus, are a significant part, as it is the case in the original Vailankanni Basilica. 
The very site of the church also deserves attention since it is located in a white collar and recreational area of Chennai, on the beachfront, where two quite large and renowned Hindu temples have also been established during the last decades (one of them is also a ‘replica’). Thus, even if the ‘shared’ practice of this church is deeply linked with the long story of coexistence between Hindus and Christians in South India, it may also be influenced by some very contemporary leisure and recreational activities that might be useful to take into consideration in the study of urban ‘shared shrines’ in India.

SITE – Bibliography pertaining to the site



Assayag, Jackie and G. Tarabout (eds.). 1997. Altérité et identité. Islam et christianisme en Inde, Paris: Editions de l’EHESS.

Clémentin-Ojha, Catherine. 2008. Les chrétiens de l’Inde: Entre castes et églises. Paris: Albin Michel

Clémentin-Ojha, Catherine. 1993. “Indianisation et enracinement: les enjeux de l’inculturation de l’Eglise en Inde”. Bulletin de l’Ecole Française d’Extreme-Orient, 80, pp. 107-133

Clémentin-Ojha, Catherine.1993. “L’indigénisation du christianisme en Inde pendant la période coloniale”. Archives des sciences sociales des religions, 103, pp. 5-19

Mayaram, Shail. 2004. “Beyond Ethnicity? Being Hindu and Muslim in South Asia.” In Lived Islam in South Asia: Adaptation, Accommodation, and Conflict, edited by Imtiaz Ahmad and H. Refield. New Delhi: Social Science Press.

Mosse, David. 2012. The Saint in the Banyan Tree: Christianity and Caste Society in India, Berkeley: University of California Press

Roberts, Nathaniel. 2017. To Be Cared For: The Power of Conversion and Foreignness of Belonging in an Indian Slum. Oakland: University of California Press.

Sebastia, Brigitte. 2002. Mâriyamman-Mariyamman. Catholic Practices and Image of Virgin in Velankanni (Tamil Nadu). Pondicherry: Pondicherry French Institute, Pondy Papers in Social Sciences, 27, 73 p.

Younger, Paul. 1992. “Velankanni Calling: Hindu Patterns of Pilgrimage at a Christian Shrine”, In Sacred Journeys. The Anthropology of Pilgrimage, edited by Alan Morinis. Westport, Connecticut, London, Greenwood Press.

Fieldwork conducted by Dr. Pierre-Yves Trouillet