Monthly Archives for April 2014

12 Striking Churches of South India

Blog, Destinations, Heritage & Culture, Pilgrimage - GoroadTrip - April 27, 2014

Churches in India are as old as the religion of Christianity. It is believed that one of the apostles of Jesus, St. Thomas visited India and brought the religion to South India. He built churches in Kerala and the inspiration spread across India. Colonization was another reason India gets to see different styles of the British, Portuguese, Dutch and French in its churches. Some of the more striking churches of South India are:

Santhome Basilica, Tamil Nadu:

This church in Santhome is an important attraction of Chennai. It showcases the Neo-Gothic style of architecture and is believed to house the remains of St Thomas. The long arched windows, pristine spires, wooden domes and elegant roof are aesthetically pleasing.

Medak Cathedral, Telangana:

Built in Gothic Revival style, the Medak Cathedral has an impressive 175 feet high bell tower. The church is built with stunning finesse which is evident by the six different colours of mosaic tiles believed to be imported from Britain, the decorative flooring by Italian masons and the well carved magnificent grey pillars.

Santa Cruz Basilica, Kerala:

Originally built by the Portuguese, the church was marked as a cathedral by Pope Paul IV. The church is one of the oldest in India and a prominent landmark of Kochi. It was one among the few structures that survived the Dutch invasion.

Se Cathedral, Goa:

One among the largest churches in India, the Se Cathedral in Old Goa is dedicated to Catherine of Alexandria and is on the banks of the Mandovi River. The Church boasts of a Golden Bell, so named because of the rich bell tone. It is one of the best bells in the world. The old paintings on the Alter and the chapel where a vision of Christ is believed to have appeared called Cross of Miracles are great attractions.

Velankanni Church, Tamil Nadu:

Possibly the most visited church in India, the Velankanni Church in Nagapattinam is dedicated to the Lady of Health known as ‘Our lady of Velankanni’. It is believed that devotees who offer candles to the Mother will be cured of all illness. The Church with its white exterior and red roof is an imposing Gothic structure on the shores of the Bay of Bengal.

St Mary’s Basilica, Karnataka:

The oldest church in Bangalore city, St Mary’s Church depicts the Gothic style of architecture. It has been elevated to the position of minor basilica in Karnataka.

Mount Mary Church, Maharashtra:

Situated in West Bandra in Mumbai, the Mount Mary Church is set on a mount as the name suggests. It is oldest church of Mumbai and attracts a horde of worshippers. It is a beautiful sea front structure standing on a hill. The wooden statue of Mother Mary with child Jesus is another lovely sight.

Parumala Church, Kerala:

A parish church in Thiruvalla district in Kerala, the Parumala church holds the tomb of the great saint, Saint Gregarious Geevarghese. The church has a unique circular structure and is believed to have miraculous powers. It has a capacity to hold about 2000 people at a time.

Basilica of Bom Jesus, Goa:

One among the more popular churches, the Basilica of Bom Jesus or Good Jesus, is around 300 years old. The church holds the remains of St. Francis Xavier. His body is open for public viewing at a particular time of the year when people come in thousands to visit the church. The church is a World Heritage Site.

Our Lady of Dolours Church, Kerala:

Known to be the largest church in India and the third tallest in Asia, this church is a minor basilica in Thrissur. It boasts of the Gothic style of architecture and has some fine interior decorations of scenes from scriptures, images of saints and murals.

Rosary Church, Karnataka:

Located in Shetihalli, Hassan, the Rosary Church was by built by French missionaries on the banks of River Hemavati. The church is a brilliant example of Gothic architecture. After the Hemavati Dam and Reservoir was constructed in 1960, Shettihalli Church is submerged in water during the monsoons and only its spire can be seen. The church is said to be built with the unique mix of mortar, bricks and eggs.

St Francis Church, Kerala:

One of the oldest European churches in India, the St Francis Church stands as a testament of Christian history in India. It holds the descriptions of the struggle of European colonies in India and was declared a protected monument in 1923.

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7 Festivals of Tamil Nadu that One should Know

Blog, Festivals/Events - GoroadTrip - April 16, 2014

Tamil Nadu is a state which gives importance to culture, traditions and festivals with a fervour. The celebration of festivals is marked by mango thorans, intricate kolams, flower malas, colourful silks, elaborate poojas, temple visits and of course plenty of food preparation. Some of the important festivals that Tamil Nadu celebrates are:

Pongal:

Pongal is the harvest festival celebrated at the end of the month called Margali. The festivities actually begin with patterns of kolam designed every morning through the month. At the end of the month, Pongal is celebrated as a mark of gratitude to Sun God. Rice of the first harvest is cooked along with moong dhal and the name of the dish is also Pongal which has a spicy and sweet variety.

The festival is celebrated through four days and more gusto is shown in the villages where the crops are grown. The first day is called Bhogi and is celebrated to honour Lord Indra as he is the God of rain. The people get rid of old things to make place for new by burning them on a bonfire or ‘bhogi’. The main festival is on the second day and called Thai Pongal and pongal is prepared using coconut and sugarcane. The third day is MattuPongal. Mattu means cow and the animals are decorated with beads, bells and flower garlands and worshipped. They are also paraded around in the villages after being decked up. The last day is KannumPongal. On this day, families go out to visit or spend a day together at a public place. Gifts are also exchanged.

Thiruvaiyaru Festival:

This festival is held in honour of Saint Thyagaraja the music maestro on the day he attained Samadhi on the banks of the River Cauvery. It is celebrated in January in Thiruvaiyaru, Thanjavur. It is one of the biggest music festivals in our country and has global acclaim too, being celebrated in USA, Nigeria and Mauritius. Scores of Carnatic and classical ragas resound the air in the midst of the rituals and poojas.

Thaipusam:

The birthday of Lord Subramaniam is celebrated on a full moon day in the Thai month on the Tamil calendar. Considered to be a day to be penitent, devotees carry pots called ‘Kavadi’ containing rice, milk and other items all the way to the temple as offerings to the Lord. Many devotees choose to fill the pots only with alms and walk barefoot to the temple. Some even pierce their bodies with sharp objects and walk on burning coals as an act of penance.

Natyanjali Dance Festival:

Celebrated in the month of February or March, the festival is a tribute to God Nataraja, the Lord of Dance. ‘Natya’ means dance and ‘Anjali’ means offering, so ‘Natyanjali’ means an offering of dance. It is primarily held in the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram where hundreds of dancers offer their tribute to Nataraja in the form of Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi or Mohiniyattam. The festival is celebrated for five days.

Tamil New Year’s Day:

Called Puthandu in Tamil, the festival is celebrated in April when the new calendar of the Tamil Year begins. On Puthandu day people look at things that hold the mark of prosperity like mangoes, neem flowers, gold, betel leaves and fruits. New clothes are worn. The Puthandu feast consists of many delectable items among which the mango pachadi, a sweet and sour dish, is a must.

Varamahalakshmi Nombu:

Celebrated on a Friday before full moon day in the month of Sravana, this festival is devoted to Goddess Lakshmi. It isperformed by married women for the prosperity of their house and husband with elaborate rituals. It is believed that worshipping Goddess Lakshmi on this day is equivalent to worshipping Ashtalakshmi.

Karthigai Deepam:

Karthigai Deepam is a festival of lamps and falls in the month of Karthigai of the Tamil calendar. It is celebrated on the night the moon aligns with the constellation of Karthigai. The sight of the lamps lighting up every house sets an aura of devotional reverence. The belief is that Lord Shiva appeared on the hills of Thiruvannamalai on this day. So the top of the hill is lit up with a large fire using ghee and camphor.

Even in the fast paced life, the deep rooted traditions and customs of Tamil Nadu invariably comes to the fore during festival time.

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