Wednesday, March 29, 2017

St. Antony's Church, Uvari, Thirunelveli

St. Antony's Church, Uvari, Thirunelveli
St. Antony's Church is located at Uvari, a fishing hamlet in Thirunelveli District of Tamilnadu. Uvari is the only place in Tamilnadu that has a St. Antony's church beside the sea. The St. Anatomy’s Church in Uvari is Geographically Positioned at 8.275601, 77.890567 or 8°16'32.2"N 77°53'26.0"E. According to ancient Tamil history, people were called Bharathar's of the Neithal (ocean) land. Uvari's historical name was Obeer Pattanam which was ruled by the Pandiyan dynasty, before they were converted by Portuguese. (Example: for the same reason fish symbol kept on Pandya's flag.

More recently, in the 1530s, Portuguese and Spanish missionaries from Goa had a strong influence when the Bharathars converted to Christianity as a Roman Catholic's. The priests, acting as godfathers, gave surnames such as Fernando to all Roman Catholic Bharathars as they were converted by the Portuguese. According to local myths, a crew of a Portuguese ship which sailed near Uvari about 450 years ago contracted cholera. In an attempt to avert death, the ship's carpenter carved an image of Saint Antony of Padua from a block of wood. Soon after, the entire crew regained its health.

When the ship docked at Uvari, the sailors set up the statue inside a hut in the village. In the 1940s, the villagers built a church with the original statue of St. Anthony holding the Infant Jesus in his hand, on the altar. St Anthony is said to perform many miracles daily, therefore church was upgraded to shrine. Uvari is visited by pilgrims of all religions from all over South India. St Anthony's has two important festivals every year.

From June 1 to 13, Uvari is the venue for a special local festival and thousands of people from the neighborhood attend. The other festival occurs in the last week of January or the first week of February. It starts three Sundays before Ash Wednesday and lasts for 13 days.  A blessed oil using neem is given for the devotees. Devotees apply that oil in their head and some drink it. They believe their sickness will be cured. In Hindu temples also neem Theertham is given.

Uvari is located at about 8 Kms from Thisayanvilai, 40 Kms from Nanguneri, 70 Kms from Thirunelveli, 78 Kms from Thoothukudi, 136 Kms from Thiruvananthapuram and 220 Kms from Madurai. Nearest Railway Station is located Nanguneri. Nearest Airport is located at Thiruvananthapuram, Thoothukudi and Madurai.

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