Arthunkal is a coastal town and an important pilgrim centre in the state of Kerala. The town is a holy land by hundreds of thousands of devotees, of Christian as well as other faith. The town is famous for its various Churches and is an ideal destination for people looking for a spiritual destination. Now, although it is a Church, still people from different faiths visit this place and the Church sets the right example of peace and harmony.
Read on to know more about the spectacular Arthunkal Church, its history, and the ways to reach this place. Also, this article will help you know more about the Arthunkal Church festival and the offerings that you can offer, along with the preferable dress code for the devotees.
St. Andrew's Church known as The Arthunkal Church, is one of the famous Christian pilgrim centers in the whole of Kerala. The Church is named after St. Andrew the Apostle, and people of all faiths visit the Church when they come to Arthunkal. Located in the Alappuzha district, the Arthunkal Church is well-known for its beauty and was built by the Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century.
It is believed that there were Christians in Arthunkal even before the 7th Century and when the Portuguese visited Kerala, the Jesuit missionaries started missionary work in Arthunkal from 1530. From 1560, the Christians and missionaries tried hard to get permission to build a Church, and finally, in 1581 the Muthedath king gave a go-ahead to build the Church. Finally, on 30th November, St Andrews was built using coconut palm leaves and wood.
Fr Gasper Pius S.J., who had a huge role to play in getting the Arthunkal Church constructed, was made the first Vicar of the Church. After Fr Gasper Pius passed away in 1584, Fr. Jaicomo Fenicio took charge of the Arthunkal Church. Fr. Jaicomo Fenicio then took permission from the king to build the new Church using stones and lime. Fenicio was a man who was loved by people and later when he passed away, his body was buried inside the Church.
In 1647, the phenomenal statue of St. Sebastian was brought to the Arthunkal Church from Milan. This statue was of St. Sebastian, who was martyred on account of his faith in Christ and his body was pierced with arrows.
It gets better: the Arthunkal Church celebrates the annual ten-day festival of St. Sebastian, which witnesses devotees from all walks of life. This is a blissful event, which attracts lakhs of people and the festival is celebrated with huge pomp and show. The march with the statue of St.Sebastian is the main attraction of the feast. During this procession, the statue is taken out from the Church to the beach and back. On the final day of the fest, followers crawl on their knees to reach the Church from the nearby beach. This feast is called The Arthunkal Perunnal in the local language and it has made the small town of Arthunkal popular.
The main offering that devotees offer in this Church is 'Ambum Villum', which are models of Bow and Arrow are made of different materials. This is crazy, but many devotees cover the whole distance from the beach to the Church by rolling their bodies. After covering this distance of 1 km they reach the Church and offer the offering, which is a sign of deep reliance and
Visitors can visit the Arthunkal Church any day of the week between 5:30 am – 6:30 pm. The holy mass timings are from Monday – Saturday 5:30 A.M, 7:00 A.M, and 5:30 P.M. While on Sunday the holy mass timings are 5:30 A.M, 7:00 A.M, 9:00 A.M, 11:00 A.M, and 5:00 P.M. The Baptism is performed on 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month after the 9.30 A.M mass. On Thursday, at 5:30 A.M, there is a Holy Mass and Novena to St. Sebastian. At 7:00 A.M, there is a Holy Mass. On Thursday, at 9:30 A.M, there is a confession, and at 10:30 A.M and 4:30 P.M on Thursday there is Novena to St. Sebastian, Holy Mass & Eucharistic Adoration.
Arthunkal Church is a significant Church and it is the major shrine devoted to St. Sebastian in the world. Every day the Church premises witnesses devotees from all over the world and the whole place comes alive. There are stalls nearby, which sell a huge variety of food, including drinks, sweets, and other goods. There are long lines of people who patiently wait for their turn to see the statue of St. Sebastian.
There is no particular dress code that the visitors have to follow while visiting the Church. However, it is expected that the devotees still dress modestly and dress like they dress while visiting any other place of worship.
The Arthunkal Church welcomes people of all religions and castes who come to the Church to pray to St Sebastian. Huge numbers of Hindu pilgrims also visit the Church while returning from the famous Sabarimala temple, which is 160 kilometers from the Arthunkal Church. Once in Arthunkal Church, these devotees pay their respects to St. Sebastian, who they consider as the brother of Lord Ayyappa. Here, they also take off their ‘mala’ (bead-chain) in front of the statute, which they had worn as part of the pilgrimage.
After this, they take a bath in the pond near the Church. The Church is an example of spiritual concord, a feature widespread in a lot of Churches and temples in Kerala. The Arthunkal Church has been a mark of common concord for centuries. You might be wondering: How come the Hindus in such a big number visit the Church after their pilgrimage? The reality is, it is difficult to say how the tradition of the Hindu pilgrims visiting the Sabarimala temple got evolved; but it has certainly added to the communal harmony, which has resulted in great relations between different communities.
Arthunkal is believed to be the sacred land by innumerable numbers of followers, therefore, it is an ideal destination for spirituality lovers. The Arthunkal Church is one of the most famous Churches in the town and people from faraway places visit this Church. Arthunkal is at a distance of around 45 km to the south from Kochi and 22 km to the North from Alappuzha.
The place is accessible both by air and through railways. The Cherthala railway station is the nearest railway station to the Arthunkal Church which is located only at a distance of 8 km from the Church. From the railway station, you can take an auto or cab to reach the Church. If you prefer traveling by air then you can fly to the nearest Cochin international airport, which is at a distance of 70 km from the Arthunkal. From the airport, you can take a taxi or a can to reach the Church. The local people can get to the Arthunkal Church by hiring any private transportation.
When visiting The Southern part of Indian, you should keep the Arthunkal Church on the top of your list. Once you visit this place, you will be filled with purity and calmness. You will also witness people of all faiths coming together and respecting each other’s religion. Want to know the best part? You can also have fun on the nearby beach and get a taste of both spirituality and adventure!
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