Vallarpadam Church or Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom is a pretty church in Kochi/Ernakulam. It has been bestowed the status of a Major Pilgrim Centre and its history is an interesting tale of Religion and Folklore.
I was in Kochi for official purpose when I had a day spare until I headed back home. Rather, I ensured I kept a day spare before I headed back to work monotony.
Thankfully, I had a colleague who was a local and offered to show me around. So, we started early morning and headed straight to view the Chinese Fishing Nets and Fort Kochi Beach which were lovely sights. But soon, my excitement started to dampen after seeing St. Francis Church, Willingdon Island and Marine Drive. Nothing wrong really; these were all nice places but nothing you could take home.
I think my colleague noticed my disappointment, and just before we could head back home he suggested we see this church called Vallarpadam Church. We were at Marine Drive when he pointed the direction we would have to head towards. Although it was barely 4 km, the location was an island that required driving over a bridge to reach there. I decided to check it out; if nothing, at least the drive would be worth it.
We arrived at Vallarpadam to see a beautiful white washed Church. The structure is a rebuilt one dating 1676 after it was originally destroyed during a flood. The original church was built by the Portuguese in the year 1524. The church is dedicated to Mother Mary who is also known as “Vallarpadathamma”.
Faith and Belief:
An interesting tale that surrounds the history of this church is regarding the miraculous powers it is believed to hold. It is said that a local lady named Meenakshiyamma was travelling with her son in a boat when they became a victim of a horrible storm. Meenakshiyamma and her son managed to take shelter under a rock and remained there in the hope of rescue. It was then, she promised to offer her lifetime towards the service of Vallarpadathamma if she survived. On the third day, she and her son were rescued by some fishermen.
The church is believed to have carried out miracles mostly for fishermen at sea and hence, the local fishermen have tremendous belief and faith in this church. They often bring their new boats here to bless them before they are taken out at sea. Even the location of the church serves in a way, where passing by fishermen stop with their boats to offer their prayers.
One of the most interesting sights I witnessed on the visit was some devotees who were sweeping the church premises. It is believed that devotee’s whose wishes have been fulfilled or those who make a wish sweep the church premises as gratitude and service.
With so many interesting tales and a beautiful church view, the visit to Our Lady of Ransom was completely worth it and I headed back home a happy traveller. While preparing the write-up for this blog, I researched further and found out that the Union Government declared it a Pilgrim centre in the year 1951. More recently, around the year 2005, it was declared a Basilica. The church celebrates the feast of Vallarpadath Amma on 24th September each year along with a week long fair that happens during the festive period.
If you like your exploration a bit off beat, Vallarpadam Church is an excellent mix of sightseeing, religion and folklore. Try to catch a glimpse of this one in your Kochi trip.