One of the 19th century house built on Flower Street in Manapad, Thoothukudi dist
One of the 19th century house built on Flower Street in Manapad, Thoothukudi dist

Fewer Sri Lankan pilgrims at Our Lady of Snows fest

Some of the 19th century houses were built on Manapad’s Flower Street in Sri Lankan style as they felt it would remain in their memories for the rest of time, Elango said.

MADURAI: The 440th annual feast festival of Our Lady of Snows Shrine Basilica is underway in Thoothukudi and it has not witnessed the anticipated arrival of pilgrims from Sri Lanka this year.

Usually the annual festival witnesses a good number of pilgrims from Sri Lanka, but since the neighboring Island Nation is hit by the worst economic crisis this year, only a few pilgrims have turned up now, said SJC Paldano, resident of Manal Street, Thoothukudi.

Unlike previous years, travel fare becomes costlier as a passenger has to shell out Rs 80,000 to reach Thoothukudi from Sri Lanka. In the prevailing situation there, the value of currency depreciated sharply against a backdrop of heightening economic uncertainty. However, the situation was different last month as some of his relatives from Colombo, Sri Lanka got together in Thoothukudi for a wedding, Paldano added.

S Lassington Fernando, another resident of Thoothukudi, said usually pilgrims from Sri Lanka would make their way to the Tamil Nadu’s Port city of Thoothukudi before the festival began and stay for at least 10 days in their relatives’ houses.

“We (people of Thoothukudi) still have an umbilical cord relationship with the Sri Lankan people and also keep marital relationships. During the days of their stay, they bring spices, soap and oil and offer it to us and we give them with lungies and other textile products of their choice,” he said.

Cherishing the memories of relationship between Thoothukudi and Sri Lanka, S Princeton Fernando, president, Thoothukudi Coastal Mechanized Sail Vessel Owners Association said in those days, decades ago, scores of dry fish merchants from coastal hamlets of Veerapandipattinam and Alanthalai in Thoothukudi settled down in Colombo.

Further recalling, his father-in-law grew exotic flowers in the upcountry Nuwara Eliya, a popular hill station in Sri Lanka, once frequented by the British and made a big deal in flower trade in Colombo.

Moreover, a large workforce from Thoothukudi and its neighboring coastal Ramanathapuram district frequented tea estates and rubber plantations in Sri Lanka by Boat Mail only after being screened medically at Thattaparai camp in Thoothukudi.

“Our workforce played a phenomenal role in building the economy of Sri Lanka. Ahead of their travel trips, the ‘Baratha Home,’ built by a prominent donor Pereira from Colombo, provided accommodation in Thoothukudi

According to Valentien Elango from Flower Street, Manapad, near Tiruchendur, for many local people whose business boomed in Colombo, were indebted to Manapad, where they built churches in gothic style.

Some of the 19th century houses were built on Manapad’s Flower Street in Sri Lankan style as they felt it would remain in their memories for the rest of time, Elango said.

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