An abode of peace & harmony

An abode of peace & harmony

time to rejoice

An abode of peace & harmony

Come August 1, the coastal region in general, and Karkala in particular, will have a reason to rejoice. On that historic day, the St Lawrence Shrine in Attur, Karkala in Udupi district is going to be officially elevated to the status of a ‘Minor Basilica’, the second shrine to get the status in Karnataka, and the 22nd in India. St Mary’s Basilica in Bengaluru is the only other Basilica in Karnataka.

This momentous event will recognise the shrine of St Lawrence as a sacred sanctuary of blessings, favours, reconciliation, peace, unity and communal harmony. In the Catholic world, a basilica is a church building that has been accorded special privileges by the Pope. It is a title of honour given to certain churches because of their antiquity, dignity and historical importance as centres of worship.

Humble beginnings
Situated amidst placid greenery, the shrine of St Lawrence has a rich history and its origin can be traced back to 1759. The church, in those days, was about seven kilometres away from the present site. Tippu Sultan, who was the ruler of Mysore, destroyed the church, took Christians as captives and held them in Srirangapatna near Mysore. At the end of the captivity, the Christians, who returned, put up a small church building of thatched roof on the way to Nakre in 1801 under the leadership of a Goan priest.

As the church at Nakre was too old for religious functions, the parishioners and their Goan parish priest were on the lookout for a proper location to build a new church. They also carried with them the statue of St Lawrence, which is one foot in height. During their journey, they prayed to him to help them find a suitable spot. They crossed the Ramasamudra lake of Karkala, went up the Parpale Hill and came down on the western side.

Here, they found a spring flowing at the foot of the hill. So they quenched their thirst and rested and placed the statue on the ground. Once they were fully rested, they continued their search. However, when they tried to lift the statue, they were not able to do so. It was as though it was rooted firmly in the ground.

On seeing this, the priest promised to build the church in the same spot. It was only
after this promise was made, was the priest able to lift the statue. So, on the same spot, the present church was built in 1839. Within a short time, this church turned out to be a centre of pilgrimage attracting people of all faiths from surrounding places. The statue of St Lawrence became a holy statue and the place gradually developed. Soon, as the church’s fame spread and it became popular, people started considering it as a shrine. Several pilgrims visited to pay their respects to St Lawrence as they believed that he was not only a powerful intercessor before God but also a dispenser of favours and blessings. The large number of pilgrims visiting the holy shrine everyday, especially during the annual feast in the last week of January crosses several lakh. According to the 2015 records, over 12 lakh pilgrims visited that year. Among the many unique aspects at the shrine, the pushkarini stands apart as it brims with water through the year. The water is believed to have a miraculous healing effect.

The shrine represents a blend of gothic, Hindu and Muslim architecture. One can see the traces of Lodi dynasty architecture incorporated in the detailing of the shrine. The stained glass exhibits the characters of gothic architecture. In addition, one can notice in the temple architecture as well. The shikara is surmounted with kalasha. Similarly, the church archs are surmounted with crocket based in kalashas.

The shrine has been treated as a centre of peace, tranquillity, prayer, devotion and communal harmony. This was evident during the years of 1994 and 1997, when there was a landslide around the Parpale Hill due to heavy rain. As a result of this, the metallic pandal in front of the old church got heavily damaged and blocked the flow of water and this would have led to heavy damage. However, devotees from around Karkala and Attur cleared the large heap of mud, making way for the smooth passage of water, recalls Rev Fr George D’Souza, the shrine’s rector.

In 2001, when a new church was built as a memorial of the bicentenary celebrations, a 90 feet twin belfry was constructed based on Christian, Hindu, Jain and Muslim architecture, which has been appreciated by everybody. Communal harmony is augmented with an inter-religious get together that is held during Christmas every year. Here, prominent religious leaders of different faiths are invited to address the gathering and promote communal harmony.

Charitable activities
Though the feast of St Lawrence is on August 10, the festivity and grand celebrations are held in the last week of January every year. Begging is prohibited during the festivities. On the last day, the money collected during the festivities is distributed equally among the beggars in the area. The needy are also helped and taken care of throughout the year by the rector of the shrine. The shrine also takes utmost care to alleviate misery and suffering by setting aside 75% of the revenue received by contributions, donations and hundi collections for the construction of houses for the poor and to cater to the medical care, education and other basic needs of people from all faiths. The Diocese has already set in motion a master plan of putting up a Home for the Destitute so that all those who have nowhere to go will find a home away from home

Apart of these present plans, the shrine is also planning to put into action a few others as well. Some of the future plans  include a museum to house relics and chronicles pertaining to the history of the  shrine; artefacts; a hall to screen films on the life of Christ and St Lawrence, informed Udupi diocese Bishop Rev Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo.

The dedication of the new Basilica will take place on August 1, 2016 with a Thanksgiving Holy Mass. This event will be celebrated by Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops from all over India along with priests, religious and laity of the Dioceses of Udupi and Mangaluru.

“It is, indeed, a matter of great joy to all of us that our shrine is now a Basilica. The title will promote confidence among the devotees in the spiritual services held in the Basilica because of its recognition by Pope Francis and increase faith in God because of the intercessory powers of St Lawrence, whose gifts are experienced by many devotees,” said the Bishop.

Who is St Lawrence?
St Lawrence is one of the most widely venerated saints of the Roman Catholic Church. St Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome, who was serving under Pope Sixtus II. He was one of the deacons who were martyred during the persecution by Emperor Valerian in 258 AD. A deacon of that time was ordained to serve the poor.
He was appointed both to the service of the table (corporal works of mercy)
and to the service of the Word of God (spiritual works of mercy).
In Attur, St Lawrence is even worshipped as the ‘God’ of Karkala by many people. In Tulu, St Lawrence is affectionately addressed as ‘Karlada Dever’ (God of Karkala).