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April 24, 2018
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Hundreds gather for car festivalEmotional scenes at 141st annual event at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Villianur

Scores of people travelling hundreds of km thronged Villianur on Sunday evening to watch the spectacle of the 141st annual car festival of Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine.

With their cattle, holding candles and offerings, people participated in the holy mass and car procession on the final day of the nine-day festival.

Mariadas, in his 60s and from Odiampet, walked from his home to the shrine on Sunday evening. He stood before Church Parish priest Pitchaimuthu with tears welling up, recounting how he was bedridden and recovered to walk all the way to the church to offer his prayers.

Following him, Ragini from Chennai walked with a garland of money as her offering. “My son was unwell and I prayed to Our Lady of Lourdes that I would offer this garland if he recovers. He did and I have come here to give my offerings,” she said, adding that she comes here once in a year on this annual festival.

Regular visitors

Several people like Mariadas and Ragini have been coming to the annual car festival every year for the past several decades. Vanathaian from Tiruvannamalai had come with his wife carrying food. “We have been coming here to celebrate this festival for the past 20 years. Every year, we offer candles and never missed a year. We start our journey from home in the morning and reach by noon. We attend the evening mass, watch the car procession and go back,” he said.

On the day of festival, holy mass was conducted by Archbishop of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore Antony Anandarayar. Parish Priest Pitchaimuthu said Parish Priest from Poondi Packiasamy conducted the evening mass along with nearly 10 priests.

“As per tradition, the statue of Mother Mary adorned with a special diamond crown and placed in the decorated car is taken through the streets on procession. People from all religions celebrate this day. They offer candles and flowers and sing prayers along the procession. Earlier, the car would cover a short distance but now with the demand from people a longer route is taken. The car procession starts at 8 p.m. reaches the church only after 12.30 a.m.,” he said.