Malayatoor (Kerala), March 21: On the eve of Good Friday, thousands of pilgrims climbed erala's famous hill shrine of Malayatoor Kurisumudi.
The famed church is located 52 kilometers from Kochi and stands at the top of the Malayatoor Hill that is 609 meters high. It is consecrated to St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ and enshrines a full-size image of St. Thomas.
The footprints of St Thomas are engraved in a rock, which is protected here.
The climb is quite difficult due to rocks and uneven surfaces but they remain the major attractions for the pilgrims who come here.
Around seven million or more visit this place every year around Good Friday, said the church authority.
Fr. R.Chullikal, the Chaplin of the International shrine said that hundreds of thousands of devotees throng the hill shrine during this season, especially on Good Friday, irrespective of their age, cast and religion.
Despite the harsh terrain and bad weather condition, people of all age groups and religions share the pain and hardships by carrying the wooden cross that Jesus went through the way to crucification at Mount Calvarry.
"I have been coming here for the last three years regularly. I always carry the cross with me during the pilgrimage, as this gives some kind of an inner spiritual awakening and happiness to me," said a devotee Dinoy P.A, who travelled 80 kilometers barefoot to arrive here for the pilgrimage.
The sacred Malayatoor (St.Thomas) Church in this region is considered as an International pilgrim site that attracts the largest number of pilgrims.
Sailing in an Arab merchant vessel, St. Thomas is believed to have landed at Kodungalloor port in Kerala, India in 52 A.D.
It is believed that St. Thomas took the initiative for establishing a Christian community at Malayattoor. St. Thomas founded churches in Kodungalloor, Quilon, Niranam, Nilakkal, Kokkamangalam, Kottakavu and Paalayoor on his journey through the length and breadth of the land.
St. Thomas died in 72 A.D. after he was pierced by a lance while praying on St Thomas Mount, a 91m-high hill 14kms southwest of Chennai. His body was taken to Mylapore and buried in the chapel he had built himself. By Juhan Samuel