Malayatoor (Kerala), Apr 25 (ANI): The St. Thomas International hill shrine in Kerala's Malayatoor is a symbol of communal harmony as it attracts millions of devotees from all religions during the festival season.
During April and May, people from all age groups and religions carry a wooden cross to share the pain and hardships that Jesus went through the way to crusification at Mount Calvary.
"I am visiting the shrine for the last three years. I believe in temple as well as church. I believe that by visiting this place, I won't suffer from any disease," said Mankya Amma, a Hindu pilgrim from Pollachi, Tamil Nadu.
Hindu devotees flock from nearby states Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in large numbers and climb the hill shrine with the same passion as any Christian devotee.
The St. Thomas International hill shrine, also known as Malayatoor Kurisumudi is Kerala's most famous hill shrine and is the only international pilgrim centre in Asia and fifth in the world, which is approved by the Vatican.
"People from across the world come here as the shrine of St. Thomas is wide open for anyone. Even Jesus once said that 'all worship places will be open for all'. Lakhs of people irrespective of caste, creed, language and religion come to this place and pray," said Fr. Rockey Chully, the Chaplain of the St. Thomas International shrine, Kurisumudi.
The famed church lies 54 kilometres from Kochi and stands at the top of the Malayatoor Hill, which is 609 metres high. The church is consecrated to St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ and enshrines a full-size image of St. Thomas.
The climb is difficult with rocks and uneven surfaces but it still remains a major attraction for the pilgrims. According to the church authorities, more than 80 lakh devotees visit this place every year during the period which lasts till May 31.
According to a belief, the footprints St. Thomas are engraved in a rock, which is protected here. ailing in an Arab merchant vessel, St. Thomas is believed to have landed at Kodungalloor port in Kerala, India in AD 52. It is believed that St. Thomas took the initiative for establishing a Christian community at Malayattoor.
St. Thomas founded seven churches in Kodungalloor, Quilon, Niranam, Nilakkal, okkamangalam, Kottakavu and Paalayoor on his journey in Kerala.
He died in 72 A.D. after he was pierced by a lance while praying on St. Thomas Mount, a 91m-high hill 14km southwest of Chennai.
His body was taken to Mylapore and buried in the chapel he had built with his own hands. By Juhan Samuel(ANI)