City Faith – Mother Mary in Sari, Khan Market
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Virgin Mary statues are normally seen dressed in white robes.
But there’s a little-known church in central Delhi where she’s aglimmer in blue Kanjeevaram silk sari–draped especially around Easter. At this Shrine of Velankanni the blue-eyed mother of Jesus is ensconced in a giant glass case, safe from the grime and dust of the city.
Velankanni is the title that was given to Mary by devotees in Tamil Nadu, where she is believed to have appeared twice in a town bearing that name. Delhi’s Velankanni is seen holding baby Jesus—with both of them wearing elaborate red crowns topped with a golden cross.
The statue faces the shrine’s prayer hall that is immersed in dimly lit tranquility, as welcome relief from the scorching heat outside.
An elderly worshiper now sits in the front pew, hands folded in his lap, surrounded by walls depicting the icons of biblical saints. A small sales counter near the front door is amply stocked with prayer booklets for “Our Lady of Health, Velankanni”, along with crosses and miniature icons. While a notice on Mary’s glass case informs visitors that “offerings are accepted here: saris/gold/silver.”
The church is discreetly tucked away on a lane off Khan Market. Come in on an empty weekday afternoon, when you have the entire compound to yourself.
Mary’s local dress