Ramanathapuram, March 14, 2019: A list of 2,451 pilgrims has been finalized for the two-day annual St Antony’s Church festival being held in Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island located between Rameswaram and Sri Lanka.
Inspector General of Police (south zone) K.P. Shanmuga Rajeswaran inspected the arrangements made at Rameswaram fishing jetty on March 14.
Rameswaram – Verkodu Parish, which organized the Indian pilgrimage, has finalized the list of pilgrims after scrutinizing applications received from pilgrims, including those from other states. For the first time in recent years, local traditional and country boat fishermen have been granted permission to sail in their ‘vallams’ (country boats) for the March 15-16 festival.
They asserted their right to attend the festival with their ‘vallams’ after waging a legal battle and 247 fishermen would sail in 14 country boats. They would sail along with 2,204 pilgrims who would be ferried in 64 mechanised fishing vessels.
Officials said as per the final list, 2,451 pilgrims – 1,994 men (including 247 country boat fishermen), 390 women, 66 children, and a lone transperson – were expected to visit Katchatheevu.
The list had been sent to the district administration, district police and all security agencies, including Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, Coastal Security Group, Intelligence Bureau, Q Branch police and Customs. The boats would set sail from Rameswaram fishing jetty from 6 a.m. on Friday, they said.
The IG, accompanied by DIG (Ramanathapuram range) N. Kamini and Superintendent of Police Omprakash Meena, inspected the fishing jetty and other arrangements for the safe sailing of the pilgrims. Fisheries department has certified boats after checking their stability and sea worthiness. The department is providing life jackets and lifebuoy rings to the pilgrims.
Sri Lanka’s Jaffna diocese, which organized the festival, had extended an invitation to Sivaganga diocese in India to join the festival with pilgrims.
The festival would commence on March 15 evening with ‘Way of the Cross’ procession, jointly taken out by Indian and Lankan pilgrims, followed by flag hoisting and car procession. After the feast mass on Saturday morning, the Indian pilgrims would return.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Navy, said on its website that about 10,000 devotees (from India and Sri Lanka) had attended the festival last year and the same number of devotees were expected this year. The Lankan navy had built temporary jetties for berthing boats and made other arrangements, it said.
(Source: The Hindu)