A sea of humanity had gathered at the grounds of the St Mary's Forane Church at Kuravilangad, near Kottayam, as the members of the five families assembled for the prayers before the annual 'Kappal Pradikshanam,' that falls on day two of the 'Moonnu Nombu' festival. It is these five families that are traditionally entitled to take the 'Kappal' or the ship around the church.
After the prayers, a 40 ft wooden replica of a ship was taken out in a procession. This unique ceremony traces its origin to the biblical reference about prophet Jonah. God, it is said, told Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh that they were doomed. Jonah, however, got scared and ran away to Joppa from where he managed get on a ship to escape to Spain. However, the Lord had other plans. He caused a storm. Jonah, told the sailors to throw him out of the ship and that the sea would calm down; and it did. Lord sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah and he spent three days and nights inside the fish. The fish vomited him and he went to Nineveh to deliver the message. The 'Kappal Pradikshanam', re-enacts this story.
The wooden replica of the ship which is kept in the premises is taken out through the 'Door of Mercy'. The ship is taken to and fro three times to represent the stormy seas as is the custom. At the same time, another procession bearing the holy icons is taken out and the two processions move around the huge granite cross built in 1587, which is an unique feature of the church. The procession goes back inside the church and a mass is held. According to a myth, this ritual is observed to ensure the safety of the sailors from the village of Kadappoor when they went out to sea for trade in those days of yore.
The St Mary's Forane Church at Kuravilangad Church is one of the oldest churches in Kerala. Some say that it dates back to 105 AD, while the present church was constructed in 1960. There is a miracle well, where Mother Mary, it is believed, appeared to a group of children and instructed them to build a church near to it. There are a couple of bells that were brought from Germany. The idol of Mother Mary, it is said, was brought from North India. A granite cross built in 1570's is the other unique feature of this church.
The Moonnu Nombu festival will end today, but the diocese will observe small feasts that will go on till the period of Lent begins in February.
Where? Kuravilangad is about 22kms from Kottayam, Kerala.