Close to 100 Indian pilgrims, comprising mainly fishermen and priests, took part in the annual Festival at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kachchateevu on 11-12 March 2022. A similar number of pilgrims from Sri Lanka also took part in the Festival. Consul General of India, Jaffna Raakesh Natraj and other officials of the Consulate were special invitees.
Douglas Devananda, Fisheries Minister, Sri Lanka greeted the pilgrims on their arrival at the Island. A late evening mass was held on the same day after special Prayers for the pilgrims to mark the Festival. A special Mass dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, the patron Saint of Fishermen was conducted by priests from India and Sri Lanka on 12 March 2022. This was followed by the traditional feast. The Church flag was also hoisted as a part of the festivities.
The annual Festival witnesses enthusiastic participation of Indian pilgrims every year. More than 3000 pilgrims from India participated in 2020. These Indian pilgrims are extended consular and other forms of assistance by Consulate General of India, Jaffna. There was no participation last year as the Festival was not held due to COVID-19. Limited participation was permitted this year for the Festival, which was held in accordance with COVID protocols.
The Festival underlines the deep people to people linkages between India and Sri Lanka as well as enduring cultural ties. Participation of fishermen from the two countries paves way for close interaction between them and provides an opportunity to know each other and their problems better. The mainstay of the centuries-old connect has been such interactions and close bonds between the peoples of the two close maritime neighbours.