Saint Teresa Festival in Mahé Date in the current year: October 15, 2024

Saint Teresa Festival in Mahé The annual Saint Teresa festival is one of the most important events in the district of Mahé, Puducherry, India. It is dedicated to Teresa of Ávila, famous for reforming the Carmelite Order. The festival lasts from the second to the fourth week of October, but its main day is October 15, the feast of Saint Teresa.

Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a prominent Spanish mystic, theologian, religious reformer, and author. A Carmelite nun, she reformed the Carmelite Orders of both men and women with the assistance of the younger friar and mystic John of the Cross. Their reforms resulted in the establishment of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, whose members follow a completely contemplative life in cloistered monasteries.

But why is there a festival dedicated to a Christian saint in India? The thing is, some states and union territories of India have a relatively high Christian population thanks to European missionaries. In Puducherry, for example, more then 6 % of the population (over 78,000 people) identify as Christians. The union territory is home to one of the oldest Christian churches in India, Saint Teresa’s Shrine in Mahé.

According to the tradition of the Saint Thomas Christians, an ethno-religious community of Indian Christians from Kerala, Thomas the Apostle introduced Christianity to India in 52 AD. Catholic and Protestant missionaries from Europe have been active in India since the 16th century.

A historical record discovered in Rome claims that the first Christian missionary in Puducherry was Father Dominic of Saint John of the Cross from Italy. He established the Mahé mission in 1723 with the permission of local ruler. The church in Mahé was built in the subsequent years and consecrated in 1736.

The Mahé shrine was originally dedicated to Saint John of the Cross, who helped Saint Teresa reform the Carmelite Order. It was re-dedicated to Saint Teresa after her statue had been placed in the shrine.

There are several accounts regarding the origin of the statue of Saint Teresa enshrined in Mahé. According to one of them, the statue was found in the sea by local fishermen. Another account claims that the statue was carried by a ship sailing along the Indian coast. The ship made a stop in Mahé and couldn’t set sail until the crew realized that they needed to leave the statue in the shrine because it was the saint’s will.

The first church in Mahé suffered serious damage in 1779 during the Anglo-French War. A new shrine was built in its place in 1788. Since then, Saint Teresa’s Shrine has been renovated several times — in 1885, 1956, and 2010.

Every year, Christian missionaries from all over India (especially from the states with a significant Christian population including neighboring Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) come to Mahé to pay their respects to Saint Teresa of Avila in her shrine and to participate in the vibrant festival. Saint Teresa festival is popular among people of all religions and castes and attracts a great deal of tourists.

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