The mention of Kodaikanal conjures up images of rolling hills, fertile valleys, dense forests, refreshing waterfalls and lakes. Not many can think of a church in this context. Yet, La Salette Church holds the honour of being the first church in Kodaikanal affiliated to the Roman Catholic denomination.
Dating back to the 19th century, La Salette Church began as a small shrine on these hills. Commanding a lovely view of the surrounding hills of Kodaikanal, this church has seen a lot of growth in terms of followers and expansion of its structure and area.
There were not many Catholics back when La Salette Church was established, but today, Tamil Nadu has a significant Catholic population who religiously attend mass. In keeping with the mission of La Salette, the aim of spreading their ideology to all has resulted in a number of new church buildings springing up.
La Salette Church Entry Fee & Mass Schedule
La Salette Church is open round the year and is accessible to all. There is no fee to enter the shrine, and people of any religion can walk in. In tune with most other Catholic churches, La Salette Church hosts the Sunday mass every Sunday morning at 8 AM, and again at 10:30 AM. If Sunday is not convenient for you, you can take a look at the rituals even on Saturday evenings at 4 PM. For those who are well versed in Tamil, the daily mass is held in Tamil at 11:30 AM every day of the week.
History Behind La Salette Church
The church dates back to 1863 when its cornerstone was laid by a French Missionary who believed in the philosophy of La Salette. The funding for the construction of this church came from a Belgian lady who donated benevolently after her daughter was cured of a disease. After almost 3 years of building the shrine, in 1866, the church was dedicated to Our Lady of La Salette (believed to be an apparition of Mother Mary) on Easter Sunday.
Architecture of La Salette Church
Bearing witness to the French influence in the establishment of this church and also a hint of the local architectural style of Tamil Nadu, La Salette Church sports Tamil-French architecture. Apart from the main shrine which houses a statue of Our Lady of La Salette and another of Saint Joseph (the earthly parents of Jesus), the premise has a Pilgrim Hall, La Salette Grotto and Way of the Cross. The entrance has an arch that welcomes all.
Things to Keep in Mind While Visiting La Salette Church
As with most places of worship, there are a few things that you must be aware of while paying a visit to this church:
1. Photography is not allowed inside the shrine. However, you may take pictures of the lovely views and the exterior of the building.
2. The locals prefer to take their shoes off before entering the main shrine. It is recommended to follow this custom to avoid hurting their sentiments.
3. On 15th August, The Feast of Our Lady of La Salette, a grand feast is hosted to celebrate the supposed assumption of Mary. The church is lavishly decorated during this time.
Places to Visit Near La Salette Church
The drive to La Salette Church can be quite long, and you will not spend more than a couple of hours inside. In such a scenario, it makes sense to utilize your time by visiting some of the other places to visit in Kodaikanal that are located nearby. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Coakers Walk: Barely a kilometre from the church, Coakers Walk is a 1 km-long stretch of pedestrian walkway with an unrivalled view of the Palani Hills on which Kodaikanal is built. For just INR 10, you can get on the walkway for gorgeous views of the lush valley. There is a Telescope House along this route where you can peep through a telescope to get a closer look at the sights. This comes at an additional charge of INR 20. If you carry a professional camera with you, the extra fee is INR 30. Open from 7 AM to 7 PM each day, prepare to spend a couple of hours here, taking lots of photos.
2. Bryant Park: Between 9 AM and 6 PM, you can drop into this beautiful park for a leisurely stroll in the mountain air. Spread over 20 acres, this park houses more than 300 species of plants, including exotic flowering ones. Do not miss the greenhouse where you will find a lot of colourful flowers. Adults can enter for INR 30, while kids are charged INR 15. For professional photography and videography, you pay INR 50 and INR 100 respectively.
3. CSI Christ the King Church: This Gothic-style church is only a 20-minute walk from La Salette Church. Open from 6:30 AM to 12 PM and 3 PM 8:30 PM every day, the intricately decorated stained glass panels inside this house of worship attract a lot of sightseers and worshippers alike.
How to Reach La Salette Church
There are a number of ways to get to La Salette Church in Kodaikanal. Some of these modes of transport depend on how you are planning to arrive in Kodaikanal. The nearest airport is in Madurai, over 120 km away. The nearest railway station is Kodaikanal Road.
City Buses: You will be able to catch a bus to Kodaikanal Bus Stand, which is the main bus terminus nearest to La Salette Church at 2.2 km. From there onwards, hire a local taxi to reach the church. It will hardly take 10 minutes.
Private Transport: There are no auto rickshaws or radio taxi services such as Ola or Uber for travel within the city. In most other cases, you will have to hire a private car from one of the car rental companies in Kodaikanal to reach La Salette Church. Another option is to hire a self-drive car if you like to drive by yourself.
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