Arthunkal Perunnal (St. Sebastian's Feast)Arthunkal Feast
Arthunkal St Andrew's Basilica (St. Andrew's Forane Church at Arthunkal) is one of the sacred churches in Kerala, attracts lakhs of devotees both Christians and non-Christians every year from all parts of the State. The feast of St. Sebastian is celebrated on a grand scale for eleven days in a year. Owning to the unmanageable crowding of pilgrims and the resultant confusion on January 20 the final day of the feast, the church authorities have instituted another minor feast on the 8th day after the principal feast (Octave). This is known as 'Ettam perunnal'. Of late this feast also has attained as much importance as the principal feast.
On the 18th January at the day dawns and the gates of the church are opened. The ceremonial procession to the beach on 20th Jan attracts a huge crowd of pilgrims. Thousands of pilgrims who return from the Sastha temple of Sabarimala throng to this sacred place, take bath from the tank attached to the church and pay their homage to the Saint. They remove their Hacocarpus bead chains at the altar. Hindus believe that Ayyappan and St St Sebastian are brothers.
On 27 Jan midnight the church doors were closed and the st Sebastian's statue was placed at the safe locker in the room near Vicar's office. A small statue of the saint is placed there for 40 days. This marks the end of the Arthunkal perunnal. In 2009, more than 1.5 lakh persons performed the bow and arrow 'nercha'.Offerings
Among the devotees who flock to this church for worship a greater part consists of those who have recovered from serious illness and the other who have escaped grave accidents. The maimed, the crippled and the mentally derange, also visit the church. Those who have received special favors from the saint show their gratitude by crawling on their knees from the beach/cross to the church, known as 'Nirangu Nercha. Urul nercha', is rolling on ground, is also performed mainly on evening of 26 Jan from beach chapel to the church, which is more than a kilometre, carrying the nercha material (Ambum Villum) in hands.
Devotees offer Gold and silver replicas of body parts, bow and arrow, rice, pepper, salt and cash. Blessed oil, water, candles, Saint's photo, stickers, devotional song CDs, cross, calendar, pendants, threads, prayer books, novena, St Sebastian's biography, church history related books, Blessed 'payasam' (Rs 30) etc can be purchased from the Suvishesha Bhavan stall near the Bell tower. You can also book Holy Mass by paying money at the church office.
One can take bow and arrow ('Ambum Villum') from the chapel to church after paying Rs 15. The bow and arrow counter open from 5 am to 12 midnight. The church band set will play devotional tunes and take one to the church main doorway. 'Adima' is dedicate oneself to the saint, is also done by many at Rs 3. Many devotees come to the church and sit in 'Bhajana' for days.Holy Mass Timing
Daily Mass at 0530 am, 0700 am and 0530 pm. Baptism on 2nd and 4th Sundays at 1030 am. St Sebastian's Novena, Holy Mass & Adoration on Thursdays at 1100 am and 0430 pm. Daily Adoration in the Old church from 0800 am to 0530 pm.How To Reach
By Air : Cochin International Airport, Nedumbassery is about 80 km from Arthunkal
By Train : Nearest station is Cherthala (6 km) / Alappuzha (22 km).
By Road : There is frequent private bus service from Cherthala to Alappuzha via Arthunkal and back. Taxi car can be hired from the town. During festival season KSRTC operates regular bus service to Arthunkal. Arthunkal is 22 km from the district head quarters Alappuzha by road.