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Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Visit to Basilica: ‘Our lady of Candelaria’

While Indians celebrate ‘The Independence day’ on 15th August, People in Tenerife celebrate ‘Dia de la Candelaria’

Thousands of pilgrims arrive on the eastern coast of Tenerife at Candelaria to visit the Basilica that houses the statue of Black Madonna. Many people spend the night on the roads on their route that leads them to this town to pay their tribute to their Patron Saint.

The festivals in the town of Candelaria are rich in religion and popular fervor, closely linked to five centuries of faith, belief and love for the Virgin.

Last time I couldn’t go to Candelaria, but instead went for a drive up to the mountains closer to my house and met up with the trekkers who were on their way to the church.

Many people trek through the steep beaten path of hills, trees and shrubs. There are signs-boards at regular intervals directing the proper route to follow. There is one meeting point on the route where different groups from different parts of the island meet. This point offers the most beautiful panoramic view of the island. It is the leisure place, they share their eats and drinks and let their hair down.

On 15th August there is a big celebration at the church. Since I hate crowded places, I decided to go few days before the real festival.

The road leading to church is a walking plaza. There are shops on either sides of the road selling souvenir articles, flowers, clothes; there are many small cafes, bars and patisseries that churn the hunger pangs and make me drool. 

All the houses overlooking the road have flags and pictures of their deity decorated on their balcony. The street is decorated with colorful streamers, flags, pictures of Virgin Mary and blinking lights. 

The road is neatly tiled, opening to a large open space that has a line-up of bronze statues (running parallel to the sea wall) of Guanche leaders, the original inhabitants of Tenerife overlooking the huge plaza. 

The square is dominated by the Basilica de ‘Nuestra Senora de Candelaria’, built to house the famous statue of the Virgin and this is the site that is popular annual pilgrimage.

Basilica de ‘Nuestra Senora de Candleria’ was built to house the famous statue of Black Madonna that appeared on the beach in 1312 and was found by two Guanches. The current statue inside the church is the replica of the original one that was swept away by tidal wave in 1826, after surviving a fire that ravaged the church.

Indians in Tenerife believe it to be the reincarnation of Goddess Devi and normally come to this church to offer their prayers during Navratas and during other Indian festivals.

Inside the church, it is very peaceful. During the festival, the statue is placed out on the altar for full view. It is the magnificent building with high walls and intricately designed ceiling, stained glass windows depicting the figurines, flowers and abstract designs. Every wall emotes a feeling of bliss. In the inner room, there is a smaller alter dominated by a huge painting of the last supper.

Devotees offer flowers, as they enter the church, placing them in the buckets of water, lined up against the wall, they then walk to the inner rooms, which is filled with electric candles, you insert a coins to light the candle. This is the new addition to the church because initially there used be hundreds of wax candles burning all day and the room used to be very dark because of the smoke. I inserted one Euro in the slot and three candles lit up.

After spending fifteen minutes inside the church, we are out in the square. There is a fountain outside the church, where people used to throw a coin in the small pond surrounding it and make a wish. Unfortunately, Tenerife is undergoing recession, probably saving on light and water, I think, hence most of the fountains in the city are dry and this one was too.

There was lot of activity at the plaza. A big stage was being organized in the center of the plaza for the big day. There will be folklore music and dance till late hours after the mass on the celebration day.

We walk behind the church, on the promenade along the stone wall. The angry waves make a roaring sounds as they approach the shore in groups with rising crest, and splash against the shore, sending the spray of showers, two meters up in the air. There were some very old houses behind the church and a big cave at the end of the path. 

We spend one hour walking along the shore, watching the angry crest and trough of waves, its splashing against the seawall and I squeal with joy whenever I feel the sprinklers against my face.

The beach on the other side of the path has black sand and is not safe for swimming in these rough waters, nevertheless, it does not stop tourists from braving the waves and enjoy few moments of swim.

The best part of the visit is to sit in those restaurants facing the seawall and enjoying the seafood which most of these restaurants specialize.

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