Nagapattinam, Aug 29 (PTI) The 11-day annual festival at Shrine Basilica at Vailankanni in Nagapattinam district commenced tonight with the hoisting of the holy flag.

Thousands of devotees from various parts of the country witnessed the holy event.

Bishop of Thanjavurr M Devadass Ambrose presided over the flag hoisting ceremony.

After special prayers, the 22-ft long and 14-ft broad holy flag was taken in procession around the church through Vailankanni bazaar, Ariyanattu Street and Beach road and was hoisted later.

Following the flag hoisting ceremony, holy mass, litany and benediction were conducted.

During the festival days (Aug 29-Sep 8), holy mass will be conducted at the main shrine.

High mass in Tamil, Marathi, English, Konkani, Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi will be conducted at the Basilica from morning till evening.

The most important event of Birthday of the Lady of Good Health and Chariot Procession will take place on September 8.

District Collector C Suresh Kumar said tight security arrangements have been made under the direct supervision of Nagapattinam SP Deshmukh Shekar Sanjay.

The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation is operating special buses from Chennai, Madurai, Karur, Tiruchirappalli, Thanjavur, Kumbakonam, Mayiladuthurai, Karaikal, Nagapattinam, Chidambaram and Puducherry.

Southern Railway is operating trains from Vasco-da-gama, Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Chennai, and Tirunelveli while Central Railway has announced special trains from Mumbai.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.