The shrine of St.Teresa of Avila at Mahe, one of the oldest churches on coastal Malabar

St. Teresa’s Shrine, Mahé (Mahé Church),

In India,  there are innumerable old churches, some dating back to 2nd century. Though St. Thomas established the seven and half churches on the coastal south Kerala, more missionaries arrived here after the discovery of sea route to India by Vasco da Gama in 1498. Anglican churches had begun to appear when the British East India company had laid strong roots in India. About the old churches in India,  the shrine of St. Teresa of Avila at Mahe, is one  among them,  perhaps, the oldest shrine in Malabar after churches established by St. Thomas, a prime disciple of Christ. Mahé, a small town  surrounded on all sides by Kerala, is  part of the Union Territory of Pondicherry that was once controlled by the French. Mahe,  poetically called Mayyazhi or the Eyebrow of the Sea, became the domain of the French East India Company and the 18th century fort here is a legacy of French rule.

The Carmelite Archives at Rome contained certain pretty old document regarding Christianity on the west coast of India.  In a document  titled "De Missione Mahinensi in Malabaribus Commentarius" by Rev. Father Ignatius A.S Hippolytes O.C.D (dated 2 July 1757), the Shrine at Mahe  came up in  1736 and  earlier Italian priest Rev.  Dominic of St. John of the Cross  established the Mahe Mission in 1723 during the reign of King Bayanor, the Raja of Kadathanad near Vatakara. The shrine was a simple one with thatched roof and was  to meet the demands of a growing Christian community in this part.  In December 1736  Rev. Dominic  held the dedication ceremony.
St. Teresa’s Shrine, Mahé (Mahé Church), India
The Carmelite Missionaries engaged in missionary activities and they  baptized a  large number of native people. In 1736, the revelry between the French and British forces here, besides French revolution, had their echoes in Mahe. Consequently, the Shrine
had borne the brunt of the wars and in March 1779, the damage was beyond redemption. It was one Abbe Duchenin in 1788 took efforts and restored it as it stands now. Later additions took place - renovation of the  tower in 1855 and a clock on the tower presented by the French Marines. After a long gap in 1956 the shrine underwent major renovation including  electrical installations  as visitors to this place were on the increase. Later several facilities were introduced to meet the needs of the people, including Parish Hall and a New Presbytery. It was in 2010 major renovation of the Shrine was done with care and attention.
St. Teresa’s Shrine, Mahé (Mahé Church), India
As for the the origin of the statue of St. Teresa, there are two versions; one being when the  miraculous statue was taken in a ship along the West Coast of India, the seamen could not move the ship further off the coast of Mahe. as it stopped right there.  There upon, they decided  it was the will of St. Teresa of Avila
to be enshrined
St. Teresa’s Shrine, Mahé (Mahé Church), India
at Mahe. The other version is the fishermen accidentally ran into the  miraculous statue that was  caught in a fishing  net in the sea near Mahe.  Later the statue was brought ashore  and installed in the shrine.
With respect to festivities, the ''feast of the Shrine'' is a popular one that  starts in the second week (5th) to fourth week (22nd) of every October with 14th and 15th being the main days of the feast. This festival  of Mahe is attended by devotees from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu  and Kerala  regardless  of religions and castes.