Sunday, July 13, 2014
If the Portuguese had called St Thomas Mount "El Grande Monti", it is reasonable to assume that there must have been an "El Pouca Monti" as well, somewhere. You don't have to search too hard for it, because the English equivalent of that phrase has been translated into Tamizh as well. Little Mount, or சின்னமலை, was what it is called, and it is on the wrong side of the river Adyar from St Thomas Mount.
But the Little Mount is also associated with St Thomas, perhaps even more strongly than the larger one is. It was in a grotto in this little hillock by the river that Thomas Didymus took refuge in, when the shores of Meliapore became too warm for him, figuratively. The entrance to the grotto is now ensconced in the church you see in the centre. Built by the Portuguese in 1551, it is known as the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. In 1711, an adjunct was constructed; When the 19th century of St Thomas' martyrdom was observed in 1971, the adjunct shrine was expanded and modified into a church by itself, called the Church of Our Lady of Health.
There are several legends of Thomas around this place. The grotto has a tiny exit on the other side, besides which there appears an imprint of a palm, which is believed to be St. Thomas'. A hop-step away from that exit, on a flat piece of rock, is a large, foot-shaped discolouration, which is believed to be a footprint of the saint. There is also the 'bleeding cross', said to have been carved in the rock by Thomas, and, where he smote the rock with his stick, there appeared a spring; that trickle of water continues to run today and is considered to have curative powers. With so much of myth around it, no wonder this place needs to be honoured with two churches, rather than just one!