Mangaluru, Sep 8, 2016: Monthi Festh, novena, a nine day preparation for the feast that commenced from August 30 came to an end last evening Sept 7. Particularly children gather flowers from the surroundings of their homes (or now from the market) and carry them to the church in pretty little baskets or trays.
Rosario Church, Mangaluru:
Milagres Church, Mangaluru:
Ladyhill Church, Mangaluru:
Kulashekar Church, Mangaluru:
Then after mass, they gather around the decorated statuette of Infant Mary and shower it with flowers singing a special hymn in Konkani ’Sekked Sangatha Melian’ (Let us all gather together). Toddlers to grown ups take part actively with joy. It is a thrilling sight to behold, the older folks too enjoy the sight with nostalgic childhood memories! Mangalore Today has taken special interest to project the flower offering ceremony most of these days...Rosario, Fatima retreat house, Bendore, Urwa, Cascia, Bijey have been high lighted day to day. Since yesterday the preparations fore the feast proper is under way; at the churches, institutions and homes. The family gets the importance. Then the poor in the midst of things are helped in all possible ways to also seek happiness and celebrate this unique family feast on September 8, high lighted by the quality of mercy to top it all.
On the west coast of India, Kanara, Mangaluru, Udupi, Karwar Konkan, are well known for their ancient catholic roots. Just as August ends, soon after the Tuluva Aati, the SW monsoon looses it’s force, a resplendent green time for all communities sets in. Harvest is looked forward to; the traditional agrarian legacy and heritage surfaces. Janamashatami, Ganesh Chathurthi, Onam.....and Monthi Festh (Feast of the Mount), Maria Jayanthi, all celebrate natures bounty. The Konkani community irrespective of religion adopted West Coast of the sub-continent as their home centuries ago. Early in the sixteenth century the Portuguese conquered Goa and soon they entered Canara the domain of Tuluva Sri Krishna Deva Raya of Vijayanagara. They first set up Our Lady of the Rosary Church near the Old Mangalore Port or Bundar also called the ’Factory Church’, now known as ’Rosario’ Cathedral in Mangaluru as well as the ’Monte Mariano’ Monastary in Farangipete to the east on the banks of Nethravathi.
The ’Festh’ Sept 8 :
The feast day September 8, is a red letter day for the Konkani Catholics world wide today. Here it should be an official holiday in future hopefully. The new paddy has arrived from the fields which are very rare and far out today. It is only the goodness and generasity of a few that this id still possible for the parish in the region. The blessing of the Nove - New Rice Corn and first fruits gathered from the fields, a sight bringing back the struggle and values of family and community. A festive Mass is celebrated in the Parish churches, the new rice paddy sheaves are brought to the church in a procession by the Gurkars (leaders) along with sugarcane, fruit and vegetables and solemnly blessed by the priests. Later, the ’Blessed Corn’ is distributed to the adults present, the children are given a whole big ’sugar cane’ ! There is a general festive spirit in the air amidst exchange of Greetings, and the focus shifts to homes and families.
The social focus of this unique festival draws a parallel to local traditions of the ancient Canara farming traditions of the region and the harvest meal partaken in the family home by many members is special. It is always entirely a purely vegetarian fare with odd number of vegetable dishes usually 7,9,11, 13......and so on. A special prayerful tradition is observed: The ’Nove’ newly blessed rice paddy is crushed and mixed with sweetened coconut milk drink. There is much devotion and gratitude to God and providers. The Festh, has become a virtual global observance among Kanara communities in Gulf Countries,Canada, US, UK, Australia,Africa and more. It is evolving as a link identifying the Konkani Catholics and other groups are formulating suitable variations to suit individual visions. The recent encyclical of Pope Francis ’Laudato Si’ is seen as a great means to broaden the vision of the church to encompass local nature and goodness to Godliness. The good resulting out of such sacred local observances of eternal value and Blessings remain indelible for generations.
Captivity episode 1784-99 :
For the singular Konkani community, this ’Festh’ got a boost post 1799, after Tipu’s captivity of the Konkani Catholics ended. The migration of Saraswats (Konkanis) to Mangalore and beyond and the identity conversion that took hold over the years is a continual epic. The peace treaty between Tipu Sultan and the English peace commissioners on 11 March 1784 in Mangalore was the signal for putting into execution Tipu’s draconian orders for the arrest and deportation of the Konkani Christians of Kanara specially around Mangalore, to Srirangapatna.
In 1789, Tipu’s assault on the Travancore Lines led to war with the East India Company and her allies again. It ended in 1792 with a major setback for Tipu and the escape of 700 Christians to Virajpet in Kodagu. Baptism records there reveal that Christianity continued to be secretly practiced in Srirangapatna, with many children being baptized by elders of the community. These records reveal the names and home towns of some of the original captives. Tipu died fighting on the ramparts of his fort in Srirangapatna near Mysore on 4th May 1799. Only then did the survivors of the captivity gain freedom and gradually return and rebuild their lives and the community - the first half of 1800s were crucial. The present Konkani Catholics now seen world wide are mostly descendants of those who returned from the 15 year captivity of Tipu, whose faith was tested and reinforced. Starting 1800s, the 19th century was a new chapter rising from the ashes for the Konkani Catholics, they are determined to do well and are blessed.