Mangaluru, August 30, 2015: Today commences the nine day novena for the Konkani traditional feast. August ends soon after Aashada month, the Tuluva Aati, the SW monsoon ends, a resplendent green time for all communities in Mangaluru. Harvest is looked forward to; it is the traditional agricultural heritage. Onam , Ganesh Chathurthi....and lesser known Monthi Festh (Feast of the Mount) / Maria Jayanthi all celebrate nature. The Konkani community irrespective of religion adopted Coastal Kanara as their home centuries ago. They first set up Our Lady of the Rosary Church near the Old Mangalore Port or Bundar also called the Factory Church, now known now as ’Rosario’ Cathedral in Mangaluru as well as the ’Monte Mariano’ Monastary in Farangipete to the east on the banks of Nethravathi.
The Novena (Navadina), a nine day preparation for the feast commences from today August 30. 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. Then after mass, (either in the morning or evening) 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). Weather permitting, in the open yard of the church. 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! The feast day September 8, is a red letter day for the Konkani Catholics everywhere. 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. Now this tradition is in a special way
A piece of History :
For the Konkani community, ’Festh’ from 1799 was enhanced, after release from captivity of Konkani Catholics . The history of Tipu Sultan who ruled on west coast of India as part of his great Empire holds the interest and fascination of many with diverse back grounds. The migration of Saraswats (Konkanis) to Mangalore and beyond and the identity conversion that took hold over the years is historic.
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 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. Perhaps barely a third of the community survived the Captivity.
It is a nostalgic sight to see the observance of the nine days in preparation to the feast in Mangaluru and surrounding palces as well as places far and wide all over the world today.