By I J Saldanha Shet
Mangaluru, September 7, 2019: ’Monthi Festh’, the Konkani Catholic tradition, is rapidly filling the air today, the excessive rains and floods not with standing, the nine day novena in preparation for the feast from August 30, has reached the pinnacle, the rice paddy sheaves and sugarcane have arrived. The community feast is celebrated Sept 8, in many parts of the globe now. These days the children have gathered around the decorated statuette of Infant Mary, showered flowers singing a special hymn in Konkani ’Sekked Sangatha Melian’ (Let us all gather together), ’Mariea Hogollsiyya’ (Mary let us praise and honour you). Toddlers to grown ups took part actively with joy in this. Today, September 7, Saturday preparations for the feast proper are under way; at the churches, institutions and homes. The family is given the prime importance. In these times, the poor are extended help in all possible ways to also seek happiness and celebrate this unique family feast - Monthi Festh.
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, a resplendent green time for all communities. Harvest is looked forward to; the traditional agrarian legacy and heritage surfaces. Janamashatami, Ganesh Chathurthi, Onam.....and Monthi Festh (Feast of the Mount) or Maria Jayanthi, all celebrate natures bounty.
’Monthi Festh’ Sept 8 : A red letter day for the Konkani Catholics world wide. The new paddy arrives from the fields which are very rare and far out today. It is only the goodness and generosity of a few that this is still possible for the parishes here. 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’, some times all can get sugarcane! 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 and agrarian traditions of the region and the harvest meal partaken in the family home by the many family 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 with cardamom and mixed with sweetened coconut milk drink. There is much devotion and gratitude to God and human 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 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 present Bishop of Mangalore, Rev Dr. Peter Paul Saldanha, too desires the rejuvenation of the values of nature and neighbourly respect. The good resulting out of such sacred local observances of eternal value and Blessings remain indelible for generations.
MONTHI FESTH is a virtual global observance among all Kanara communities at large, in Gulf Countries, Europe, Canada, US, UK, Australia,Africa and so on. It is evolving as a link observance identifying the Konkani Catholics. Other groups are formulating suitable variations. May the good resulting out of such sacred observances unite all human kind to eternal values and Blessings of the most high for all peoples - locally and globally.