By I. J. Saldanha-Shet
Mangalore, Dec 23, 2011 :The universal appeal that surrounds Christmas, is an inexplicable mystery! There is a sure feeling that in recent years the ‘C’ of Christmas is perhaps for ‘Commercialism’. Yet, the warmth is ever radiating. Humans lean towards sentiment, nostalgia and forces related to the heart and mind, MANGALORE traditions and celebrations are something extraordinay at Christmas season.
Traditions and history get masked by evolution and time. No document records that Jesus Christ was actually born on 25th December. The Romans of old celebrated the ‘Winter solstice’ soon after 21st December, calling it “Natalia Invinci’. About the same time too was celebrated the ancient jewish festival of light ‘Chamukkah’ which the early Church was pre-disposed to link with. The primary Christian Church mainly celebrated Easter, Pentecost, Epiphany and so on, adding Christmas as a late consideration .It was in 320 AD, Pope Julius. I decreed that it to be so. It highlighted the celebration of the Birth of Christ to illuminate the soul indicative of its concepts.
CHRISTIANITY and KANARA
Christianity arrived in India very early, before it crossed into Europe. Famous of the twelve apostles of Christ, St. Thomas, reached south Kerala in 52. AD and a few Namboodri’s became staunch Christians. St. Thomas their teacher was from Syria, hence they are known as ‘Syrian Christians’ and ‘Thomas Christians’. They were flourishing along the Indian peninsula’s extreme Southern coasts. From very early times, a theory has gained considerable credibility that Jesus Christ spent a number of years before his public ministry, in India, seeking knowledge: this thought is increasing with advancing research. Earlier (1335) a good number of Konkani Hindus / Saraswats, had migrated to the present Kanara. A fair number of the desendants of these Konkanis form the present Konkani Christian communities of Karnataka and Kerala, now spread to all nations globally.
In January 1568, at the ancient Tuluva Port of Mangalore or Kudla, a few of the Konkanis accompanying the Portuguese traders from Goa came to assist them in the spice industry. Gradually the earlier settled Konkanis too joined these into Christianity and branched out to independent enterprises. This is the commencement of Christian followings in Canara. Later between 1784 and 1800, this group suffered fifteen (15) years of captivity at the hands of Tipu Sultan; it took some time for this group of industrious people to bounce back. They were admirably supported by the local Tuluvas in tribute to their exemplary contribution of old.
CHRISTMAS FESTIVITIES IN KANARA
The coastal folk have warm variations. Konkani Catholics spread around the globe; have always know this season as ‘Nathalache Festh’ or Feast of the Nativity. This heralds a long journey home which is a welcome thing. The thought of green palm dotted oasis of joy along shores of the Arabian Sea and its water ways in a land called Canara, from Karwar to Kasaragod and beyond is a miracle. Heart thumping with sentiment for a special time with Mai & Aab (Grandma & Grandpa) and relatives of all degrees. Children (now fewer), gleefully making plans for ‘Nektr’ (star) or ‘Guddeep’ (lantern) with bamboo or coconut sticks and coloured tissues, and decorations to match. The big attraction-the elaborate ‘CRIB’ (Gardanache Gotto) with the young and old pitching in. A nice prominent spot, in the once sprawling garden it was a big affair-imaginatively hyped to heights of imagination, -Babe Christ’s Bethlehem! The hills far on the desert horizon, green fields and date palms, Sheep and shepherd, winding red roads with small streams, wooden bridges dotted with travelers, cattle and people, tiny homes and bigger inns…….the infinity of imagination. Not to miss the active fountains, water falls strategically placed ‘cowshed’ with angels Joseph with Mary and tiny loved Babe Jesus in the manger -a happy sight that unforgettably warms the hearts of beholders.
Hustle and bustle of wise elders selecting the fare, the ingredients and making preparations. The extended family lending hands to mix cake dough, knead and shape the ‘Kuswar’ - kalkals /kiddio, gulio (jaw breakers) rose cookies, coconut sweets, nevrio, guava cheese, tukdio, ginger/grape wine ….and much more! In the past made at home by loving hands, shared with family, relatives, neighbors and all alike was pride of the season. Today Christmas is X’mas, and comes off the shelves of supermarkets, all year round.Weddings, get-togethers, visits, plays,picnis and funfilled activities are recalled by the now aged and aging in arm chairs. High density commercialization, development and transformed mind-sets of GenNext, has compelled the festive spirits to take newer forms and shapes. Things and places of old vanishing, the face of Canara particularly Mangalore has radically changed. What if there was no Christmas? How are customs and legends passing on to future people …….? How will new replace old….? What will Karavali be in the New Year, in the future!