By I J Saldanha-Shet
Mangalore , Sep 3, 2011 : With the arrival of September, the monsoons should have ended but global warming and freak weather is drenching Mangalore. Harvest is looked forward to by all communities;it is the traditional agrarian legacy of local history. Chathurthi, Onam - and the lesser known Monthi Festh/ Maria Jayanthi, the Birthday of Mary the Mother of Christ Jesus -September 8. The Knokani community irrespective of religion adopted Coastal Canara as their home centuries ago. Their place of eminence has held good over time and these Konkani speakers amalgamated in harmony with the local systems and now a seamless population.
MONTHI FESTH - A KONKANI LEGACY:
The three earliest churches of Tulunadu are accepted as: Rosario at Bundar, Monte Mariano at Farangipet, Mother of Mercy at Ullal followed by others. The only church that was untouched in the Captivity Era in the 1780s was Monte Mariano at Farangipet now the HQ Capuchin Friars. It catered to the Christian agriculturists of the hinterland around Bantwal - these Konkani Catholics were the backbone of the present day Catholic population. Monte Mariano, got it’s typical name from a Portuguese center of worship atop a mount in Goa - probably the phenomena spread to other areas too. September 8, traditionally got certain harvest observances progressively which took different forms and converged with various cultures from ancient times. Around Mangalore and in Canara the ’mount of mary’ ’Monte Mariano’ in Konkani became known as ’Monthi Festh’ translating to ’Feast of the Mount’. The churches thinking has been diverse through the ages in various areas so other interpretations too are valid in one or other form.
In South Kanara of old now spreading from Kasargod to Karwar, the observance of the nine day run up to the ’Festh’ (Novena) is special and children are the main stay with adults nostalgic too. This has now spread not only to other parts of India but also overseas where enthusiastic Mangaloreans are found. Commencing August 30, each year; The treasured statuette of ’Infant Mary’ is brought out given a make over with new finery and decoration. In each church a special programme as per the need is arranged each day in the morning or evening (in Mangalore city we see it in the evening). Children gather flowers from the surroundings of their homes and so on (or from the market too these days) and carry them to the church in pretty little baskets or trays. Then after the prayers, they gather around the decorated statuette of Infant Mary and shower it with the flowers three times singing a special hymn in Konkani.This takes place weather permitting in the open yard of the church. Toddlers to high school kids take part actively. All eagerly look forward to the sweets and snacks distributed at the end. It is a thrilling sight to behold and the older folks too enjoy the sight with nostalgic memories! The ’Monthi Festh’ follows with special traditions on September 8 - a red letter day for Konkani Catholics the world over!