IJ Saldanha Shet explains how commercialization, development and transformed mind-sets of GenNext has compelled the festive spirits to take newer forms and shapes." />
Milagres church, Mangalore
Mangalore, December 25: The universal appeal that surrounds Christmas, is an immense unfathomed 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, pre-empting the traditions and celebrations world over. In the context of this special season, it is no surprise that East merges with West in atmosphere and thinking. For a few years now, global intermingling has rightly made a mark on the rising popularity of many religious observances positively. Deepavali, Ramazan, and such are being observed in Trafalgar Square and the White House now! The integration is acceptable and harmony is a universal desire, welcomed by all people of ‘Good will’ just as diverse ‘Wiseman’ followed the brilliant star of hope!
Traditions and history get masked by evolution and time. No document records that Jesus Christ was actually born on 25th December, like many ancient traditions. 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, Soon the hangover of frenzied festivities of Roman ‘Saturnalia’ and ‘Kalends’ the birth of the New Year/ Januarius, between 17th December and 4th January, got adopted as the great annual holiday season of merry making. Many nature oriented factors too have a definite link. The result is the present day Christmas, evolving each year.
CHRISTIANITY & INDIA:
Christianity arrived in India very early, not later than 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. Influences until 16th century kept the Indian church subordinate to East Asian authority until the rise of Islam in most of the Indian sub-continent. Some of these factors too kept away indigenous forms of culture in Christian theology and liturgy here. The Portuguese commander Albuquerque came with missionaries to Cochin in 1510-AD after Vascodagama’s visit in 1498: the later Christians were followers of Latin dispensation from Konkan and Goa. Earlier (1335) a good number of Konkani Hindus / Saraswats, had migrated to the present Karnataka. 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.
Over the last few decades, seasonal perspective have along with local cultural needs followed independent development and thinking. The advent of technology and global trends have caused vast change. The natural decorated trees at the Christmas season, took on synthetic forms; the chocolate logs, stockings, flaming plum puddings, boxing day, so on have largely evolved incredibly to the modern. One great leveler of universal appeal is “Santa Claus” or “Father Christmas” steadfastly growing among all section everywhere.
Visible with advancement in education, integration and intermingling are enlarging human bonds across communities in multi-religious India. Substantially emerging is a society enriched in diverse cultures. Festivals of each and every faith are today gaining a holistic discovery with broad views of all people. One does come across surprising parallels offered by the wide cultural representations. Consider the surprising parallels between Janmashtami of Krishna and Christmas of Christ! Complementing themes of divine births to cause good and eliminate evil. Similarities of Christ born in a cow stable and Krishna in a prison;‘King Herod’ slaying infants soon after Jesus’ birth, and ‘Kamsa’ killing Krishna’s brothers at birth. Many stories abound for the interested. The sacred scriptures of Islam, describe the birth of ‘Issa’ to ‘Mariam’. Secular ideals are attractive and people of goodwill revel in them – Deepavali sweets and crackers, Christmas wishes and gifts, Diwali melas Christmas fairs and shopping. To an extent festivals have no doubt become interestingly exploitative by commercialism. Yet, consumerism and consumption, profits, production and incomes persist. Some degree of sensitive contribution, give and take creeps in and the welfare of the needy the weak does get benefits. It works for the good of the least, the lost -It’s now “ Christu Jayanthi”.
THE FESTIVITIES WITHIN:
Within Karnataka and its surroundings in particular, more so in its cities and larger towns, there is a unique heterogeneity with a diverse but harmonious blend of Christians –Kanadiga, Tamil, Malayali, Konkani mainly making up a mosaic of Christians. Interestingly the range of celebrations are worth looking at. The paradigm shift not withstanding, a variety of celebrations welcome the new and respect the old; secular Bharat is vibrant in its own way and treasured. Common out-looks of modern mass mentality has brought in some common styles. A distinct flavor between diverse groups may be experienced and many subtle practices extend. The coastal folk have warm variations. Anglo –Indians of the eras past, added certain nostalgia that has diluted with time and tide. A look at general traditions are worth.
Bangalore and surroundings…. Malnad Shimoga, Bhadravathi and like areas dotted with born Kannada Christians, follow Christmas customs….. marking the Christu Jayanthi Celebrations with social customs of acendants, delicacies, and ingrained habits close to their non-Christian fellow men, some with vegetarian delicacies and traditional local sweets and fashions. Tamil Christian settlers follow closely original specialties. Those rooted in the Western Ghat areas by choice or convenience perhaps followed the Konkani majority.
The Malayali Christians without doubt projected an original profile of their roots, in the lands of their adoption. Taking with them wherever they went ‘Gods own’ Kerala and the specialties, and deeply rooted culture. On this occasion recipies like Appam, Puttu, Avial, Kadala, Achappam, Neyappam, traditional rice and coconut dishes and spicy Chicken and meat preparations. The common traditions of Church, Cribs, Carols, Stars, Decorations and Cakes with brightlights are ever present a Universal signature.
Today nuclear families and fast life dilute the relaxed joy and togetherness in inexplicable ways. People swish to churches incognito in posh premium cars, the glee of children is lacking, hope is a calculated commodity the future is uncertain –but, still this season of ‘Good will’ offers a deep sense of renewal for the New Year ahead! Greetings and respects are differently exchanged, information technology has brought Emails, SMS and Mobiles –talking while seeing dear ones far off has evolved to a routine, narrowing the joy with a degree of contempt. Gifts are as impersonal as life today.
Decoration, bright lights and grand fare are a common thing today with multiplying unaccountable wealth increasing. Shockingly, it does not help reduce the visible number of the marginalized poor, the homeless, the street people, and many in poverty, the exploited, and rejected all over the world with even the environment in danger. Will the trials of the weak and suffering be removed? Will the nights be silent…? Come All ye faithful….. Let there be a better world! Christmas and Christu Jayanthi is a time of Good Will and Hope filling the NEW YEAR 2010 with Peace and Joy for everyone everywhere!
CHRITMAS IN CANARA
Konkani Catholics spread around the globe infinitely; also 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.
At Milagres church
Infant Jesus Church, Bikarnakatte, Mangalore
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. 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!