By I J Saldanha-Shet, Mangalore.
Mangalore, December 19, 2010: 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. 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! Hope is ever the key.
Traditions,history and memory are often mixed up with the passage of time, no records that Jesus Christ was actually born on 25th December exist .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 and Epiphany, adding Christmas as a late consideration .It was in 320 AD, Pope Julius I decreed that it 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 new each year.
CHRISTIANITY & INDIA:
Christianity arrived in India very early, before it crossed into Europe. An apostle of Christ, St. Thomas, reached south Kerala in 52. AD. St. Thomas their teacher was from Syria, hence they are known as ‘Syrian Christians’ and ‘Thomas Christians’. 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. The Portuguese commander Albuquerque came with missionaries to Cochin in 1510-AD following 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 Kanara. A fair number of the desendants of these Konkanis form the present Konkani Christian communities of Karnataka and Kerala, now spread to every nation 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 Kanara. Later between 1784 and 1799, 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 skills and contributions.
Within Karnataka and its surroundings there is a unique Christian mosiac –Kanadiga, Tamil, Malayali and Konkani. The paradigm shift not withstanding, a variety of celebrations welcome the new and respect the old; secular Bharat is vibrant. Common out-looks of modern mass mentality has brought in some common styles. 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, delicacies, and ingrained habits close to their non-Christian fellow men, some with vegetarian delicacies and traditional local sweets and fashions. Tamil Christian settlers have 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.
Decoration, bright lights and grand fare are a common thing today with expendable 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? Christmas and Christu Jayanthi is a time of Good Will and Hope, Peace and Joy.
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 Kanara, from Karwar to Kasaragod and beyond in thwe hills is a miracle. Heart thumping with sentiment for a special time with Mai & Aab (Grandma & Grandpa) and relativesustle 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,picnics 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 Kanara particularly Mangalore is radically on the path to change. How are customs and legends passing on to future people …….? How will new replace old….? What will Karavali be in the New Years to come! Come what may A WISH THAT THE NEW YEAR 2011 BE REALLY HAPPY FOR ALL!
By I J Saldanha-Shet.