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Dec 21, 2014

Monti Fest - Celebrating cultural identity

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By Alphonse Mendonsa, Abu Dhabi [ Published Date: September 7, 2011 ]

This article is translated by Alphonse Mendonsa, Pangla (Abu Dhabi) from the original article published in Konkani by Ancy Paladka.

Monti Fest is a unique festival celebrated by all Konkani Catholics except Goans. Actually this festival was started in Goa but due to historic reason it is no more celebrated by Goans today. It is the only festival that reminds us our cultural roots and our Konkani language. But now a days some organizers without knowing the importance of this festival have started distributing cakes made of eggs by wrongly informing their children that it is the celebration of "Mamma Mary's Birthday". It is time that we understand the importance of this festival and maintain its sanctity. I have tried to explain the history and importance of this festival and my humble request to all the organizers not to distribute cake during Monti Fest.

Except Goans, all Konkani speaking people celebrate Monti Fest in a grand manner to mark the Nativity of BVM. While Mangalore, Karwar and Sindhudurg dioceses celebrate Monti Fest on September 8th, The Konkani catholic community from these dioceses, that are spread all over the globe select one of the days according to their convenience and celebrate Monti fest with lots of cultural activities.

There is no much difference between the way Mangaloreans and South Maharastrian Konkani community celebrate this feast. Both communities celebrate Monti Fest with showering of flowers, blessings of Novem (new corn), holding prayers for the ancestors, for the departed souls of the family members and finally having vegetarian meal along with all family members (a few also eat fish). The only difference of this feast is that, we Mangaloreans use statue of Mother Mary (Maria Bombina) while North Maharastrians use statue of "Mount Mary".

The Feast of Nativity was started by our ancestors in Goa. As we know that our ancestors were Hindus and they were celebrating various cultural festivals. Harvest festival is one among them. They used to celebrate this feast by offering flowers to their God and by bringing new corn to their homes. They also used to have meal with all family members. This festivity was celebrated continuously for nine days.

When the Portuguese established their rule in Goa in 1510, they began to convert the Hindus to Christianity. However, the converted Christians could not part away with their age old customs, traditions, culture and festivals. Under these circumstances, the priests thought of a plan and they combined their important festivals with the feasts of saints and Mother Mary. Therefore, currently what we practice today in our feasts are the age old customs and traditions that can be seen in festivals of our Hindu G.S.B brothers. For example, distribution of new corn/fruits, sugar cane for Monti Fest, A festival of making "PATOLI", festival of making "POLE" (All Souls day i.e festival of dead).

In Bandra, Mumbai "Mount Mary Feast" is celebrated from the following Sunday of Monti Fest and this grand celebration will continue for eight days. Originally this Bandra.

Mount Mary Feast was started in 1556 by Jesuit Priests. As the church was situated at the Bandra Hill, they christened Mother Mary as "Mount Mary" (means: Mother of Mountain). Gradually this church/feast became a pilgrimage and thousands of devotees flocked to this holy site. The transport/ communication between Bombay-Goa was strong in those days and as such the Goan priests combined this feast with  the harvest festival. In Portuguese " Mount" means " Monthe" and hence, this feast was finally christened in Konkani as "Monti Fest" Since the harvest festival was celebrated for nine days by our ancestors, nine day Novena to Mother Mary was also introduced along with new corn tradition of the feast. As the harvest festival was an important feast of our ancestors, they began to hold "Monti Fest" with traditional gaiety and enthusiasm.

The Konkani community of Kudal and Ratnagiri even today call this feast as "Monti Fest" and they too celebrate it by showering flowers, having Novem and also follow the tradition of remembering the ancestors and having a family meal together with Novem or new corn like Mangaloreans celebrate. However, the way Novem is consumed by people of various regions varies e.g by having it in Milk, coconut milk, Payasam (Vorn) or even in beaten rice with jaggary (Godd-Pov). In Kudal and Ratnagiri, the beaten rice with jaggary is mixed with Novem and distributed among neighbours (like we distribute Kuswar) and double the spirit of celebration. However, there a little difference in celebration of feast between them and us. The statue we use for this feast is the famous Infant Mary’s "Maria Bambina " and by mistake we call it " Monti Saibinnichi Imaz" whereas they use the real " Monti Saibinichi Imaz" i.e. statue of " Mount Mary " of  Bandra (Mumbai) in which Mary hold Jesus.

So, when did we begin to use "Maria Bombina statue (Infant Mary) for our Monti Fest? While all Konkani community celebrates Monti Fest with Gusto, why our Goan Konkani community is not aware of this feast? Why don’t they celebrate Monti Fest? All these questions may arise in your minds. The answer for these questions is as follows:

The Portuguese priests found it very difficult to convince the new converts into giving up their age old traditions and superstitions. To strengthen the faith of the new converts the Portuguese introduced a new law called Inquisition in 1560. Even though this law was relaxed for a very short period  1774 – 1778, it was practiced till 1812.   At that time many priests were serving in Goa but could not understand the language spoken by Goans. They also did not understand tradition/customs involved in their festivals. The priests thought that the blessings of the new corn and other traditions/customs followed by the new Christians were superstitious and against the Catholic religion. They could not understand their conversation/communication as well as customs/traditions followed by the new converts and hence to strengthen them in faith, in 1684 they abolished or completely banned speaking of Konkani in Goa . The order was passed only to speak Portuguese and they also banned all their old customs and traditions.

Though the Goans were attracted by listening to word of Jesus and were converted easily, they could not part away with their beliefs, culture, traditions and customs. Thinking that those who followed these taboos were considered as foolish and superstitious by the Portuguese, they brought them under law of Inquisition and to be punished for violating this law. Hence, to preserve their language and culture there was no other option left for them.

Hence, most of our ancestors ran away from Goa to the South and settled in Karwar, Kundapur, Udupi, Mangalore and still further until Kochi in Kerala. In this way the people who ran away from Goa could maintain their language and culture.

The statue for Monti Fest which we use is called "Maria Bambina". The history of this statue is very interesting.

The statue "Maria Bambina" was modeled in wax in 1735 by Sr. Izabella Chaara Fornari, superior of the Poor Clare Sisters in Today, Italy. This statue was venerated in public only on 8th September and due to this public appearance and devotion many were benefitted and hence globally this statue was christened as "Statue of Miracle". It was transferred in 1856 to the Mother House of Sisters of Charity in Milan (Italy). This statue is in the possession of Sisters of Charity Even today and it has been used for spreading the devotion. You can check and read complete details in www.mariabambina.org.

In 1568, Franciscan Fathers built a church in Arkulla (Mangalore) and dedicated it to St. Francis of Assisi. Since the Portuguese were conducting the trade via river in this area, the area was christened as "Firgyanchi Pent" which means "The town of Gora/White" which is today called as Farangipet" This church was one of the three first churches built by them in Mangalore.

While Fr. Joachim Miranda was serving in Gangoli (Mangalore) in the years 1759-1762, he was transferred to Farangipet in 1763. He started a seminary for the priests and was called it "Monthe Mariano". He was a well-known and good priest among the laity. He was attracted by statue of "Maria Bombina" made by Franciscan Sisters in Italy (St. Clare Sisters) . He introduced this statue to the feast of Monti Fest and the new spirit and enthusiasm was created for celebration.

There is a miss-understanding that Fr. Joachim started Monti Fest. If the Monti Fest was started in Farangipet, how come the Konkani community of Savantwadi, Kudal and Ratnagiri celebrated Monti Fest? In this context, we can definitely conclude that it began in Goa but due to historic reasons got dissappeared from Goa.

Today, we have been influence of western culture so much that we have given up or forgotten the traditions and customs that were started and preserved so devoutly by our ancestors. Fortunately, today we have only "Monti Fest" to remember the traditions of our ancestors.

When the time changes, our tradition takes a new look and but are these new ways really advantages to our future? Is it not our responsibility to give full attention to this issue?

There is a new tendency among our people and they teach their children that  Monti Fest is nothing but "Mamma Maris Birthday" and thus they have started celebrating it by cutting "Birthday cake" made out of Eggs and destroying the core value of the feast.

Therefore, please let us understand the true value of the Monti Fest and let us not encourage the distribution of cake and spoil the value of our valuable traditional feast " Monti Fest".

Author: Ancy DSouza Paladka


English Translation: Alphonse Mendonsa, Pangla (Abu Dhabi))

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Sabina Fernandes e Dias, India :
The writer lacks research in this article. I don't know which part of Goa the writer/s visited or made reference to whcih literature to come up with direct statements that Goans dont celebrate the Monti Fest. We Goans do have these celebrations from 15th Aug onwards followed on different dates in different places and on on 8th Sept as well with religious as well as cultural fervor. It's really sad to observe that the writer/s highlight in this article that 'Goans dont celebrate this feast' other than highligting the importance of this feast from cultural or religious point if the writer wanted to transcend the cultural traits of this feast to the new generation.
Rosy, UAE:
Monthi fest is not a brand. Monthi fest is thanks giving to lord on the day of Nativity of BVM for the crop grown in our paddy. We offer vegetables during offertory specially on this day because after the rain first yield we get on the land. Important is not a brand, but the Mother Mary. You are still pressing on the way it is celebrated. Our love and faith in Mother Mary is more important.
Flavian Monthu, India :
You are mistaken my dear manglorian friend that we Goans are not celebrating Moti fest. Actually this feast in Goa is celebrated on August 15th Assumption of Our Lady where new corm is brought home. Do not try to create a rift between the Goan Manglorian Community.
Ancy DSouza Paladka, India :
Mount Mary Feast is celebrated in Bandra for eight days from the immediate following sunday of 8th September. But no one calls it as a Monti Fest. Everyone call it as Mount Mary Fest. Nither Goans nor Mangaloreans call it as a Monti Fest.

Monti Fest was originated in Goa where the then priest helped the converted Christians to keep up their traditions of harvest festival. But later on when the ban came on practice of traditions and the Konkani language it got wiped out from Goa.

Fact is fact. Past is past. No one can change the past. That does not mean that Goans get hurt because of this fact. There is no fault of theirs to get hurt. If they do not get the traditions from their ancestors how can they pass it on to the next generations.

Moreover a person with a real Goan spirit need to be proud that the Monti Fest is originated in Goa though it is not celebrated by them now.

Please do not see this fact in different angle of dividing our society. Such facts should help us to unite each other. All of us Konkani people are from the same route and we are one community.

The article was a call on the people who celebrate Monti Fest to keep up the spirit and celebrate in a right manner.

Monti Fest is a only festival we have to remember our traditions, customs and to remind us the hardships our ancestors went through to preserve it. But today the people who do not know about this festival have started to celebrate it as any other festival. Some organisers have started celebrating it like a birthday party where they start the programme with cutting of cake, then have some games, have some dance and have the dishes like pork, chicken etc.

The people who still have doubt let me clarify once again
Monti Fest is not a Mount Mary Feast
Monti Fest is not a Feast of Nativity of BVM
Monti Fest is MONTI FEST. That is the brand.
Monti Fest is not originated in Bombay. It got originated in Goa.

Even if I explain you the difference of taste of sweetness in honey and the sweetness jaggary you people will not understand the difference until u taste both of them. In the same manner unless you participated in a Monti Fest (when it is celebrated in a right manner) you will not understand its difference and importance.
Arun, UAE:
Ancy can you please clarify. You say Monthi Fest is the feast of Mount Mary. Then what is feast of Navtivity of our Lady called in Konkani?
Roni Fernandes/UAE, UAE:
Mendonsa, next time try and think well, Monti Feast is celebrated all over India,and abroad, you go to Bombay Mount Mary Bandra and see the higher percentage of devotee's there, MANGEE'S OR GOANS. When you write about religion, dont point your fingers to society, this is the true and real God fearing Goans, inspite of me being a manglorean I salute their respect and love.

Roni Uae
Sam Alphonso, UAE:
Hey Ancy, Alphonse

I am a mangee myself but bet to differ your comments, against our neighbouring Goans, and we should not try to divide and make the difference , working in gulf I am moving with most of the goans who are nothing less than we mangloreans and they with high spirit celebrate the feast of Monti Saibin..Sorry to say learnt from your column that you are against goans, we mangloreans have learnt to socialise only thru them, they are also kind and loving, my father is manlorean, my wife is goan, brother too married goan and saw, there's nothing different between them and us.

Viva to all
Monica fernandes/Bahrain, UAE:
First of all I want to correct my fellow brother, to please correct your statement which is totally wrong ,by saying that they do not celebrate Monti Feast, for your kind information then correct yourself or get some briefing from any goans in Abu dhabi or Dubai.

Mr. Samy you are wrong by saying that your church celebrates on 15th August, that is not Monthi Feast my brother its OUR LADY OF ASSUMPTION feast so dont conclude and get confused
Cheers
Roshni Dsouza, UAE:
Dear Ancy,

Sorry to write this comment but I couldn't stop myself from writing. Looks like you are confused with yourself. In your article 2nd para you said Monti fest is celebrated to mark nativity of BVM. Then your 1st comment below you have written 1st para 2nd sentence that Monti fest is a feast of Nativity of BVM, No it is not. Again in your 2nd comment below you are saying Monti Fest is nothing but the harvest festival blended with the feast of Nativity. Don\'t confuse people by saying Monti Fest and Nativity of BVM. Both are one and the same. I doubt anyone can keep up tradition with time to the fullest.
Ancy S DSouza, Paladka, India :
I never said Goans do not celebrate harvest festival. I never said Goans do not celebrate the feast of Nativity of BVM
I only said Goans do not celebrate Monti Fest that is originated in Goa. Monti Fest is nothing but the harvest Festival blended with the feast of Nativity of BVM. The celebration is unique, cultural, traditional and solemn one.
Samy Fernandes, Abu Dhabi, UAE:
It is not right that Goans do not celebrate the harvest festival. It is celebrated in Goa during different days. In some parishes, including my parish, it is celebrated on August 15th. Some others celebrate on the Sunday just after or before 15th August, while some celebrate it on 8th September. These dates / customs probably depended on the monsoons and harvest times in the particular regions.
8th September is celebrated as the birth of Mother Mary while August 15th is the day of her Assumption. So the harvest festival is celebrated on a day of solemn feasts of Mother Mary.
Please research carefully before writing such articles lest it divide the communities.
Ancy S DSouza, Paladka, India :
I understand that many who commented on my article were not really used to celebrate Monti Fest in their places. They think that Monti Fest is a feast of Nativity of BVM.
No it is not !!!
If you have plan to celebrate Nativity of BVM I do not have any reservations in whatever manner you celebrate. I do not have any problem whatever menu (including non-veg you take). But if you say you are celebrating Monti Fest, you need to understand the significance of the festival and keep up the sanctity.
If you have not read the article read it once again then you will be in a better position to comment on it. If you just glance over it then you may not be in a better position to comment on it by just picking up some words here and there.
For the original article and the explanations I gave to Goans please visit my facebook page
http://www.facebook.com/notes/ancy-s-dsouza-paladka/history-of-monti-fest,/10150341754610180
or simply http://www.facebook.com/ancypaladka
Monti Fest is a harvest festival blended with the feast of Nativity of BVM. Our people eat only vegetable (some even fish) during this day. This is because our ancestors were brahmins and these brahmins were eating only vegetable (some Konkani brahmins were eating fish). The meaning Monte means Mount or Monte in portuguese. Thus the actual meaning of theis feast is Feast of our Lady on the Mount (It is not the Feast of Nativity of BVM though we celebrate it on the day of Nativity of BVM). I have explained in my article why it is called as Monti Fest.
I have seen the celebration of Monti Fest in different parts of Mangalore, Karwar, Bangalore, Ratnagiri, Kudal, Gulf Countries. I was in Goa too but I was surprised to know that Goans did not celebrate Monti Fest (I know that some of them celebrate the feast Nativity of BVM). This lead me to research on this subject.
Since last nine years I live in Mumbai and I do visit Monti Fest celebrations in Mumbai. People here used to celebrate it in a right manner. But in last few years I observed that that some organisers have brought in new practices like cutting of cake for the Monti Fest. In fact when I contacted these organisers they said they are celebrating the birthday of Mamma Mary and that is the reason they are cutting the cake. But when I explained them the significance of Monti Fest they understood the point I was stressing on. And I wrote this article to alarm such organisers who bring in new practices during Monti Fest celebrations.
alphonse Mendonsa, India :
Dear Readers,

thanks for all your comments but first of all one must remember that we are not deviding the community in any way. We are only explaining how the " MONTI FEST ; is celebrated and not NATIVITY OF B.V. MARY. We are only advising on how Monti Fest began and how it spread in Mangalore and celebrated all over the world today with the same spirit and with TRADITION. We know that all catholics including our Goan brethern celebrate NV of B.V. Mary but there is a difference the way the Monti Fest & Nativity of BVMARY is celebrated. for more info and clarify please visit Ancy D'Souza Paladka in Face Book or please email me at: alphs.mendonsa@gmail.com and I will forward the link and complete explanation.. CHECK THIS LINK...

http://www.facebook.com/notes/ancy-s-dsouza-paladka/history-of-monti-fest-ಮೋಂತಿ-ಫೆಸ್ತಾಚಿ-ಚರಿತ್ರ್ಯಾ/10150341754610180

thank you all for your time and efforts...

alphonse, pangla (Abu Dhabi)
A. Vaz, Qatar:
Dear Menino,

True! We Goans also celebrate Monthi Fest. We attended all the Novenas and festal Mass at Our Lady of Rosary Church.

Cheers & Dev Borem Korum
James Fernandes/Barkur/Chicago, USA :
One does not have to travel to Goa, Barkur, or Singapore, to witness how this Nativity of Mother Mary, (iow, Monthi Fest, Moti Fest,) is celebrated. The internet tells a lot, facts or fiction. Your contacts do tell you, vividly, how they celebrated this feast in their childhood.
In some parts of India, they serve Pork, elsewhere they serve fish, and most others serve vegetables, based on ones availability; (I eat all if served); but not all crabs or radicals know this.... however, I have not earned the right to impose what one should eat, how one should dress, and intonate or sing gupith mog.
However, most of the children born and brought up abroad,(Away from India); to konkani speaking parents, including mine), do not know many words in Konkany, nor the traditions of Barkur, nor of Hampanakatta, or Karwar, who can not be forced to eat your menu. They should be given the options (like Buffet) to select. Folks they have the power to make choices.....

I asked my daughter; "Come here go."
The last word go being, go, means a term used for girls; go for girls, and re for boys.
"Dad, make up your mind, do you want me come close to you or go from here?"
This sentence killed konkany in my household.
For me, culture will be next priority after food, shelter clothing or employment.....
Laugh baba laugh, community builder or divider, who ever you are....
Aileen, India :
Nice article to know the history of Monthi Fest. the young children will know the meaning and appreciate the festival. I am proud to say that Sisters of Charity are the pioneers to prepare the statues in Italy and spread the devotion of Mother Mary. All are requesting sisters to get the Baby Mary's Statues.
Sunaina Vinod, Mangalore, India :
I'm not a christian but i enjoyed reading this well researched article. There are so many aspects of history that we aren't aware of. Well done Ancy and Alphonse
Melwyn Dcosta, Kuwait:
Good article to read but a little bit confusing. Writer is insisting on his way of interpretation of monti fest.This is a harvest festival celebrated by the converts , eating veg or non veg should not matter. it is a celebration for social reasons and thanking almighty , for those who believe in almighty
Adolph dosuza, India :
In order to win over the local populations missionaries amalganated christian feasts with local feasts . Tradition and culture could not be eliminated from local people. These kind of feats and local tradition amaLgamations are seen with christmas ( sun festival at that time in Europe) , Easter, etc. In south america almost all local feasts have christian emblems of christ and saints and the feaSts are that of animist type. True humans dont want to let go of their traditions but understand that christianity as a religion is alien to indians although many claim that it was willingly accepted. Indian cultures and traditions must be preserved with religion kept oustside. Onam is a classic example.
Roque, Qatar:
Dear Menino,
I agree with you.. Let him come to Goa next year and let him watch how Goans celebrate Mother Mary's Birthday.

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