Monte Mariano Church-Farangipet – the Origin of ‘Monthi Fest’

Monte Mariano Church-Farangipet – the Origin of ‘Monthi Fest’

The ‘Monte Mariano Church/Monastery-Farangipete has a glorious history that dates back to 1763. Fr Joachim Miranda, a Goan priest who served as first parish priest cared for the spiritual needs of all the Catholics living across the coast till the foot of Western Ghats. Fr Miranda built a seminary at Farangipet which was later shifted to Jeppu. Owing to his exceptional holiness, Fr Miranda won the friendship of Hyder Ali, the then king of Mysore Kingdom. ‘Monthi Fest’ (feast of Nativity of Mary) was first introduced by him here. When Tippu’s horsemen arrived to plunder the Monte Mariano monastery, it is known that Fr Miranda showed the copper plate given by Hyder Ali, authorizing the rights of land for worship. Hence, the soldiers spared the monastery from plundering.

Mangaluru: In princely Mysore area the people branded British or European as red-papaya or Kenchpanrangi; kench means red parangi means Papaya fruit, because of their red skin colour. Whereas in identical situation Portuguese were called Farangi and the place where they stayed was known as Farangipet or Farangipete. ‘Pet’ or ‘Pete’ means commercial lane in town or city. There is a prominent area known as ‘Farangipete’ to indicate foreigners’ colony or locality, close to Mangaluru city, about 15-16 km distance.

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The Europeans have a good tradition of first building a Church wherever they go and settle. When the Portuguese landed at Mangaluru, they built their very first house of worship ‘Monte Mariano Church’ in their camp which came to be recognized as Farangipet, to indicate foreigners’ dwellings. Monte Mariano Church in Farangipet is an ancient Catholic denomination, which include church, friary, monastery and institution. It is situated on top of the picturesque hillock on the North bank of Netravathi River. The famous festival known as “Monthi Festh” coinciding with native festival of Mary is celebrated every year.

Portuguese conquered Goa in 1510 and founded their empire in India. During 1526 they established three churches around Mangaluru namely Lady of Rosary at Bolar (now Rosario Cathedral), Our Lady of Mercy at Ullal (Panir) and St Francis of Assisi at Farangipet. It was used as mass to Portuguese traders who arrived via river route and exit from, there. River Netravathi is always flooded or flows in full swing. It will be pleasing to see breathtaking view of this mighty river with lush greenery on the hillock at the background of the monastery. The devotees come here from far off places to offer prayers.

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During 1763, Tippu Sultan after capturing Mangalore had kept Catholics as captives in Srirangapatna. Tippu while destroying all churches in Mangalore miraculously spared Monte Mariano monastery. Monte Mariano literally means ‘Mount Mary’, which name has occupied special place in the annals of Catholics history of Mangaluru. It is also popular as ‘Saant Mari’, (Vhoddlem fest) or the feast of the Friary, which in reality is the feast of St Francis of Assisi, which takes place during the month of October. People from all walks of life join in the celebration which is famous as ‘Saant Mari’ in the locality. One of the special feature of this feast is that beggars from all over who come to the friary on the festal day are fed in the afternoon. Mangaluru Christians consider Vodlem Fest as special occasion that starts with Saant Mari of Farangipet.

Monthi fest is an annual feast of the church coming during harvest season which coincides with Sankranti in Karnataka and Andhra, Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Onam in Kerala. Mother Mary’s statue at the entrance of the main gate is beautiful. I was told that this statue of Infant Mary in this chapel is from Italy, brought and donated by Nelyadi family hailing from Kerala.. The wooden carved statue of St. Francis of Assisi is said to be of 480 years old. On a given day not only Christians, even many non-Christians offer prayers here. The Commerce School here is catering to the needs of poor dropout girls in providing training in tailoring and computer education. It seems there is play home also. Another interesting tourist attraction is the wonderful Sunrise at Netravathi River, which could be viewed from the monastery.

Speaking to Team Mangalorean, “Fr. Jerald Lobo, OFM Cap – the Superior at St. Fidelis Friary (Monte Mariano Church/ St Francis Assisi Church-Farangipete) shared the history saying, ” In 1510, the Portuguese conquered Goa and founded their empire India. In 1526, some Franciscan priests entered South Canara (now known as Dakshina Kannada) and founded three churches around Mangaluru. Lady of Rosary at Bolar, Lady of Mercy at Ullal and St. Francis of Assisi at Farangipet. The last name means foreigners town {Farangi +pet} land of foreigners. Because it was a Portuguese trade outpost.”

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“Hyder Ali conquered the Bednore kingdom in 1763 when Fr. Joachim Miranda was the parish priest at Farangipet. Hyder Ali sought his favour and asked for his prayers for the success of his military campaigns and also made votive offerings in Monte Mariano church. His soldiers use to light candles at the foot of Mother Mary so that they may win the wars. However, for Tippu sultan, Fr. Joachim Miranda was a problem. He was aware that Fr Joachim and Hyder Ali were good friends. Tippu began showing respect for the priest but was determined to capture Catholics and hold them captive in Srirangapatnam. Tippu sought from FR. Miranda information about the British General, Mathew. He refused to give information. Incidentally, while Tippu destroyed all churches in South Canara, when Tippu’s horsemen arrived to plunder the Monte Mariano monastery, it is known that Fr. Miranda showed the copper plate given by Hyder Ali, authorizing the rights of land for worship. Hence, the soldier’s spared the monastery from plundering. And also his father’s friendship with Fr. Joachim Miranda”.

“The nativity of our Lady or the birthday of our beloved mother Mary also called as “Monthi Fest” by Mangalorean catholic community – As per the local history Monthi fest has its origin in Farangipet. Here Fr. Miranda, a Goan priest who lived around 300 years ago, started this practice on top of a hill, on the Northern bank of the Nethravathi River where lies an ancient place called Monte Mariano. It is also known as Mount of Mary. Oral history goes to state that the nativity festival of our Lady was first celebrated at Monte Mariano to coincide with the annual feast of the church. The term monthi has been derived from the word Monte and over the years has been modified to be known as monthi fest.”

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“The sources including the other religion neighbours say that the Monthi fest took birth in Farangipet. It is one of the three designated major feasts of Mangaluru Diocese. The others being the feasts of St. Lawrence Feast at Karkala and Lady of Pompei feast at Urva. Until a few decades ago, Monthi fest was celebrated on a grand scale at Monte Mariano, with surrounding parishes too participating. A large number of devotees from Mangaluru, including tile manufacturers and coffee planters, footed it out to Farangipet for the feast. Catholics in Tulu Nadu, set to celebrate Monthi Fest on September 8, know it is the day of the Nativity feast the birth of Mary, mother of Jesus. But, hardly anyone stops to think why it is called monthi fest. Some research and inquires with people who should know leads to the conclusion that Monthi fest originated at Farangipet about 300 years ago”.

“It was started in the month of September because in that month the other religion brethren celebrated their Ganapathi Habba-feast. It uses to last for nine days. All these nine days they were not eating meat or fish, but only vegetarian. So Fr. Joachim Miranda strictly followed nine days novena to be held in honour of Nativity feast. This was followed even lately in our houses. After blessing the new corn when it is brought to the house our parents were not keeping any kind of non-veg. Farangipet is also the home to an ancient catholic outpost who, at various times, has been, and still is, a church, friary, monastery and seminary “.

“The official name of the place is Monte Mariano- Mount of Mary. The Monthi fest derives its name, from Monte. It was here that a Goan priest, Fr. Joachim Miranda, started this annual new corn feast. But, Catholics generally are unfamiliar with the Monte Mariano name and call the place Coventh (convent). They cannot be faulted because even the RTC, based on ancient land records, notes the owner of the plot as Montu Mary Coventu Devaru. One thing is all the ancient lands which are under the church or temple the owner is God, Devaru “.

“Fr. Joachim Miranda built a St. Joseph’s seminary at Farangipet which was later shifted to St. Antony’s Ashram-Jeppu and then the present place where the Seminary exits. The mother Mary’s statue which is now erected at the entrance of the main gate was somewhere on the hill near the church. In 1945 it was shifted near the main gate. This Monte Mariano also known as the second cradle of Capuchins in India since it housed the only Novitiate of whole of India till 1967. The monastery is located on the bank of the River Nethravathi high on a cliff. The breath-taking view of mighty river at the background with lush greenery on the hillock close to monastery transpires one to leap into spiritual mode “.

“The monastery is being thronged by devotees as far away from neighbouring taluks of Bantwal, Putur, Vittal, Bellore, Sullia and Mangaluru to offer prayers. This Friary is nearly 15-16 kms away from Mangaluru on national highway 48 is also known for its famous Sant Mari-Coventheche Vodlem Fest. It is actually the feast of the patron saint- Francis of Assisi. There is a wooden carved statue of St. Francis of Assisi which was brought by the Portuguese. 480 years old. No where can we see a statue of St. Francis of Assisi holding a cross and a Bible in his hand indicating a missionary and proclaiming Christ. It is a miracle statue. Many faithful including other religion brothers and sisters pay their homage and ask for favours”.

“When the Capuchins began their Novitiate in 1930, they began the practice of celebrating the feast on the first Thursday after the October 4th, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. They celebrate it on Thursday, since the Monastery’s rule restricted them from eating meat on Wednesdays. Other than this there was no other reason why it was cancelled on a Thursday. Hence, the feast which gives a start to the Voddelm fest season in the entire Mangaluru diocese is known as ‘Coventhachem Fest- feast of the Friary. With the passing of years the devotees for the ‘’Coventhachem Fest’’ became less and less. It was traditionally celebrated on Thursday. But Thursday was not a holiday.The other reason could be there are fewer children in families and the elders go for work. So there was no opportunity to participate in the feast. Hence, when all people take part, the young, the old and the children there is much joy and celebration”.

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“Taking into consideration all these reasons of common people’s life, Yours Truly (Present Superior -who spent 16 years among the poorest of the poor in Raichur District of Bellary Diocese) and the community took the bold decision with the consultation of deanery priests of shifting this historical feast from Thursday to the first Sunday of October. The reason is that today there are classes on Thursday and the elders go for work. Thus they are unable to attend mass on the feast day. As a result the present as well as the future generation will not know the history about the celebration of the feast of ‘’Farangipet Coventh’’. To make it more convenient to all the elders as well as children the celebration of the feat is shifted to Sunday. Meals are served to all who take part in the festal celebration.

On Sunday’s people from Omzoor, Merlapadav, Bantwal, Bellore, Fajir, Padil, Mogarnad and Loreto participate in the Holy Eucharist in our chapel. There is a deep love and veneration for our friary which has come down from our forefathers. The celebration of the ‘’Monti fest’’ started in our Friary in the month of September because the feast of Ganapathi was celebrated by our Hindu brethren in that month. It lasted for nine days. On all these nine days they ate neither meat nor fish but only vegetable. Fr. Joachim Miranda began nine days of Novena in honour of the Nativity of Mary. This was followed lately in our houses. The blessed new corn that is brought to houses is consumed by the family members. There were no non-veg dishes on that day.”

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“The statue of Infant Mary which is preserved in our chapel has an interesting history. It is from Italy. It was brought by a family in Nelyadi-Kerala. They wanted to donate it to a Church. Meanwhile they were told by some Mangalorean family that the feast of the Nativity took birth in Monte Mariano-Farangipet. And one fine day with the whole family they visited here donated the statue to us. There is a wooden carved statue of St. Francis of Assisi brought by the Portuguese and it is 480 years old. Nowhere one can see a statue of St. Francis holding a cross and the Bible in his hand. This shows the missionary life of Francis proclaiming Christ. It is a miracle statue. Many people including people of other religions pay their homage to St. Francis and ask for favours. There is a Commerce School which caters to the need of poor dropout girls in tailoring and Provide computer education too. We have begun a play home”.

Fr Gerald Lobo was also kind enough to give me tour of the Church/Monastery, and their property which is around six acres, comprising of poultry, piggery and cattle, vegetable garden, coconut trees, arecanut trees etc., and also a wine manufacturing unit in the premises which supplies church wine to most of the DK churches. Fr Lobo has invited the Catholic faithful and the non-Christians to join in the “Monthi fest” celebration on 8 September at 8am (Mass), and also extends a invitation to the “Coventhachem Fest’’ on 9 October, where the Bishop of Mangaluru Diocese, Rev Dr Aloysius P D’Souza will celebrate the feast mass at 10.30 am.

Also Read:

‘Sakkad Sangatha Melyam…’! Catholics Gearing up for ‘Monthi Fest’

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1 Comment

  1. congratulations >Mangalorean.com and Team , in particular Mr.Alfi Dsouza for bringing out such beautiful article. God bless you for giving us such a good information.

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