20 Items Monti Fest Meal Savoured at ‘Melrose’ the Home of (Late) Francis & Elaine Coelho

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Sumptuous 20 Items Monti Fest Meal Savoured by family members, relatives & guests at (Late) Francis & Elaine (Cuckoo) Coelho’s 90-year-old Vintage Home, on Falnir Road, Mangaluru. The entire meal was meticulously prepared by Ms Sabrina Hougaard, Falnir, Mangaluru

Mangaluru: Among the many harvest celebrations during this time of the year, is the MONTI FEST, where Mangalorean Catholics join in this feast that’s marked with fervent devotion and cheer. Monti Fest, Novem Jevan and Vorn…it’s all in this traditional Mangalorean feast. It is a tradition in Mangaluru for the families to gather together and share a vegetarian meal consisting of an array of vegetarian dishes. The dishes, “Alu-dento” and “Vorn” are a must in every household. The grains taken from blessed paddy stalks or corn are added to the milk or “Vorn” and offered to the members of the family in a symbolic gesture of thanksgiving for our Lady’s blessings.

 Looking back at the history of “Monti Fest”- it had its origin in Farangipet on the outskirts of Mangaluru Here, Fr. Joachim Miranda, a Goan Catholic priest of secular credentials, who lived around 250 years ago, started this practice on top of a hill, on the northern bank of the Netravati river where lies an ancient place called Monte Moriano. 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 Moriano to coincide with the annual feast of the church. The term ‘Monti’ has been derived from the word ‘Monte’ and over the years has been modified to be known as ‘Monti Fest’.

Ms ELAINE COELHO FAMILY: L-R: Jay Coelho (grandson); Cash (Pet Dog); Ms Vanitha Noronha (daughter); Ms Elaine Coelho; Ms Priya Madan Mohan (daughter); Dhyan Coelho (son); and Ms Cynthia Coelho (daughter-in-law)

Today, September 8, is a special day for the Mangalorean Catholics; not just those settled in Mangaluru, but the entire community across the globe. Marked by the abundance of tender marigold flowers, succulent sugarcane and sprigs of paddy, the Monthi Fest sees the community gathering to celebrate the birthday of Mary, the mother of Christ. But it is also a time to give thanks for the new crop. A key symbol of the day is, without doubt, the ‘Novem Jevan’ — a complete vegetarian meal also symbolic of the new harvest.

Friends Forever! Ms Claire Tauro aged 90 (L) seen with 93-year-old Ms Constance Shresta

Vicco Vajradanti! Ms Constance Coelho (Sreshta) biting into Sugarcane, proving she still has strong teeth!

The festival has special relevance in the modern world as it keeps the community together not just in Dakshina Kannada and Mangaluru but in all different continents where Mangalorean Catholics have settled. They continue to celebrate Monthi fest in whatever way they can in their countries and enjoy the nostalgia connected with their own families and parishes back home. Paddy is the staple of Mangaluru, forming a key part of every meal. The first grain is hence offered in prayer and blessed, to be further distributed among families. It is also customary to peel and crush some and mix it with milk. Ideally distributed by the eldest member of the house, it is called ‘Novem’.

81-year-old Ms Elaine Coelho Sprinkles Novem (New Corn) on the Array of Monthi Fest Dishes

Yes, Mangalorean Catholics all over the world celebrate the feast of Nativity on 8th September; which is the birthday of Mother Mary. This Feast is commonly called “Monthi Fest” in Konkani, which is also celebrated as the harvest festival. The new crop is blessed in the church and distributed to all the faithful gathered around the altar in the church. And later a special vegetarian fare prepared on this day is shared by the family members. ‘Novem mixed with milk’ is distributed to all guests followed by a delicious homemade lunch consisting of Mangalorean dishes. and of course the traditional dessert, Vorn.

Monti Fest is celebrated every year in the traditional way at the 90-year-old Vintage home named “MELROSE”, at Falnir Road, Mangaluru. The home was built by (Late) Dr A F Coelho, who was a Founder member of Father Muller Charitable Institutions, and his wife (Late) Rosie Coelho, a homemaker. His son (late) Francis Coelho & his wife Cuckoo Coelho continued to keep the family tradition with their four children – Vanitha, Jawahar, Priya & Dhyan. Presently, Ms Cuckoo Coelho (aged 81) resides with her son Dhyan & family at “Melrose”.

At today’s get-together for the Monti Fest meal, the guests & family members were predominantly of mixed ages from nonagenarians, and seniors to youngsters, namely Ms Cuckoo Coelho, Dhyan Coelho, Ms Cynthia Coelho, Jay Coelho, Ms Constance Sreshta; Ms Claire Tauro, Fr Cedric Prakash Sj, Harold Sreshta; Ms Cecilia (Leela) Sreshta; Jesper Hougaard; Ms Sabrina Hougaard; Ms Priya Madan Mohan; Ms Vanitha Noronha; Jan P Tauro; Ms Anjali Tauro, Ms Jeanne Baretto and “CASH” (a Doberman Pinscher breed dog).

The grace before the meals was said by Fr Cedric Prakash SJ, after which everyone sat to enjoy the sumptuous Monti Fest meal meticulously prepared by Ms Sabrina Hougaard, consisting of Gosalem Tel Piyao; Blackeyed Beans Pepper; Radish Gujarati Style; Thoushache Karamb; Karathein Sukhein; Alu Dento; Bendi Kotekar Style; Sonay & Yam Sukhe; Banana Sukka; Jivo Roce; Red Bean Curry; Moong Losum Meeri; Coconut Milk Curry; Pumpkin sambar; Green Peas & Doodi; Sannas, Moode; Sugarcane; Vorn; Pickle; Papads; among others. And adding a little punch to the veg dishes were a couple of meat items. If at all we committed sins consuming non-veg food, we can go for confession this weekend! A few ate on the banana leaf as part of the tradition.

So savouring these delicious vegetarian delicacies, brought back memories of the yester years when my mom prepared the sumptuous “Monti Fest” meal for all the family members. And at the same time also brought memories of my 24 years stay in Chicago, USA, and guess what we had for Monthi Fest meal- ‘Stuffed Turkey, KFC fried chicken, Caesar Salad, Mashed Potato, Glazed Ham, Pumpkin Pie etc- that was a typical Western-style Monthi Fest meal or call it an American Thanksgiving Meal!

All of us strongly believe in Mother Mary and know she is there watching over us every day. We thank Mother Mary for the plentiful blessings showered upon us every day. I will be looking forward to the next Monti Fest meal in 2023 at Coelho’s “Melrose”. Until then, Mog Asundi!

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1 Comment

  1. Lovely account of Monti Fest at ‘Mel rose’ the residence’s of Francis and Cuckoo in Falnir . More especially, the nostalgic joy of viewing familiar faces. Francis was my elder brother Melville’s classmate at St Aloysius – and had he been alive, might’ve remembered walking me to school by my hand.
    It was also lovely seeing the mugs of Fr Cedric, Claire (Beeba) Tauro and Connie Shreshta… savouring the vegetables cooked (thank you Sabrina) for the Fest.

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