Buying Phula, Alu, Dento, other Veggies Kodialchi Catholics Gearing Up for ‘Monthi Festh’

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Buying Phula, Alu, Dento, other Veggies Kodialchi Catholics Gearing Up for ‘Monthi Festh’ on 8 September

Mangaluru: A few days ago Hindus were seen buying the required essentials needed for the feasts like the Birthday feasts of Sri Krishna (Krishnashtami), followed by Ganesh Chaturthi, now it’s the turn of Mangalorean Catholics to buy the required vegetables, flowers, and other essentials needed to celebrate The Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary, also locally called as “Monthi Fest” by Mangalorean Catholic community, which is also celebrated as a harvest festival like ‘Onam’ of Kerala, ‘Pongal’ of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. After a sombre Monthi Festh last year due to the pandemic, this year local Catholics are all excited, especially the children to celebrate the Feast, and shower flowers on Baby Mary.

As per the local history, “Monthi Festh” has its origin in 1763 in Farangipet on the outskirts of Mangaluru. Here, Fr Joachin 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. Though Tippu Sultan destroyed the churches of Canara, he spared Monte Mariano Church in deference to the friendship of his father Hyder Ali with Father Miranda. 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 ‘Monthi’ has been derived from the word ‘Monte’ and over the years has been modified to be known as ‘Monti Fest’. On this solemn occasion, the Catholics partake in a community feast or a family feast having only vegetarian dishes.

The celebration usually starts nine days in advance with novena prayers to Mother Mary, during which period small children take special pride in offering flowers every day- and this year the Novena started on 30 August. The grand celebration of Monti Fest is held with traditional gaiety and religious fervour at all the Churches which are decorated tastefully for the occasion. Special masses, feasts, religious ceremonies and a series of festivities in churches, parishes and homes are the order of the day. On this special day, the Catholic community members take the freshly grown paddy stalks to their respective churches as an offering of the first bounty of nature to Mother Mary. Special prayers are offered to plead the Holy Mother to keep the fertility of nature for generations to come and provide all the bounties of nature to the children of the world.

It is a tradition in Mangaluru for families to gather together and share a vegetarian meal consisting of at least five vegetarian dishes. Sorry, no Dukhra mass and Soro! 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. The festival has special relevance in the modern world as it keeps the community together not just in South Canara (Dakshina Kannada) and Mangaluru city but in all different continents where Mangalorean Catholics have settled. They continue to celebrate Monti fest in whatever way they can in their countries and enjoy the nostalgia connected with their own families and parishes back home.

As a child, I remember gathering flowers from the garden and also from the neighbourhood, and carrying them to Church in a dish/plate- but these days children have the privilege of carrying the flowers in fancy baskets, which are sold in various stores, and they have been selling like hotcakes. Images of the Baby Virgin Mary are seen in large numbers at these shops, especially at Jerosa Company and Milagres Company, in Hampankatta, in the City. . Even vegetable markets/shops have stocked up all the vegetables needed by the Catholic faithful for the big family feast on September 8. Flower shops have been doing brisk business during this time of the year, when Hindu festivals just got over, and added to them, now the Catholic feast “Monti Fest”.

So it is also a festival representing the symbol of family unity. This feast is celebrated with joy and happiness as it is the harvest festival as well, a time when the farmer is getting the crop ready for the year. Monti Fest is the celebration of family bonds, filial relationships and a feast that makes us aware that we are very much part of the nature around us, bringing us closer to Mother Nature. The speciality is that we venerate and celebrate Mother Mary’s birthday because she is the mother of the Messiah the saviour, redeemer Lord Jesus Christ. So automatically as Jesus is the son of God she becomes our heavenly mother too. It is really amazing to see that all Konkani Catholics unite wherever they are spread across the Globe with one spirit and zeal and make it a point to celebrate this great festival of Monti fest all over the world.

No doubt, Monti Fest is gaining popularity all over the globe these days, as it is celebrated in every town where the population of Konkani-speaking people is sizable. Singing of hymns, ‘Sakkad Sangatha Melyam’ and ‘Moriyek Hogolsyam’ has been an inherent part of Monti Fest. The people feel blessed and blissful by paying obeisance to Mother Mary on her birth anniversary. One of the earliest Monti Fest was celebrated at Milagres Church in the city in 1906.


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