Monti Fest – Celebrating cultural identity

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 .

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))

Author: Alphonse Mendonsa- Abu Dhabi