Sakadd Sangata Meliya, Moriyek Hogalsiya! The FIRST Day of The 9-Day Novena Began at Rosario Cathedral, Mangaluru on 30 August 2023 to Mark ‘Monti Fest. At Various Catholic Churches In DK/Mangaluru- the feast of Nativity Of the Blessed Virgin Mary, One of the MAJOR Mangalorean Catholic Festivals will be Celebrated on 8 September
Mangaluru: “Monti Fest” aka Feast of Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary is a major Mangalorean Catholic festival which falls on September 8 every year. This festival celebrates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in the Mangalorean Catholic community involves the blessing of Novem (new crop). The festival derives its name from the Monte Mariano Church at Farangipet in South Canara (now called Dakshina Kannada) and was initiated by Joachim Miranda, a Goan Catholic priest at Farangipet in 1763. The Church 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 ‘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. Though Tippu Sultan destroyed the churches of South Canara, he spared Monte Mariano Church in deference to the friendship of his father Hyder Ali with Father Joachim Miranda.
The nine days of novena in preparation for the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Monti Fest) began on 30 August, before the Big Feast- “Monti Fest” on 8 September) with Novena Mass in all churches in the district. The Novena days are the preparation for the Birthday of Mother Mary as well as the harvest feast for the whole family where the day begins with mass with children and devotees adoring the statue of our lady of nativity with flowers. Every year, there will be a grand procession on the feast day to venerate and respect Mother Mary with flowers before the mass begins, and the atmosphere will be resounding with the traditional hymn of “Sokkad Sangata Meliya, Moriyek Hogalsiya”.
At Rosario Cathedral-Mangaluru, the First day of the Novena was held with devotion to infant Mary who is very dear to Catholics, especially in Mangaluru. A time when children flocked together, bringing flowers in honour of Mary, singing hymns and after the novena enjoying sweets. Children and parishioners were asked to offer flowers individually after the mass in procession. Fr Alfred Pinto, the parish priest of Rosario Cathedral, along with Fr Vinod Assistant parish priest celebrated the mass, following which they both conducted the Novena in front of the Grotto.
In his Homily, Fr Pinto reflected saying, “ ‘Monti fest – a feast that is close to the heart of all Christians of Kanara (Mangaluru) which has a special role to play in every Christian’s life. Every feast we celebrate is not just for fun or merrymaking, rather it has a message hidden in it, an incident to recall or a specific purpose to remember; So also Monti Fest. On this day we commemorate the immaculate birth of Mary, and along with this celebration, this feast also encourages family bonding. On this day let’s reflect on, firstly, Never sacrifice ‘your family’ for anyone or anything. Secondly, prepare your children for the next world – this was the message Mary revealed at one of her apparitions”.
After the novena and showering of flowers to the statue of Baby Mary, the children were treated to cold drinks and cake pieces. 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. Images of the Baby Virgin Mary are seen in large numbers at these shops, especially at Gerosa Company, Hampankatta, Mangaluru and Milagres Company and Shetty Traders, Hampankatta, Mangaluru. Christians all over the world will be celebrating the feast of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary(BVM) or simply the birthday of Mary, the Mother of our Saviour Jesus Christ, as well as our Heavenly Mother- a Feast commonly called by the locals as “Monti Festh” in Konkani.
The Catholic Christians residing on the west coast of India (Karnataka, Goa, Mumbai and Vasai) celebrate the birthday of Mother Mary as “Monti Festh”. The birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is celebrated with the blessing of the new corn and family meal is one of the great celebrations of the Konkani Catholic community residing all over the world. On the Feast day, 8 September, It is a tradition in Mangaluru for Catholic families to gather together and share a vegetarian meal consisting of at least 6-8 vegetarian dishes.
The grains taken from blessed paddy stalks or corn are added to the milk or “Vorn” (Payasam) 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 (DK) and Mangaluru city 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.
People living on the West coast of India, Christians celebrate this feast as’ Nove- Jevnache ‘ or in other words ‘ Festival of Harvest’. The people use this occasion to salute the kindness of the divine powers and earn their kindness. This is also the festival in which they thankfully acknowledge the kindness of Mother Nature and Mother Earth for the bounteous crops. On September 8, the Catholics consumed only vegetarian meals, known as ‘Nove Jeevan (New Meal)’. The children shower flowers on Mother Mary’s statue at the church. The newly harvested rice stalks and sugar canes, duly blessed by the priests, are then taken home by the people. The grains are crushed at home, added to milk, and served to the family members. 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, and filial relationships and a feast that makes us aware that we are very much part of 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 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.
The festival has special relevance in the modern world as it keeps the community together not just in South Canara (DK) and Mangaluru city 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.
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 Meliya’ – ‘Moriyek Hogolsyam’ has been an inherent part of Monti Festh. The people feel blessed and blissful by paying obeisance to Mother Mary on her birth anniversary. Even the busiest of people take time off to be a part of the procession, hail Monti’s kindness and get divine