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If saints are our intercessors, God's are our festival winners. Think of any seasonal feast and there you are with a smile, spreading happiness to your surroundings. A tinkling of joy and fervor of magnitude could be seen, in the environment and in the family and in everyone around you. Though nowadays it means to shell out a pocket full of money, in those good old days it was a mere joy and a time of  merriment by spending just some loose change. Feasts were vehemently shared not  only by the family or by the individuals alone, but also by all the communities, irrespective of religion, caste, or creed. Purchasing new dresses or new clothes, painting of the houses, simple decorations, purchase of new commodities, cleaning the courtyards, in order to produce an atmosphere of glow everywhere. Everyone would be busy and no one raised the eyebrow when feasts were at hand but saw to it that it had its due, by celebrating rightfully.

I being a Barkur product, I remember a few festivals that were celebrated in my  homeland. Namely, St. Peter's holdlem festh (Dodda Habba), the annual parish-feast in the month of December, Barkur Ther Habba (car festival), Ganapathi Habba, Pataki (crackers), Deepavali Habba (festival of lights) and then the local neighbors celebrating  Tulsi Pooja, chikku gudi genda, St. Peter's feast (June 29th), or our favorite Monti Fest  (Birth of our Lady the mother of Jesus Christ.) When you read these names of the festivals, you know what I am up to. I can write volumes of my happy memories of my younger days and the time I spent during these feasts, but I rather enjoy/feel the feelings and say very  little here. Each one you have many a thing to add and enjoy than my tiny tit-bits here with its lullabies. I know you feel 'at home' with the smile and find out what is it that follows as to the festival experience of mine.

ST. PETER'S HOLDLEM FESTH (Parish feast in December). December is the twelfth month of every year! Though it's the last month, it has special events; namely, the  birth of Jesus Christ - a world event and the feast of St. Peter's Church, Barkur, which  marks a special event for all the Barkurians all over the world, particularly to those who can attend the same down in Barkur. Hence, everyone has a reason to look for this  month to come down, time and time again, to celebrate and share this feast and joy.

For me, the parish feast meant: new clothes, a holiday, a time to eat sugarcoated sweets (locally called mitai) and to purchase the crib materials for the Christmas, and leave the church grounds with an ice cream stick melting in my hand. Before which, I would look for my God parents to put their right hand in their pocket and bless me with a big sizeable blessing which was the main shot of the day. (Instead of directly asking or begging for coins, we asked for God's blessings!)  As an Altar boy, I found my  altar boys clothes washed and I dressed well to experience the solemnity amidst two figure priests at the altar for the celebration of the Eucharist. At home, a number of relatives would come as this feast was meant - communion of relatives.  The mid day would have a sumptuous meal with varieties of dishes (sanna and dukra maas!) and some dances by Koraga communities with some raga tunes of the drum. The evening would invite for a drama (with entrance tickets) in the parish premises by the C.Y.M. members. This would enable a couple of youngsters to expose their talents for hundreds of people to laugh and get entertained and contribute to the youth C.Y.M. with joyous festive mood. When the last drama curtain falls, there would be talks on the way home about the jokers on the stage, reenacted by the children and women with similar or broken or made up dialogues, cherishing the happening of the drama as one by one lighted their Chood (palm leaf torches) to illuminate the way to reach home,  and to have a good snoring night, to start the next day fresh to go to school and other  places of work, or, in other words, back to business as usual.

At the festival grounds, there would be special stalls which invited danger. The wind  would blow the tents up in the air, and make them land softly nearby. Some children  had balloons and some had pimpri (whistles), which of course entertained the children,  but irritated the elderly, and checked the hearing capacities of those who had ears.

In fact one really forgets that there exists a word - 'patience' on that day.   What would attract those days the people and the festive invitees was the draw of lucky dip which had the living prize 'the Cock' which counted its last moments of life to be the prey of some lucky winners family meal. The housie-housie made the youngsters

to remain till the last ingredient is added at home for the saar. The religious articles  sold mostly were the Khatholic Panchang and a few scapulars or frail rosaries. No doubt everyone remembers that 'Shetty Ice Cream' which dominated/ruled the day.

This feast would be incomplete to anyone if I don't recall the vesper evening fire works. Ah! The Indian national bird spinning/turning round on a pivot with different colored fire crackers, lighting the minds of all hose present with admiration, a particular fire works circling in rounds, ringa ringa rosy, pocket full of posy, made some crying children to shut up and look at moms' big bright bulging eyes and brothers' glaring faces with amazing wonderment. Those gun shot crackers would go up above the church belfry and all the sparks would jump high like the stars of the sky and land on those admirers - in particular the mitai vendors. In the bargain some would give less laddues and some would run away from these stalls just to escape the  sparks, thus letting some boys to help themselves with the sweets or oranges!

However, the end of fire work show would be signaled by the Perampalli Musical Band leading the 'Pirgent' (the main generous/benevolent/pompous sponsor) on his way home.

Today, it is a different story altogether about Barkur feast. However, the spirit is the same but relatives have no time to visit their other relatives and the people have much to enjoy other than having such feast once a year. May be feasts are more of a burden  today, than a feast for feast's sake!  May be we should initiate "Besanv dee", translation "Bless Me", an age-old practice, with a hidden motive to obtain a few coins from the  elders, besides invoking for God's blessings.

Fr. Cyprian D'Souza.

For a glimpse of the life at Barkur as remembered by Barkurians, check archives

Barkur, located in Udupi Taluk, Karnataka, India. 576 210

Copyright Kishoo, Barkur 2002.