A FLASHBACK, TRANSITION & THE CURRENT SCENARIO….
As the MONTHI FESTH at the door steps……..
Feast of nativity of Blessed virgin Mary on 8th September, was / is the one we eagerly looking for and involving with heart and mind, during our primary School days, probably next only to Christmas. Every parish had its own unique way for its preparation as well as celebration…..the ‘Nine days Novena’ was devoutly observed and participated, with Church full to its capacity, than any other occasion which were a little more than a formality for children. In other words, these nine days daily novena prayers made the Feast so special…..
Though the children supposed to arrange, bring and shower the flowers in front of the attractive image of Infant Mary or in front of the Grotto…. in a way it was the whole family affair – waking up children, preparing them, dressing, and sending (in these days bringing) them to the Church at wee hours, get them back home and feed them / breakfast and once again make them ready for Schools……Of course during our days, no changing dress since no uniforms, no home work….just rush to the School by yet another marathon walk…..Most of the days, the nature was kind with no great rain, however, excessive dew-fall in September and paddy and Sugarcane leaves blocking the narrow walkways in the fields, a common scene…..many a time our shorts getting wet while reaching Church and Schools……It was a great fun to enjoy the beeline of group walk……!
Coming to feast day, it was altogether a different experience. No relatives in the form of Guests. However, it was a feast for all in the neighbourhood – all of them who helped by allowing us to pluck flowers from their garden, those tenants (vokklan) families with almost all of them, few distinct guests to entertain with dolu in the evening, altogether a real festive look in the house, most of us enjoyed to the brim…... While many churches used to distribute Sugar cane, in some places children were offered laddus for bringing flowers….!
Feast in our native town Barkur:
It’s a unique feature in our Barkur – we have one of the longest processions to both honour Mother Mary and welcome new crop in our homes…..! Till the year 1980, first the Holy Mass was celebrated at 7.00 am and then the grand and disciplined walk on the both the sides of the main road till Mendonca family’s home in the heart of the town, where the new paddy corn arranged artistically, in our childhood days brought all the way from Nilavara, again with a band accompanying. What a graceful day, the long and melodious chiming of three gigantic bells, singing Marian hymns, children and youth carrying well decorated trays and baskets full of colourful flowers…..above all Four shoulders to carry the Palkin carrying the Maria Bambina, baby Mary’s cradle….and in front of her the prayers to bless the new crop of the season and thank Almighty Lord…..!!
The procession on their return to the church carries the blessed bundles of rice with reverence for distribution, to the faithful after the solemn benediction of Holy Sacrament.
Once the blessed new rice corn (Novem) brought home, a prayer was held to thank Almighty Lord and the celebrations of a different kind…..There were special 5 men musician team, Hosaph we normally call them, starting making rounds early in the morning. We have to keep a count and at times crossed 15 plus. For their performance we used to give them a Coconut, at times double performance by the local troupe and some cash 50 Paisa or a Rupee, local brass band, normally comprising Hindu brothers also performing in the lucrative destinations….. Neighbouring women readily offering to help in cooking as many as 7 or 9 may be up to 15 types of vegetables, many of them generously grown and donated by the Hindu households in the surrounding….. Papa normally more concerned to fetch good river fish, though plan B was already in place arranging some fish in the previous evening…..Little arrack or a country liquors bottle was there normally reserved for only men…..
To the best of my understanding Monthi Festh was an occasion which brought the whole town together especially, the economically poor for a special day, over Lunch on a banana leaf….. Today while looking back, it will remain as just like nostalgic memories............Nevertheless, still this feast is more relevant, refreshing and rejoicing…. in these years, evolving and refashioning new concepts, which are gaining importance.
It is celebrated as Farmers Feast:
This is probably the best occasion to explain the very importance of agriculture and the role of a farmer and there was a time, our Catholic Community was very much engaged in this primary sector for their livelihood and survival. There were land lords and labour serving for these zameedars.
The land reforms introduced in late 60’s and early 70’s changed the inter dependence and tenants become land owners…. The reforms were both a boon and a curse. Since the land holdings one inherited were both subdivided and fragmented, and today most of them left barren due to various social and economic reasons…..I think we can discuss this subject some other time….?
Today paddy fields are cultivated not as a source of income rather a passion in a few locations, for some it’s a fashion…! Many such fields adjacent to roads converted as commercial plots….. Economically, in our districts, agriculture was not a great income source, (except cash crops grown in estates / plantations) since they were small un-even lands, excessively depending on monsoon and not suitable for mechanised farming using tractors / tillers etc. Interestingly in earlier days each and every household used to grow seasonal vegetables both in rainy months and in summer……
But there are few families still carry on with the profession diversifying the produce to vegetables, chicken farms, piggery, fish ponds, jasmine flower gardens etc. The importance of a grower will never be ignored. Whether one buys cereals, vegetables from a provision store, somewhere, someone has to grow it….! Let us salute, respect and specially thank them who feed us. In a small way we can encourage them by buying them straight from the grower so that they get a fair return for their produce, otherwise eaten away by traders and middlemen…. On a ‘Sunday Saanth’ one can easily make out who the ‘farmer cum trader’ and ‘only trader’…..and we can encourage sons and daughters of the soil by purchasing from such people…..!
Mother Nature never disappoints and hard work will not go in vein. Let the Farmer who adores it and cultivate remain as the backbone of Indian economy just not for lip service or in paper. Marginal and small farmers to be encouraged and youngsters are motivated towards harvesting and the produce that grown, utilising natural manure, always best for good health…..!! May Monthi Feast be an opportunity to encourage farming community and thereby conserve nature and environment…….!!
Feast of girl Child:
Mother Mary is the best example we have to explain the value of a girl child. Even Almighty Lord needed a mom’s womb Jesus our saviour to take his birth in this world..? As a mother, grandmother, Sister, wife and daughters each and every female always to be respected and with them the family blossom. The sacrificial and caring mother’s nature, growing with sister /s, an experience of a different kind to cherish, as a life-time companion in wife, standing by us at all odds and triumphs and of course a pretty daughter a must at any homes to be lively. Let us make it a daily affair to accept them as they are and respect, care them from both heart and conscience.
In an Indian context discrimination against girls has been there for ages. It is our duty to end this. Let us encourage girl education whatever way possible….involve them in decision making process first at our individual homes…
Feast of the Family:
Today ‘small family is a happy family’….but to what extent this slogan hold good….? Husband, wife and one child or two…..and we experienced that loneliness during these past 1 to 1.5 years of Covid lockdown……. It’s a welcome move many households celebrate Monthi-festh as a ‘family get together’ – most of the time in their respective ancestral homes.
Today, all need companionship. Let the urbanisation, modern technology, need not take away our age old culture and heritage. Extended family gatherings may be more frequent and regular. Let us reinvent our roots, while sitting and chatting with elders during such celebrations. We have seen many extended families cook different delicacies, on Monthi feast and bring them to a common place / house and share with each other – it’s really a welcome move…..! One need not be a family member; even a next door neighbour can be accommodated in such occasions and more frequently, not to wait only for Monthi Feast..… (It is everyone’s experience that Home cooked food always better than the one ordered from restaurants, tasty for tongues…!)
Community Feast of Mangaloreans in Gulf and around the Globe in the new millennium:
Probably, Muscat was the first Gulf country to start the Monthi Festh in a typical Mangalorean style in Ruwi Church, normally following Friday after 8th September as early as in 1989. Internet world contributed for its popularity in the later years and Daijiworld web pages gave wide publicity to the event celebrated in different countries in Gulf and in other places, with all pomp and splendour. It is now become both our ‘cultural identity and solidarity of Konkani speaking community in the world’. In recent years even the nine days Novena prayers started attracting many faithful. In most of the churches, Konkani Community join hands together to serve festal lunch or dinner at their convenience in the Church Compound with entertainment and involvement of children, which always add colour to these celebrations.
While the undersigned in Gulf, noticed a unique practice over there….. Especially our low income labourers serving in different Companies generously sponsoring coupons of Lunch / Dinner to their fellow brethren to encourage them to participate in the Monthi feast in the nearby Church. Likewise they too reciprocate for Onam, Pongal, Eid, Divali etc….. Rightly these pleasantries are the windows to understand each other’s culture, food habits and a small positive step towards unity in diversity…..
Historical significance and age old customs and few rituals:
Most of the festivals of Catholics are celebrated en-masse worldwide – say Easter, Christmas etc. Hence rarely any guests from the family expected. To find a solution the concept of respective patron’s Titular Feasts earlier and later parish feasts (Tuesday evening and Wednesday) evolved in the 20th century, in an organised way from November to Lent. They too are losing their attraction and in cities remained as just an annual ritual…..?!
Monti festh was probably introduced in Coastal Karnataka in the 18th Century itself to give an opportunity to revive Indian ethos inbuilt in our forefathers in line with many Indian feasts coming one by one – Janmastami, Chauthi and so on…..Offering flowers too must be a part of it. Vegetarian, (in some places pure) food with vornn a unique feature. Distribution of Sugarcane, in the later half of the 20th Century, preparation of nine days with Novena, colourful procession of new paddy corn and with the palkin / cradle carrying Maria Bambina on the shoulders of four young-men on feast day etc are some visible scenes to mark this special feast of Mother Mary’s Birthday.
Need to make it all involving inter community festival in our parishes in native place:
In our opinion, Monthi Festh has more acceptability, fragrance of native soil and Indian features to make it an inter-community feast in our respective parishes. With no Dukramas and alcohol, a pure vegetarian menu, can be a best possible package to attract brethren from all faith on same day for lunch or a following Sunday…..or in the evening of Feast Day itself…..! It is we who have to live in harmony in the society we live in. And these festivities are the opportunities to build bridges with each other. Unfortunately most of the politicians in our contemporary society are engaged in building walls today…..?
Mother Mary our heavenly Mother a model for our life in every respect. As the Church celebrates the first dawning of redemption with the appearance in the world of the Saviours’ mother Mary, as she occupies a unique place in the history of salvation…..She is rightly the ‘Cause of our Joy’ today and every day, as she is the best and most known Mother, holy and Blessed not only for Christians but also Muslim brethren and we are the witnesses as our own non- catholic friends do adore her in their own way in our own surroundings…..It will be more meaningful, we adore ‘Mother of Jesus our Lord’, together with our individual ‘earthly biological mother’, who gave us birth and taught us to take care of the ‘Mother Nature’ which feed and protect the mankind…… !
P. Archibald Furtado, 1st September, 2021, Mobile: 98457 42750, firstname.lastname@example.org.