Mangaluru: For the Konakani Catholic along the Karavali Karnataka, Sep. 8th is a special day. It is the day on which mother of Jesus Christ, Mother Mary was born. This occasion is grandly celebrated by all the Konkani Catholics along the undivided Dakshina Kannada district. September month is the last month of monsoon and hence the crops will be harvested during this time. As a thanksgiving for the gifts of nature and since it is Mother Mary’s birthday, Konkani Catholics celebrate this as a combined festival colloquially known as ‘Monti Fest’.
Catholic’s believe that Mother Mary is the ‘Mother of God’ and she fulfills the requests of her devotees through miracles. Since it is her birthday, this occasion has religious importance. Additionally, crops are harvested during this period, hence it is also a harvest festival.
There is no definite history on ‘Monti Fest’. But, there are various mentions on the celebration of this festival. One on the mentions is that Monti Fest celebration first began at Farangipet in Bantwal taluk around 250 years ago.
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There was a chapel dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi established here. This structure on top of the hill on situated on the north side of Netravathi River is ‘Monte Mariano’ or ‘Mount of Mary’. Fr. Joachim Miranda, a missionary from Goa started the celebration of Mother Mary’s birthday for the first time along with the annual celebration of the local church. ‘Monti’ name was created from the word ‘Monte’ and the consecutive celebration of the festival eventually came to be known as ‘Monti Fest’.
There is a belief that Mother Mary is the mother of heaven and all are her children. Therefore her birthday is celebrated with much fervor and devotion. On this day, flowers are offered to Mother Mary. She is praised through prayers and hymns. It is tradition to offer the new harvest to god and seek his blessings. Monti Fest too is similarly celebrated. The early Konkani Catholics gave this festival the perspective of a family festival.
Seeing god in nature is not only a Hindu tradition. Christians too celebrate this as a festival. The specialty of this day is that Mother Mary’s birthday is celebrated as an act of gratitude to the gifts given by the nature through Monti Fest. During this festival, special importance is given to paddy, different types of flowers and a variety of vegetables.
Families return back home and say prayers. Then the rice from the blessed paddy is crushed, added to milk / coconut milk or Paisam and is given to the family members by the elders of the family. This is taken before the lunch and the family has their lunch together. This festival is celebrated by every Konkani Catholic, no matter in which place they are.
A 9 day novena in preparation for the festival begins from August 30th. Everyday, children come to the novena prayers equipped with flowers which they shower on to the infant Mary’s statue. On Sep. 8th the festival is celebrated as a community and family occasion. On this day, newly harvested paddy is taken to the church and blessed and flowers are offered to Mother Mary. It is followed by a celebratory mass. The blessed paddy is distributed amongst the gathered clergy. Sweets are given to the children who have brought the flowers and sugarcane is given to all devotees.
‘Novein Jevan’ means new meals. The specialty of the day is that the food on this day will be vegetarian. There is a norm that there should be at least 5 types of vegetarian dishes. Another specialty is that the food is consumed from banana leaves.