Honouring the good mother

Honouring the good mother

The beginning of September marks the end of the southwest monsoon in the cultural region of Kanara. It is a resplendent time, when all the communities look forward to the harvest season.

Monthi Fest or Maria Jayanthi, the birth anniversary of Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, celebrated on September 8, draws a parallel to local traditions of the region and the harvest meal partaken in the family home by as many members as possible. Veggie delights

The feast is always a pure vegetarian affair. Some popular vegetables for this feast include ridge gourd, string beans, ladies finger, bitter gourd, spinach, colocasia, hog plum, cucumber, pumpkin and ash gourd. Coconut is widely used here and is the main flavour in all dishes. 

Rice also forms a major part of the cuisine and cooked in a variety of forms – parboiled red rice, sanna (a type of idli made with coconut milk), shevio (rice noodles with cardamom-flavoured sweetened coconut milk) and appam.

One of the few churches untouched in the captivity era post 1784, was Monte Mariano at Farangipet, eventually the base of Capuchin Friars. It catered to the Christian agriculturists of the hinterland around Bantwal. Monte Mariano got its name from a Portuguese church dedicated to Mary in Goa. 

The event was traditional in the beginning and the harvest observances slowly started taking different forms and converged with various cultures from ancient times. 

In Mangalore and Kanara, the Mount of Mary in Konkani became known as Monti Mai and Fest, translating to ‘Feast of Mary of the Mount.’ This fest may have been brought here from Goa or other places but it has adapted to the Tuluva norms. 

Gaining popularity

With agriculture fast disappearing, one wonders how this tradition will shape with increasing industrialisation and urbanisation. 

Yet, Monthi Fest has become a virtual global observance among larger Kanara communities all over the world. It is evolving as a link identifying the Konkani Catholics.The Capuchins

In September 1930, the Bishop of Mangalore welcomed the well known Capuchin friars to Mangalore and persuaded them to take over the church and cloister at Monte Mariano. The primeval church is in a good condition even today. The attached dilapidated barrack-like dwellings were repaired and the Capuchins established their novitiate. The old wood roofs and lofts have been well preserved. 

While the Friary was being built by their own labour and sweat, the friars lived primitively in huts around the old chapel. The heavy southwest monsoons were too harsh on the temporary structures and several monks even fell sick. The deadly cobras and vipers were an added scare. To counter this, some of the capuchins became snake lovers, a tradition that continues to this day. 

Under the guidance of Fr Symphorian the architect, the new Friary was completed in 1931, under the name of St Fidelis. This ancient citadel still stands here, bearing the onslaught of modernity.

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