Sept 8: Monti Fest


















The Nativity of Our Lady or the birthday of our beloved Mother Mary, also called as "Monthi Fest" by Mangalorean Catholic community is also celebrated as a harvest festival like 'onam' of kerala, 'pongal' of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
As per the local history, “Monthi Fest” has its origin in 1763 in Farangipet in the outskirts of Mangalore. Here, Fr. Joachin Miranda,  a Goan Catholic priest of secular credentials, who lived around 250 years ago, started this practice on top of a hill, on the northern bank of the Nethravati river where lies an ancient place called Monte Moriano.

Though Tippu Sultan destroyed the churches of Canara, he spared Monte Mariano Church in deference to the friendship of his father Hyder Ali with Father Miranda. In certain Goan Christian dialects the festivals name is corrupted to "Moti Fest". Also written as Monti Fest.
 
It 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 'Monthi Fest'. On this solemn occasion, the Catholics partake in a community feast or a family feast having only vegetarian dishes.
The celebration usually starts 9 days in advance with novena prayers to mother Mary, during which period small children take special pride in offering flowers everyday. The grand celebration of Monthi Fest is held with traditional gaiety and religious fervour at all the Churches which are decorated tastefully for the occasion. Special masses, feasts, religious ceremonies and a series of festivities in churches, parishes and homes is the order of the day.
 















On this special day, the Catholic community members take the freshly grown paddy stalks to their respective churches in a procession as an offering of the first bounty of nature to Mother Mary. Special prayers are offered pleading the Holy Mother to keep the fertility of the nature for generations to come and provide all the bounties of nature to the children of the world.

















It is a tradition in Mangalore for the families to gather together and share a vegetarian meal consisting of at least of 5 vegetarian dishes.  The dishes, “alu-dento" and "vorn" are the must in every household. The grains taken form blessed paddy stalk or corn is added to the milk or "vorn" and offered to the members of the family in a symbolic gesture of thanksgiving for our Lady's blessings.
The festival has a special relevance in the modern world as it keeps the community together not just in South Canara and Mangalore 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.