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Happy MONTI FEST - NATIVITY OF OUR LADY history about


MONTI FEST -  NATIVITY OF OUR LADY
Fr Pratap Naik, SJ
On September 8, Catholics and Orthodox Churches celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. In Goa in the sixteenth century this feast was called Monti Fest. 
Today Monti Fest is the most popular and important feast among the Catholics, especially of Karnataka who migrated from Goa to Karnataka from the 16th century onwards for various reasons such as famine, epidemic, persecution by the Marathas, inquisition, as cultivators at the request of Bednore Kings, and availability of fertile land. These Konknnis who migrated from Goa took this festival along with them to Karnataka. It was fostered by priests from Goa who were serving in Coastal Karnataka. Till 1838, Coastal Karnataka was under the jurisdiction of Goa Archdiocese and priests from Goa were appointed as parish priests. Now let us see how Monti Fest took its origin in Goa.
On November 25, 1510, in the second attempt the commander of Portuguese army Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Tiswadi from Adilshah of Bijapur. Soon after the conquest he ordered a chapel to be built in honour of Our Lady to thank her for his escape from Kamaran island in the Red Sea. Thus in c.1513,Capela de Nossa Senhora do Monte (The chapel of Our Lady of Mount) was built on the hillock at City of Goa (present day Old Goa). He died on December 16, 1515. 
According to his will, he was buried in that chapel.  It had a dimension of a church and in fact it was a parish when the city of Goa was thickly populated. Since the church was on the mount and in Portuguese ‘Monte’ means mount, that church was called in Konknni Monti SaibinnichiIgorz (the Church of Our Lady of the Mount). It had 3 altars. The main altar was dedicated to O.L. of the Mount. The side altars were dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua and to St. Anthony, the Hermit. This church still exists in Old Goa. Due to this church, the universally celebrated Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady on September 8, in Goa came to be known as Monti Saibinnichem Fest or Monti Fest.
In 1543, the Portuguese conquered Bardez and Salcete regions from Adilshah. These two regions with Tiswadi came to be known as Velhas Conquistas (Old Conquest). On May 6 1542, Francis Xavier, the first Jesuit priest of the Society of Jesus arrived in the City of Goa. He was followed by many other Jesuits. In 1552, Fr. Gaspar Barzeus, a Jesuit priest ofDutch origin came to Goa. He was a good preacher and clever person. Francis Xavier appointed him as the Rector of St. Paul College at City of Goa andthe Vice-Provincial of the East Province of the Society of Jesus. Fr. Gaspar died in Goa on October 18, 1553. 
When he was alive, he introduced to teach music in St. Paul College. He made liturgy lively and asked the newly converted children to bring flowers and to sprinkle them around the statue of Our Mother Mary, during the novena days preceding September 8. The reference to this custom is found in his letters written to the General of the Society of Jesus ( Documenta Indica vols 70-72). This custom was borrowed from local Ganesh Chaturthi and adapted for newly introduced Catholic religion. Let me explain how this was done.
According to the Indian calendar, after the Shravan month, Bhadrapad month starts (corresponds to August/ September of Gregorian calendar). On the fourth day of Bhadrapad month, Ganesh Chaturthi in Konknni Chovoth is celebrated. It is the most important, popular, and loved festival along the western Coast of India among Hindus. Since it is a family festival, persons who are residing far and near come to their ancestral house to celebrate Ganesh festival. Before the festival, houses are cleaned, painted, and decorated. On the first day of Chovoth, the idol of Ganesh is normally installed in the ancestral family house. The festival lasts for 1½,3,5,7,9,11 days. It is celebrated with great splendour. During the festival, every day fresh local fruits, flowers, and sweets are offered. Local vegetable dishes are prepared. 
Anything prepared or offered to Ganesh is in even numbers, namely, 1,3,5,7,9, and so on. The Harvest Festival (NoveachiPon’chom’) is celebrated the next day. Newly harvested paddy corn is brought home from fields and is worshipped. A few grains are put in the day’s meal. The corn is tied to bamboo sticks decorated with jungle flowers. This is fitted above the main door and removed in the next year after procuring new corn, with the belief that the house will be full of rice throughout the year. Pure vegetarian meals are served on banana leaves or other leaves. Sweet dishes are prepared. During the festival, non-veg dishes and liquor are strictly forbidden. 
In Old conquest of Goa in 16th century, the Feast of the Nativity of our Lady was celebrated on September 8 and it was called Monti Saibinnichem Fest. Fr. Gaspar Barzeus adapted the existing local tradition of Hindus, offering fresh flowers to Ganesh, now to Mother Mary of Christianity.  Jesuit missionaries, who spread Christianity in Goa, took care to retain or adapt local cultural roots of Hindus
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