May 1st is celebrated as Maharashtra Din. The birth of the state of Maharashtra on this day in 1960 is celebrated by Marathi people with patriotic and traditional celebrations. A few members from the Marathi community in Vancouver shared their thoughts and personal experiences on this opportune occasion.
Priya Tidke Ajgaonkar lives with her husband Sam and her son Om in Metro Vancouver. “After moving here, we become more Marathi than we ever were back home” explains Priya. She tries to watch historic Marathi movies with her family to celebrate Maharashtra Din every year to inspire her son with the proud history of the Maratha warriors and in particular the famous stories of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Priya celebrates the Ganpati festival for ten days every year in her home. This quintessential Marathi festival invites friends and families to gather in homes to pray to Lord Ganesh and every chant of ‘Bappa Morya” chiming among local Marathi families during this festival contains a bit of home, a flood of memories and the love of dear ones. Priya actively participates in community activities such as in dance performances, sports events, children’s activities. During the Ganesh festival in 2022 she was part of the traditional Lezim folk dance and festivities organized by the Marathi Society of British Columbia (MSBC) at the Laxmi Narayan Mandir in Surrey. “We had the Dhol Tasha playing live for the first time at the festival parade last year and it was a proud moment for all of us” informs Priya happily. She is successfully straddling the two cultures, happily cherishing her Marathi identity whilst embracing the Canadian way of life. Priya is definitely winning.
Shailesh Arora has partly North Indian roots but grew up in Maharashtra. He remembers the solemn celebrations back home at educational institutions, workplaces including the patriotic group songs and the political speakers. Having lived for many years in India and thereafter in USA he has been in Vancouver for the last eleven years. “It is important to pass on the traditions to our next generation growing up here” says Shailesh. He is playing is part in keeping the Marathi culture alive, in particular by supporting the generous amount of interest and passion for drama and acting that is a tremendously big part of this culture. In Vancouver, students may root for their favorite ice hockey team but Marathi people love supporting their local drama clubs with just as much fervor. In the local community Shailesh is known for being a drama producer and an active Board member of the MSBC. Shailesh has scripted and produced numerous plays in Marathi both in India and abroad. He recently produced and presented a Marathi Play at the Shadbolt Center of Arts in Burnaby in February this year and the play also toured famously to Calgary by invitation. Shailesh is often the man behind the camera or organizing the back stage and the community greatly appreciates his skills in leading from behind.
Be open, be cosmopolitan
Devyani Gokhale loves to sing as a hobby. Some have named her one of the best singers in the city. “During Covid I began connecting with Marathi people during online programs and thereafter I joined the singing events and other Marathi in person events. Prior to that when I was living in downtown Vancouver it was so cosmopolitan and so friendly that I never felt the need to particularly seek Marathi people” said Devyani. She lived in Mumbai for eight years before moving to Canada end of 2014. Devyani celebrates traditional Marathi festivals too and is known to host a ‘Haldi Kumkum’ ceremony at her home like many other Marathi women during the Makar Sankranti celebrations every year. She misses the major festivals and the major celebrations with family from back home so she has recreated a little bit of home away from home here. Her circle of friends is large including Marathi as well as non-Marathi people. “May 01 was a public holiday when I worked in Mumbai!” laughs Devyani but she doesnt expect the same things here. She says she is open to all new things because of the cosmopolitan culture she grew up in back home and this too she thinks is a very Marathi quality.
The Matter of Mumbai Mumbai is a melting pot which uniquely flavors the culture of Mumbai. It has populations from all part of India and abroad such as the Tamilians, the Gujaratis, the Sindhis, the North Indians, and many others. After the Indian independence, the state of Bombay was home to Marathi, Gujarati, and many other communities. The bilingual Bombay Federation ceased to exist 63 years ago. Two separate states of Maharashtra and Gujarat were created. The birth of the state of Maharashtra was credited to the activism of the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti (United Maharashtra Movement). On 21 November 1955, demonstrators were fired upon by the police at Flora Fountain in Bombay. Flora Fountain was subsequently renamed Hutatma Chowk or “Martyr’s Crossroad” in their memory.
Parag Sahasrabudhe remembers his grandmother narrating as bedtime stories the historic tales of Marathi leaders and rulers that contributed to his pride in being a Maharashtrian. Parag is the current President of MSBC. In this article he was sharing his personal views. Parag stressed the importance of promoting the Marathi language among children growing up here because language and identity are closely connected. This year MSBC will celebrate Maharashtra Din with a children’s cultural variety entertainment program coordinated by the Marathi School that is also part of the Society. “We should be proud of our Marathi identity and heritage” said Parag whilst simultaneously also advocating tolerant sensibilities because culture absorbs all histories and all influences; it forms over many years, and it cannot be uprooted or dictated upon. It seeps into hearts of the people living in a region through time and it can evoke powerful deep instinctive emotions and attachments. Parag marks the moment in these words, “Metro Vancouver is also a melting pot of sorts. Marathi people living here are engaged citizens of this multicultural community whilst also celebrating their roots and heritage.” He wishes everyone in the Marathi community, ‘Happy Maharashtra Din.’