Maharashtra Mandal London (MML) is one of the oldest Marathi organisations born out of India. It was founded in 1932 during the visit of late Mr. N. C. Kelkar, a noted Marathi writer and a politician, when he was attending the round table conference in London. Many dignitaries such as Dr. Ambedkar, Barrister Jaikar, Diwan Surve of Kolhapur, Dr. Godbole and Dr. Paradhi were present at the inaugural ceremony. Mr. Tamhankar of the “Kesari” newspaper, acting as a secretary to Mr. Kelkar, later became the mainstay of the Mandal in the UK.
The Mandal flourished. It had already organised a number of get-togethers/programmes until the outbreak of the World War II. However, during the war, its activities stopped.
The Mandal’s activities revived in 1952, when Mr. Balasaheb Kher was appointed as the High Commissioner of India in London. A new generation of Maharashtrian young families joined hands with the older members. They made the Mandal a meeting place where Marathi music concerts, dramas, cuisine and Diwali dinners were organised. Consequently, the Mandal played host to many renowned artists from India. It was also visited by prominent personalities such as M.M.D.V. Potdar, Mr. C.D. Deshmukh, Mr. Y. B. Chavan, Mr. Sharad Pawar and recently by Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh.
After acquiring its own premises in 1989, the Mandal started performing its activities more effectively and give its development a permanent shape. Since then, the Mandal continues to organise ten to twelve cultural functions every year. In addition, we undertake many other activities on a regular basis such as annual summer holiday play scheme for children, a day centre for elderly, sport facilities; badminton and table tennis, talent shows; dramas and song concerts and a monthly gathering for women; the ‘Mahila Mandal’.
The most important annual event is ‘Shree Ganeshotsav’, when every family visits the Mandal during the ten days of festivity. Most programmes are organised with emphasis being on the Marathi culture. They strongly reflect Marathi tradition and Maharashtrians’ love for drama and music. Over the years the Mandal has extended a helping hand during natural disasters in Maharashtra, India. In fact, it is not possible to list all activities of the Mandal during its long and illustrious history. It is indeed gratifying that our community in U.K., though small and spread out, has achieved so much since the Mandal’s inception.
The Mandal is of course a platform for the grown-ups to gather, chat and discuss, participate in events and generally have a fun time. The Mandal, however, is also a podium for our new generation. As we live away from India, we wish to show our children; what it means to be as an Indian, and in particular as a Maharashtrian. We wish to give them a platform to make new friends, learn about our tradition and culture and have a ready-made community that they can belong to.
For many years the programmes were staged in rented halls or theatres. In late 1980’s the dream of acquiring our own ‘Vastu’ became a reality. A church building became available and then trustees and the executive committee launched a campaign for a building fund. The Mandal received magnificent financial support of general membership and generous donations from Mr. & Mrs. N.H. Sahastrabudhe, Mr. & Mrs. S Prabhu, the late Mr. Ram Marathe, Mr. S J Dighe, Mr. & Mrs. Chaugule and the Maharashtra State Government, Maharashtra State, India.
It is remarkable that many members put in a lot of efforts to raise the required funds during that period. The Mandal received on an average £150 per member family as a donation at that time.
The Mandal paid £72,000 and acquired its own premises on a ninety nine years lease in the year 1989. The Mandal renovated the rather rundown and redundant church building into a pleasant community centre that is today.
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