More than 40 years have elapsed and Maratha Mandir is nowadays being cited as a model for its accomplishments. Its contribution to the preservation and promotion of Maharashtrian language, culture and religious values has been immense and unrivalled.
Less fortunate than many other associations, it was only after ten years of its existence that Maratha Mandir received in donation a portion of land form Late Shri Ramjee Bappoo for the construction of its office. Originally there was no office or some fixed meeting place, but nothing could prevent the association from meeting its objectives.
A women’s wing, namely the Mahila Mandal, was launched with the objective of regrouping all the ladies of the neighbourhood and channelling their individual talents under one roof to promote the feminine side of our rich culture. Thus, the Mahilas started meeting for barsaa, haldi and wedding ceremonies, bhajans sessions resulting in a parallel force that is shouldering the head office members till date.
Within only one year of its inception, the doors of Stratford College were opened on Saturdays to welcome Maratha students of different age and coming from different regions, all unsatisfied with their primary level knowledge of Marathi language and longing to pursue their studies.
‘Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya’ (lead me from darkness to light); indeed the school spread light on the community. It is known that no culture can exist without language. The school has therefore been one of the main pillars sustaining Marathi culture in Mauritius. Besides, many students are now serving the community, teaching in primary and secondary schools. Others, though not in service as Marathi teachers, are nevertheless playing key roles in their association or at regional or national level to safeguard our cultural heritage, Proudly, we would say that the leading team having served Maratha Mandir during the past 30 years has studied Marathi and got its training in that School.
Armoured with a good knowledge of the language, the association met all the challenges in the cultural field as well despite the fact there was no professional guidance. Typical Maharashtrian folk dances like koli, gondhal, dhangar, shetkari, jogwa, etc were originally brought on the local stage by Maratha Mandir. Similarly, Powada, the famous lyrical ballad chanted in praise of Maharashtra and its heroes was introduced by us for Maharashtra and Shivaji Day celebrations.
The contribution of Maratha Mandir in making of the 2nd World Marathi Conference in Mauritius a big success is widely known. The ‘Ganesh Janmachi Katha’ staged in the Dashavtar Dance Drama style left astounded all the delegates who attended the conference. They were amazed by Maratha Mandir’s home production and we were even solicited for a replay of this show in New Delhi for the 3rd World Marathi Conference. However, due to financial constraints at that time the offer was turned down.
Only a few years after its foundation, Maratha Mandir started celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi festival and hosted the 1992 national celebrations, organising at the same time a ten-day programme with the participation of Marathas from all over the island. Maha Shivratree, Gudhi Padwa, Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratree, Diwali were very shortly to figure on the calendar of activities of the association. With time, the association realised that religious gatherings should be more frequent if Maratha values are to be really preserved. The idea flashed and all of a sudden the association started moving from house to another, performing on the fourth night of the dark half of each month the Sankashta Chaturthi. Gradually many other associations followed suit and we are happy to note that today thousands of our Maratha brothers and sisters devote the day of Sankashta Chaturthi to fasting and prayers.
Evaluating the positive results of Sankashta Chaturthi, the association was convinced of the regular and mass prayer and eventually decided to hold a ‘Satsang’ (Sat means good and sang, companion) once a week. Tuesday was chosen, being the most appropriate day to offer prayers to mother Bhawani the ‘Kool Devi’ (family deity) of Marathas, Since 1995, on every Tuesday between 7.00 pm to 8.30 pm, children, youngsters and elders gather in a satsang at Maratha Mandir to share ideas, offer prayers and chant altogether the name of God.
Alongside its struggle to preserve and promote Maratha values, Maratha Mandir has also strived hard to construct its temple and hall, a building of an area of about 3000 square feet with a seating accommodation for 400 persons, where the hall is being used for cultural programmes, seminars, bhajan sessions, wedding ceremonies, plus our newly acquired plot of land annexed where a dining area, kitchen and toilets have been constructed, totalling an investment of more than 4 million so far. Really amazing because expenditure on this project has more than tripled the expected income from entrance fees and subscriptions from members over the past 30 years. While our brothers and sisters of the Maratha community have been placing their trust and forwarding their donations at any moment a fund raising is organise, our young artists have been winning cash prizes in competitions and performing in hotels thus earning hundred thousand of rupees year by year which have been invested in the project.
When Maratha Mandir looks back in time today, it is only with pride that we see great achievements, each and every time amplified with a touch of innovation and professionalism. Stating some more recent examples in the last few years like: We, Maratha Mandir, being the first ever Marathi cultural troupe from Mauritius to have performed in Maharashtra, the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Charitra Katha with the historic car rally, the 21 Murti Ganesh Chaturthi ,the Dnyaneshwari Samelan where 200 Indian delegates came especially for this event, just to mention a few of the finest projects achieved.