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History of the Montreal Marathi Mandal

Over fifty years ago, when Maharashtrians first came to Montreal, Canada, to settle down and start a new life, communication with the motherland was very difficult and expensive. Few people had telephones in India and, if one managed to get a line, often there was interference from undersea cables and conversations consisted of "hallos" and "can you hear me". The other way of communicating with our loved ones back home was through telegrams when the message was urgent, or by post, which took some 10 to 14 days to reach. So different from today’s instant communication via e-mail, cell phones, etc.

This explains why the Marathi speaking newcomers were open and anxious to make friends here. With the great distances separating us, one could not count on the help of one’s family, instead we had to count on support, advice, and help from our circle of friends. Newcomers, whether they be students, singles, newly married or families were contacted by Maharashtrians who had been here longer and invited for meals and celebrations and soon new arrivals were integrated within the group.

Other than informally getting together among friends for meals and picnics, there were invitations to all the community to perform Ganesh Puja and also to celebrate Diwali, in someone’s home. However, as the community grew, especially in the mid to late seventies, it became evident to the senior members of the community that it would be beneficial to create a more formal organization in order to arrange religious celebrations and entertainment for the Maharashtrian community of Greater Montreal.

Thus was born the Montreal Marathi Mandal. The first meeting took place some 28 years ago on March 21, 1982. At that meeting,  the following five principles were agreed to by the audience.

  1. In Montreal, associations of other Indian language groups who were politically active already existed, it was important for the Marathi speaking population to form an association in order to speak with one voice.
  2. All programs could be performed under the aegis of the Marathi Mandal and become accessible to all Marathi speaking people.
  3. A liaison could be established with other associations, as well as with the Federal and Provincial governments.
  4. Formal establishment would make the Mandal eligible to receive funds from both governments for cultural programs. (Grants for programs were available at that time, they have since been discontinued.)
  5. To familiarize our children with Marathi culture and language by organizing various activities for them.

The first General Meeting of the Mandal took place on May 1, 1982,  Maharashtra Day. At this meeting, several committees were formed to work on specific tasks or organize events. Hence,  the establishment of a Constitution Committee, a Cultural Committee, a library,  members to plan the picnic, religious events such as Ganesh Puja, for which a murti was obtained for the community, Diwali program and Sankrant.

From there on, Annual General Meetings were held in May, to report on events of the previous year and elect an Executive Committee for the upcoming year. After almost 30 years, the Marathi population in Montreal has shrunk as families have moved to other provinces and countries. The committees are ad hoc for the most part and the person taking the presidency may hold the position for several years.  Annual General Meetings have been moved informally to Diwali to ensure a quorum, and the Mandal tries to organize at least three functions: Ganesh Puja, Summer Picnic and Diwali. When the opportunity arises musical or drama programs or other cultural activities are offered and/or advertized to the members.