Maharashtra Mandal London is one of the oldest Marathi organisations outside India. Late Mr. N. C. Kelkar , a noted Marathi writer and a politician, founded it while attending a roundtable conference in London in 1932. Many dignitaries such as Dr. Ambedkar, Barrister Jaikar, Diwan Surve of Kolhapur, Dr. Godbole and Dr. Krishnarao Moreshwar Pardhy were present at the inauguration tea party.
The Mandal later flourished under Mr Tamhankar of “Kesari” newspaper, who earlier worked as Mr. Kelkar’s secretary. It continued to organise a number of get together/programmes till the outbreak of the second world war. Post the war, 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 and made the Mandal a meeting place. Marathi music concerts, dramas, Marathi 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 effectively and put its development work on a permanent footing. Since then, the Mandal continues to organise 10 to 12 cultural functions every year. In addition, it undertakes 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 such as dramas and song concerts and a monthly gathering for women- ‘Mahila Mandal’.
Shree Ganeshotsav is the most important event organised by the Mandal with active participation of all members. All activities are organised with emphasis on the Marathi culture and strongly reflect Marathi tradition and Maharashtrians’ love for drama and music. Over the years, the mandal has also extended a helping hand during natural disasters in Maharashtra or anywhere in India.
While the mandal is a platform for grown-ups to socialise and mingle with each other, it also provides a wonderful window to the next generation to experience Maharashtra as well as India in this forum. We want to give them a platform to make new friends, learn about our culture and have a ready-made community like “Maharashtra Bhavan”, our own building.
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. We received generous financial support of general membership and significant 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. It is remarkable that many members put in a lot of efforts to raise the required funds during that period.
On an average, we received £150 per member family as a donation at that time. The mandal paid £72,000 and acquired its own premises on a 99 years lease in 1989. It was renovated to become a pleasant community centre from a rather rundown, redundant church building.