Of valiant fighters and Puran polis

A down-to-earth community where each family is gifted with talented people blessed with an extracurricular activity, the bravery of Marathas is known worldwide. Madhuri Dasagrandhi talks to a few prominent Maharashtrians in the city to dig deep into the history of this group

By Author  |  Published: 2nd Sep 2018  12:34 amUpdated: 2nd Sep 2018  1:09 pm
Puran polis

The Maharastrians can be described as one of the oldest communities who made the State their home. Around 400 years ago, Hyderabad which was the Qutub’s dominion then, had a few districts like Aurangabad, Nanded, Beed, Osmanabad, Latur, Jalna, Parbhani, and Hingoli, which were called Marathwada, dominated by the Maharastrians.

Subsequently, Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj came to Hyderabad for the treaty with the Qutub Shahis. The welcome extended to Shivaji Maharaj by the Qutub Shah was a grand one. To mark his arrival, Qutub Shah got a large arch constructed, which is located on the Bangalore highway today, after Petlaburj, opposite to Purana pul. Till date, it has remained standing despite the ravages of time and nature, as a reminder of the great fighter’s visit.

As was the norm in those days, the king travelled with his entourage for what would be a month-long travel. Following his visit to the city, a few people from his camp stayed back and married local girls and started their families in Telangana.

Compared to undivided Andhra Pradesh, it’s in Telangana that we see more of the Marathi population. According to 1991 census, the population figure of the community numbers around six lakhs, which has grown since then.

Maharastrians have many different castes and sects. “We have differentcasts and sects – the prominent ones are the Brahmins and Marathas (Kshatriyas) who are known for their bravery. We have almost 35 different organisations in the city along with the socio-cultural organisations. Recently, we formed a federation to bring all the Marathi-speaking people together who now fall under one umbrella called Federation of Marathi Institutions of Telangana,” says the newly-elected president and ex-Intelligence officer Vivek Deshpande.

Stamp across Telangana

Owing to their long-standing association with the city for more than three centuries, a lot of prominent institutions were founded by them. “Well-known Maharashtra Mandal, located in Ramkote, was started in1949 by Bhago Ranade, along with Seetharam Satawalekar and other prominent people. The constitution of Maharashtra Mandal says, “whoever speaks Marathi can be a member, and there is no rule that by birth, a member should be a Maharashtrian”, adds Vivek.

As part of the agreement, the land spread out over 2,715 sq yards was given to the organisation on a lease, a part of which will go away in road-widening work. “We have constructed halls, rooms, dormitories and shops, and use this place for community activities. As it was a perpetual lease, we are requesting the government to give us the land as all of us are settled in nearby areas,” says Vivek Deshpande who wrote an autobiography about his experiences in the Police Department.

Many important institutions like Vaidik Dharma Prakashika in Shah-Ali-Banda, Bharath Guna Vardhak Sanstha, Shankar Vachanalaya are more than a century old.  The Marathi Granth Sangrahalay opposite Koti Women’s College has got a collection of 35,000 Marathi books. “Vivek Vardhini Educational Society is one of the oldest in the lot, started around 100 years ago. The Kanya Shala which is meant exclusively for the girl child also falls under this institution,” adds Vivek.

The Marathi Mahavidyalaya is the only institution in the city which teaches Marathi at college level. “A few retired teachers like Dr Suresh Kulkarni, Meena Deshpande and Shobha Shastry have been teaching for free for a decade now. Such is their dedication towards the language and it’s a great service,” says Geetha Kate, retired HOD from Osmania University and the present correspondent of Marathi Mahavidyalaya.

All inclusive

Within the Maharashtrian community, one tends to find a lot of saints across different castes. “We have a saint in every jati, chamar (one who works with leather), sonar (goldsmith), maali (gardener), even the mahaas (cleaners). It’s a myth they are not literate. If we go through the books, we will be surprised by the knowledge they possessed during those days. Saints are also present in Kunbis, Vysyas, we call them Vani. Santh Thukaram belongs to this community, and we call him Jagadguru,” says Yeshwanth Gharipurikar who, along with his wife Saroj Gharipurikar, founded the Kalabhisekh Pariwar, a socio-cultural organisation in the city.

The socio-cultural organisation seeks to preserve and protect the Marathi-speaking people so that everybody can come under one umbrella. “Though Marathi was the mother tongue, a lot of Maharashtraians used to talk in Hindi; so, we decided to start this organisation,” says Saroj who is a retired teacher and the present executive member of Maharashtra Mandal.

Together as one

A down-to-earth and rooted community, it’s during the festivals that they really go all out and pull out all the stops in celebrations. Especially during Ganesh Chaturthi which is celebrated for seven days with lots of bhakti and shraddha. “During Ganesh Chaturthi, we organise a mela where one gets a chance to showcase their talent and celebrate the festival together,” says Pranav Gharipurikar, who works in a software company. He is part of the youth group Maharashtrian Business Association, where B2B support is extended to entrepreneurs. “Typically, Maharashtrians are not very good as entrepreneurs; it is not in their blood. But now, we are venturing out and helping each other,” says Pranav.

Their new year, Gudi Padwa, is an important time for them as it gives one a chance to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. A sari is tied to a long stick and a copper kalash is placed in an inverted position, symbolising the New Year after which a puja is performed. Lord Vitthal is the deity most of the Maharashtrians tend to follow.

Apart from this, Kojagiri is celebrated during karthik maas. The word Ko-jaagrathi means ‘together we stay awake’. And, it is believed that a person who follows this will be blessed by Goddess Lakshmi in terms of financial success.

Wholesome fare

Maharashtrian food typically consists of many healthy ingredients. Puran poli, Shrikhand, Ukadiche modak, Aluchi patal bhaji and Thalipeeth are among the popular dishes of the region. Preparing Marathi food that will take anyone back to their childhood days growing up on a staple diet of shrikhand and puran poli is the sole Maharashtrian restaurant Marathi Katta in Sultan Bazar, run by Ambarish Lahankar and his wife Nilam Lahankar. This restaurant is always crowded with people who want to relish Maharashtrian food. The sabudana items which are specially consumed during fasting are a speciality at this place.

Dress matters

A  Maharashtrian woman and man can be recognised in any part of the world due to their attire. The nath (nose pin) is always worn by a woman on the left side of the nose, unlike others. This nath is specially made with gold, pearls, and jade. This adds a special elegance to the women. The nine-yard sari called navvari is worn by women during festivals and men can be seen in a traditional kurta pyjama with the Tilak turban. The city Maharashtrains make sure to celebrate atleast one festival which prominemtly highlights their culture in a road show.

All in the name

Like their distinctive dressing, a Maharashtrian is easily identified by his/her surname. “For example, the name Sachin Tendulkar is known to everybody; his name originates from the village named Tendul, and kar means a person of that particular village, likewise Gavaskar,” explains Yeshwanth Gharipurikar.

Contribution towards the State

Their helping nature ensured that the community was always active in doing their part for the State, in cultural and social activities. “We were very active in the Telangana agitation struggle, and also contributed our part in the formation of the new State. The very first office was in the house of a Maharashtrian, Dr. Sudheer Naik. And, the Vivek Vardhini Educational Institutions’ ground was used for agitation activities, during 1968-69. We are from Telangana, and we also celebrate the Telangana State Formation Day in Maharashtra Mandal on June 2, not the Maharashtra day, as we feel the State belongs to us too,” says Vivek Deshpande.

Language and script

The Marathi language includes many Sanskrit, Telugu and Kannada words. The script is derived from Devanagari. The Gnaneshwari Granth, which is considered as the second oldest granth, consists of many words like Arjunu and Srikrishnu, which are nothing but a variation of Telugu words Arjunudu, Sri Krishnudu.

Fusion in weaving

It is said that the Narayanpet saris have a distinct Maharashtrian influence. The story goes on like this – in 1630 AD, when Chhatrapati Shivaji was passing through the tiny town of Narayanpet in Mahabubnagar, he happened to see two women wearing exquisitely beautiful saris. Impressed by the intricate skill, he immediately made provisions for the weavers in the area to be given all facilities to preserve the work. And, we can see Marathi crowd there too. The artisans in those days came from different backgrounds like Telugus, Marathis, Muslims and even Kannadigas.

Well-known saints in the community

  • Dnyaneshwar
  • Tukaram
  • Namdev
  • Sant Gora Kumbhar
  • Samarth Ramdas
  • Sant Narhari Sonar
  • Chokhamela
  • Savata Mali
  • Bhaktha Goma Bai
  • Sant Banka Mahar
  • Sant Bhagu
  • Sant Damaji Pant
  • Sant Janabai
  • Sant Kanhopatra
  • Sant Sakhubai

Some prominent Maharashtrians who contributed to the political arena

  • Digambar Rao Bindu,
  • first Home Minister of Hyderabad
  • Justice Gopla Rao Ekbote,
  • who was also the Education Minister
  • Lakshman Rao Vydya,
  • Chief Justice of Hyderabad High Court
  • Vasudevrao Naik,
  • Speaker of State Assembly
  • Vinayak Rao Vidyalankar,
  • Speaker
  • Dr Sudheer Naik,
  • cardiologist, Social activist

Some of the Active people in the city

  • Vidya Devdhar – President Maharastra State Sahitya Parishad
  • Ram Krishna Satawalekar – Shantha Bai Hospital
  • Subhadra Koratkar – Social Worker
  • Anagha Sathe – Rtd. fromVivek Vardhini Educational Society
  • Mahesh Bhagwat – IPS
  • Arvind Mahurkar – Artist
  • Sunil Ganu– Advocate
  • Dr. N G Rajulkar
  • Dr. Satyendra Mainkar