BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Cover photo by Magic Dust Photography
Other photos by Bhamani Photography
Atlanta, GA, April 2, 2020: Just 2 weeks before Georgia and the rest of the world was swept over by Covid-19, Gokuldham Haveli brimmed with festivities in celebration of a unique, historical event, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Jayanti 2020, organized by Shivaji Maharaj America Parivar (SMAP) foundation Inc, on March 1, 2020. With well over 700 in attendance, the event was endorsed by Governor Brian Kemp, CM, Gujarat, Vijay Rupani, Deputy CM of Gujarat, Nitin Patel, Chhatrapti Udaynraje Bonsale and former Maharashtra CM, Devendra Fadnavis. Georgia State Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John King presided as the guest of honor.
The Georgia event was among four other events held by SMAP chapters across the U.S. the same week, with each location focusing on topics including unity, leadership, Equality, woman empowerment, community service, and entrepreneurship from history, that are relevant to current times.
Men and women dressed in traditional Indian clothing, mostly in Maharashtrian style gathered outside to kick off the celebrations outdoor in a grand Palki procession, accompanied by folk dance form of Maharashtra, Lezim, choreographed by Sanjay Garde and rhythmic beats of Dhol tasha by Aatmiya Dholtasha Group. The Palki was held by an enthusiastic Commissioner King as onlookers relished the procession.
The Palki proceeded indoors to be greeted with Shiv Garjana followed by Murti Stapana by Monalisa and Pravin Khandke and Lamp lighting by dignitaries, including Commissioner King, Lynne Homrich, Candidate, GA’s 7th Congressional District, a Nonprofit executive, VIP Guest Subash Razdan along with SMAP advisors, sponsors, executive committee members and organizers.
The Palakhi/Pooja offered homage to Indian icon, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj whose leadership values are legendary. The founder of the Maratha Kingdom, Shivaji was born to be a natural leader on February 19, 1630. Known as the Father of Indian Navy, Shivaji was the first to realize the importance of having a naval force, and strategically established a navy and forts along the coastline to defend the Konkan side of Maharashtra. A secular ruler, he was very accommodating of all religions. Shivaji was a staunch supporter of women and their honor. He opposed all kinds of violence and harassment against women. Known as a “Mountain Rat’, Chhatrapati Shivaji was widely known for his guerrilla warfare tactics such as raiding, ambushing and surprise attacks on his enemies.
Renditions of American and Indian national anthems, Aarti of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj rendered by Sruti Sangeet Music Classes and worship of Lord Ganesha offered an opulent opening.
Anchors Shweta Dubey and Vikas Goyal captured every opportunity to share history associated with proceedings and performances.
“We are using Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as our role model to connect community leaders, promote unity and encourage leadership,” said Monalisa Khandke, SMAP Atlanta President who extended a warm welcome and briefed the audience about the activities of the organization. In his video message, Vijay Patil, Founder of SMAP Foundation thanked the organizers, VIP Guests and attendees for being part of a momentous celebration. “SMAP is celebrating 2020 Shiv Jayanti in five cities – Los Angeles, Omaha, Stamford, Silicon Valley and Atlanta for the first time ever! Thank you for becoming part of the history,” he said.
Commending the event and the organizers, Commissioner King applauded the efforts to value and imbibe cultural roots and history to future generations. “I am fascinated at the fact that you have a hero and in how you transmit his values of being a representative of the people and how you transmit it to the next generation of children, to have them respect it,” he said, adding that it is important to teach the kids to not only to love this country where they are born and raised, but to never forget the culture they belong to.
SMAP (Atlanta) Advisor Rajan Vedak spoke about the goals and future plans of the organization in his speech. Speeches by local community leaders and key supporters of the event, Rina Gupta, Kaushal Tripathi, Ashok Patel, and Pratima Dhumal received applause from crowd.
With over 300 performers from different states of India, the event showcased performances from Atlanta’s popular dance schools including NNKB, Shiv’s Institute of Dance, Prem Dance Studio, Nritya Creation, Mudra Dance Academy, Natyashasram Dance, Supritas Dance Academy, Hemangis dance group and many more. The celebration also included a drama about the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, written, directed, choreographed by Kiran Chibbar. Kids ranging from ages five to ten presented a project based on several forts in India. With International Women’s Day around the corner, kids also focused on Women Empowerment, featuring brave queens and princesses who were remarkable leaders having fought wars to protect their people and procured a notable place in Indian history.
Event Executive Committee included Kartik Bhatt, Pravin Khandke, Mandar Vedak, Shipra Pruthi, Pushkar Jamsadekar, Tejas Patwa,Organizers Snehal Gandhi ,Ankur Mali, Aarti jain, Sujit Borase, Milind Bavdekar,Jaswandi Karnik . Event was supported by Gokuldham Haveli, Maharashtra Mandal of Atlanta, IFA, among other organizations.