The third Punjab governor ( 1958- 62) Narahar Vishnu Gadgil was from Maharashtra, and 15 families came to the nascent city of Chandigarh the year he took charge. This was 55 years ago.
Now, too, Punjab governor Shivraj Patil, who is also the UT’s administrator, happens to be a Maharasthrian. Today, almost 1,000 families from Shivaji’s land have made Chandigarh their home.
Their areas of expertise include academics to medicine, banking and commerce to administrative roles. A large number of them work at Panjab University and other city colleges.
They have blended seamlessly into the culture and many even speak Punjabi as fluently as Marathi. Not many have reservations against marrying into local Punjabi families, adding to the richness of the tricity’s culture.
The 15 families that first came to Chandigarh formed the Maharashtra Mandal in 1962, and in 1972 the UT administration allotted them land to build the Maharashtra Bhawan in Sector 19, which came up in 1978.
The first ever Ganeshotsav in Chandigarh was organised in 1964. The festival was revived by Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1883 to bring together communities against the British Raj and to enhance the sense of belongingness and togetherness.
The members of the Marathi community actively participate in functions held by other cultural associations. Their staple food includes bhakri (a flat bread preparation made using juar or bajra), cooked vegetables, dal and rice. Desserts are an important part of Marathi food.
Puran poli, shrikhand, basundi and modak are some of them. Traditionally, the desserts were associated with a particular festival, for example, modaks (in northern India, they are called laddoo) are prepared during the Ganpati festival.
MU Kurekar, who came to Chandigarh in the early ’60s, started by working at PU’s department of architecture and later joined the Capital Project of Chandigarh and worked with legendary architect and designer Pierre Jeanneret, recalls, “We used to reside in Sector 8 and could easily see the secretariat and high court buildings from our residence. Today the scenario is entirely different. Initially, in Chandigarh, we used to find people mostly from Punjab. But the city has become cosmopolitan now, which is good thing.”
He adds, “Initially, there were only 15 families, so we had a strong urge to meet the people of our origin. Now we are completely at home here.”
MB Sane, president of Maharashtra Mandal, who came to Chandigarh in 1986 and retired from the air force as warrant officer in 1996, feels, “Chandigarh is one of the cleanest cities in the country. The law and order situation is fine too. One general problem is that the autorickshaw do not have meters and charge as per their will.”
Another member of the Mandal, MS Mahadeokar, who came to Chandigarh in 1967 and worked as deputy controller of the government press, smiles, “My son speaks fluent Punjabi, and now our community does not even mind one of us marrying non-Maharashtrians.”