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May 1 is Maharashtra Day: Far from Maharashtra, Marathi Language, Culture and Traditions alive in Australia

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Gateway of India, Pixabay

Mumbai, April 30, 2017: A group of migrant Maharashtrians, separated by some 10,000 km of oceans and nations, have joined hands to keep Marathi language, culture and traditions alive in far away Australia.

The brainchild of the Marathi Association of Sydney Incorporated (MASI), the Australian Marathi Vidyalaya (AMV) was founded in 2008 with just a dozen-odd students grappling with the strange-sounding “foreign mother tongue” of their parents.

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After the modest beginnings, the AMV has now grown into four flourishing centres for Marathi learning with around 150 students (40 per cent girls) in different age groups in Sydney and Wollongong, AMV President Arun Ghatge told IANS in a series of social media chats.

“These are essentially weekend schools, recognised and funded through grants from the New South Wales Department of Education and Training – – Community Language Programme (NSW-DET), and governed by their rules and regulations in all aspects,” Ghatge added.

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These have proved to be a boon to the approximately 150,000-strong community of Maharashtrians, mostly first, second or even third generation migrants settled on the East Coast since decades.

Arriving in an alien land and to a different culture, many of the home-sick Maharashtrians took refuge by celebrating and enjoying festivals like Holi, Shiv Jayanti, Gudi Padva, Kojagiri Poornima, Diwali, Ganeshotsav and the like, besides holding small cultural gatherings and functions.

“However, the younger generations and those born in Australia were completely severed from their rich Maharashtrian and Indian cultural traditions… making us think of a formal approach integrated with their regular schooling, to imbibe the best of both worlds,” Ghatge said.

“The problems get compounded when grandparents visit them in Australia but simply can’t communicate with them and vice-versa, when the kids visit their homes in different parts of Maharashtra.

“Both ways, they seemed lost, and were virtually strangers under one roof. Now, we are creating a great link between our doting parents and their beloved grandchildren by breaking the language barrier,” said 45-year old Ghatge, who migrated in 2005.

The AMV launched the weekend schools, which are gaining popularity within the local community, not for “textbookish” knowledge, but using more of “learn thru fun” methodologies, and without disturbing or overburdening the children’s regular schooling in mainstream Australian schools.

“We charge them a nominal fee of 150 Australian dollars per annum, or roughly Rs 7,500, though the major portion of our expenses are covered by NSW-DET,” Ghatge explained.

The AMV team includes Ghatge, Vijaya Dhumal, Mangesh Chorat (all from Mumbai), Neha Takale, Ajay Deshmukh (Pune), Santosh Kashid (Nashik), Neera Godbole, Chitra Parab, Umesh Saraf, Amit Tere, Manoj Mali, Preeti Patki and other teaching, administration and library staff, from other parts of Maharashtra.

AMV is supported by around 25 regular and back-up teachers — trained and government-approved — at its centres in Western Sydney, South West Sydney Region, Wollongong and North Shore, and is a member of the umbrella organisation for community languages in the Association of Illawarra Community Languages Schools Inc.

Currently, the students are taught their mothertongue from Kindergarten to Class VI, with the vision to expand up to Class XII, by when Ghatge hopes Marathi would be accorded the official status of a “foreign language” in mainstream schools, and which would be available to all Australians on the lines of French, German, Spanish and Chinese.

The AMV teaches the essentials of Marathi language — oral, written and communication skills — and provides insights into the relationship between language and culture; it explores Marathi with the correct application of linguistic structures and vocabulary, and develops the students’ knowledge and understanding of their cultural heritage in a foreign land, using selected prescribed Marathi textbooks and literature.

At the end of each year, the students undergo examinations and are awarded certificates based on their performances, an event at which many turn up in traditional Maharashtrian attire.

“The changes among the younger generation are obvious. Compared to many years ago, now when the grandparents and grandchildren meet either in Australia or India, they have an instant emotional connect because of Marathi… Many seniors visiting us from India are moved to tears hearing their Australian-born grandchildren conversing properly, though accented, in their mother tongue,” Ghatge added.

Interestingly, the Australian East Coast supports over 100 different cultural and linguistic groups from all over the world living harmoniously, including Indians. Besides Marathi, there are a handful of similar such schools for Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil and Kannada languages which impart education to children in their mother tongues and have proved equally popular.

“Now, the gen-next is able to better comprehend the rich culture, traditions, language, literature and legacy of their forefathers back in India — adhering to our motto ‘Language keeps you in touch with your culture’ strongly,” said Ghatge. (IANS)

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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“Regionality is What Sets Indian Food Apart” from the Cuisines Across the World, says MasterChef Australia Judge Gary Mehigan

Gary Mehigan carries back inspiration from India to his kitchen from his each visit

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MasterChef Australia Judge Gary Mehigan
MasterChef Australia Judge Gary Mehigan. Twitter
  • Gary Mehigan said that Indian food is gaining deserved attention globally
  • We have many Indian chefs like Manish Mehrotra, Sanjeev Kapoor
  • The Chef expressed that food the world over has seen enormous changes driven by social media

August 27, 2017: Globally renowned English-Australian chef, television show host and restaurateur Gary Mehigan says he believes that “regionality is what sets Indian food apart” from the cuisines across the world.

In an email interview with IANS from Melbourne, Mehigan said that Indian food is gaining deserved attention globally. “We’re close to seeing India explore its intellectual property, namely food, properly. We have many Indian chefs like Manish Mehrotra, Sanjeev Kapoor and many other names from all over the world infiltrating the food scene in a big way.”

 “People still sometimes see Indian food as a homogeneous chicken tikka, rogan josh, chicken vindaloo cuisine, when we know it is far from the truth. Regionality is what sets Indian food apart. Regionality is what the world is going to appreciate when it starts to learn about Indian food,” Mehigan explained.

“I hope I’m a part of those who bring great Indian food to Australia,” said the chef, who is now the face of Fox Life’s “Food @ 9: India Special with Gary Mehigan”.

“There’s quite a bit of Australian talent we’re trying to showcase through the series. These shows get addictive and help us travel vicariously through our television sets,” he stated.

ALSO READ: Indulge in Gluttony: 14 Surprising Facts that you never knew about Indian Food!

Mehigan, who will be setting foot in India for the seventh time this November, said he carries back inspiration from the country to his kitchen from each visit.

“I love the country – something about the color, the chaos, the diversity and the originality of the food, it all gets under your skin. I carry home a few recipes and ideas each time I visit. It’s certainly changed the way I cook at home,” he said.

Known popularly for shows like “Far Flung with Gary Mehigan”, and for his presence as a judge on “MasterChef Australia”, the Chef expressed that food the world over has seen enormous changes driven by social media.

“I’m loving where food is at the moment. Ideas are being shared so quickly through social media — whether it’s Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I can browse through my Instagram and look at what some of my most favorite restaurants in the world are serving for lunch.

“The frame of reference for younger cooks is much bigger. They are able to browse through how a matcha ice-cream is made in Tokyo, or how funky desserts are made in Parisian cafes,” Mehigan said.

All in all, it’s a great thing for food with awareness growing, he opined. “This global club of foodies is only expanding. It’s a great thing for food, our health, and our planet too if we care about where our food comes from.”

Social media is also one of his ways to keep reinventing his food, said the chef, who has been in the industry for nearly three decades.

“Social media is there to keep my imagination going. I’m food obsessed. I go on holidays because of food. I think I’ve never been in love with food more than I am now,” Mehigan said, signing off. (IANS)

 

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A Delhi-based Sikh organization Urges UN to Support Turbans as Religious Symbol

Among all the Sikh practices that one has to follow, wearing turbans wrapped around the head, is a must have

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Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC)
A Delhi-based Sikh organization Urges UN to Support Turbans as Religious Symbol. Pixabay

New Delhi, August 10, 2017: A Delhi-based Sikh organization has urged the United Nations Secretary General to pass a specific resolution in the UN General Assembly.

Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) under the leadership of Manjinder Singh Sirsa, the organization’s General Secretary asks UN to provide a special exemption to Sikhs residing in various countries to wear their traditional religious-symbols.

To defend and promote his point, Sirsa focused and highlighted the necessity of delving into the five articles regarding faith and symbols of their religion, as connoted by the Sikh Gurus.

In a letter, Sirsa said, “Wearing these articles of faith is a must for every Sikh man and woman. We have observed that problems being faced by Sikhs in different countries is due to laws implemented in the particular country, and the courts of these countries upheld the criminal cases against the Sikhs without any wrongdoing by them because courts are bound to follow the law of the land,” mentioned Punjab News Express report.

Among all the Sikh practices that one has to follow, wearing turbans wrapped around the head, is a must have. Any other kind of headwear is prohibited. The lessons and the practices of Sikhism, other than equality and philanthropy, includes a few more practices like carrying a comb and “kirpan” or tiny steel-sword, donning an iron bangle, and never chopping off the hair.

It is said that these administrations lack the knowledge of the necessity of these practices. Sirsa also pointed out that the members of the Sikh community have gone beyond their limitations to contribute to the economic growth of their respective countries.

During natural disasters, they have served selflessly, and they are also quite active in the political fields. It has also been said that Sikhs are an asset in wherever they settle and whichever community they inhabit. The teachings of Guru Sahiban teach them to devote themselves to the development of the society. Sikhism becomes the fifth biggest religion around the globe through ranking so in most countries, after Christianity and Islam.

-prepared by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC