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Bitter past, present perfect

Bhubaneswar, Oct. 20: Centuries ago the Marathas came to Orissa as invaders and the natives could do little to resist their onslaught.

But the Marathas soon fell in love with the language and culture of the state, which resembled their own in many ways. This bond has only got stronger with time.

Looking at the harmony and friendship that exits between the two communities, it is evident that they have put their bitter past behind and scripted a new chapter of love and friendship.

Years of association between the two communities have brought their art forms, literature and festivals closers. Popular cultural art forms of Orissa like Pala, which is a beautiful narration of historical and mythological stories, find similarities with Marathi performing arts of Bharud, Kirtan and Powada.

CVSR Rao, a Marathi by origin and former president of Maharashtra Mandal, said: “We never felt out of place or thought of ourselves as migrants because of the uncanny similarities between the two communities. The strong resemblance of the two cultures has made our stay in the city comfortable and peaceful.”

He added that many Marathi families even changed their ancestral surnames over the years. “Like the Sathe’s of Maharashtra, influenced by Oriya titles, have changed to Sathia. Similarly, many local residents with surnames of Jhee and Nayak are also believed to have a Marathi connection,” said Rao.

Out of over 100 Marathi families in the twin cities, 10 have made Orissa their permanent home and have set up a community centre, Maharashtra Mandal, at Rupali Square in the capital. They have built a small library with over 500 Marathi books.

The Marathi families have always ensured the celebration of their festivals with grandeur. Ganesh Chaturthi is observed ever year at their community centre. Their Oriya friends also take part in the festivities.

“From cultural programmes to a Marathi feast, we organise many activities during the festival and invite our Oriya friends who help us in the arrangements,” said Prabha Kolaskar, a homemaker.

The community today has earned a name in the state for its scholarly distinctions. Over the years, this small community has received appreciation for churning out scholars such as physics researcher Arun Jayannawar, an awardee of Santiswarup Bhatnagar Award and Neville Mott Prize by International Centre for Theoretical Physics of Italy. Author Vasudev Joglekar of Cuttack was awarded Central Sahitya Academy Award and many more.

“What I like about the city is its warmth and verdure. Obviously there is plenty of scope for improvement when it comes to the city’s infrastructure and planning. But that is well compensated with the affection of the people,” said vice-chancellor of KIIT University, A.S. Kolaskar.

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