Our Marathi Astitva
Vaibhav M Varkhedkar, BPharm, MS, MBA
As India celebrates 75 years of Independence, I thought about what it means by our Marathi Astitva. Being educated in an English Medium School, I struggled with the word "Astitva." So, I spoke with my parents and a few friends about its meaning. It could be the existence, present times, especially as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. It could mean the psyche of every Marathi-speaking person that is today. It could also indicate where we are currently in the passage of time. For example, We, the Marathi community, as global citizens, overcome obstacles, continue our deep-rooted culture and heritage, keep traditions alive, and achieve success in the 21st century. But have we learned from the mistakes of the past? Are we passing on our values to future generations?
Astitva is defined by two distinct influences, primary and secondary. Primary include your parents, elders, and relatives, whereas secondary is historical, political, or luminaries (sports personalities, singers, actors, movie makers, writers).
We all know our history; however, I want to revisit it, for it played a vital role in our Astitva. India was in turmoil in the early 1500s, 'Babar' the Moghul from Ferghana valley in Uzbekistan defeated Ibrahim Lodi, the then Delhi Sultan from the Lodi dynasty, and established the Moghul Empire. In the early 17th century, the Moghuls ruled northern India, whereas the five Deccan Sultanates controlled southern India. These rulers conducted massive atrocities on Hindu-majority India. Some of the injustices included forced conversions to Islam, the kidnapping of Hindu women and children, destruction of Hindu temples and replacing them with mosques in some cases, imposing heavy taxes on the Hindu subjects, bullying and looting of the masses, and murder. India was then under Islamic rule for over 400 years.
The time was ripe for a Hindu hero to rise, and a hero did come along!! 'Shivaji Raje Bhonsale' gathered and rallied peasants to form a mighty empire opposing the Deccan Sultanates and the Moghul Emperor, 'Aurangzeb.' If it were not for Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje, then Hinduism would have suffered the fate of other ancient religions such as Egyptian, Sumerian, Roman, and Greek.
Maharashtra is called "Santaanchi Bhumi," the land of saints. Sants Dnyaneshwar, Namdeo, Eknath, Tukaram, and Ramdas brought the service of God into our life. Their teachings often inculcated certain conduct expected of every human being.
We are equally proud of the freedom fighters who put steps to revise our ways and saw a path for a better tomorrow. Bharat Ratna, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, and Lokmanya Tilak were at the forefront, whose efforts had a significant role in abolishing the caste system, writing our constitution, demanding swaraj, and reviving Ganesh Festival and Shivaji Jayanti.
Likewise, social reformer and educator Bharat Ratna, Dhondo Keshav Karve, is widely known for his works on women's education and the remarriage of widows.
Filmmakers such as Mr. Mahesh Manjrekar has made us think about the issues facing women during the early 1900s by producing and directing movies such as Kaksparsh, to name one. Sairat, a super-hit film by Nagraj Manjule, has brought honor-killing into focus. Yesteryear filmmakers and storytellers such as V. Shantaram, Bhalji Pendarkar, Vijay Tendulkar, and Raja Paranjpe also shaped and challenged our psyche. Comedy movies by Mahesh Kothare and Sachin Pilgaonkar revived the marathi film industry from its verge of decline.
The Marathi musicians, vocalists, singers, entertainers, actors, and sports personalities such as Bharat Ratnas, Lata Mangeshkar, Bhimsen Joshi, and Sachin Tendulkar, have given us abundant joy with their superior skills. Equally, Asha Bhonsale, Sunil Gavaskar, P. L. Deshpande, Acharya Atre, Kumar Gandharva, Ramdas Padhye, Madhuri Dixit, and Rahul Dravid have inspired us for decades with their talent.
For my sisters and me, our primary Astitva resulted from our privileged upbringing by our parents, but most importantly, our grandparents.
The traditions, values, and, most importantly, proper education proved to be a defining moment for myself and my Astitva. My grandfather's Engineering degrees acquired during challenging times inspired me to come to the US of A to pursue further studies. Continuing their values, my parents, especially my mom, pushed me toward this path. I'm sure every successful person has a role model, and for my Astitva, it's my mom.
The regional or state Marathi Mandals and BMM conference play a distinct role in establishing the continuity of our originality, both traditional and cultural, and sculpting our Astitva today. First, however, it is critical to acknowledge that our collective Astitva is a conglomerate of our elders and the people who shaped history and inspired us for decades.