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Historical Shiv Jayanti celebration in America by SMAP Foundation

LOS ANGELES: As an historic event, Shivaji Maharaj America Parivaar (SMAP Foundation) celebrated Grand Shiv Jayanti in five US cities. Each city had picked up topics from the history that are relevant today – Unity, Leadership, Equality, Woman Empowerment, Community Service, and Entrepreneurship.

All celebrations included Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Palakhi/Pooja and tribute to Indian national heroes – Prithviraj Chauhan, Maharana Pratap, Krishnadevaraya, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and Rani Laxmibai. The Presidents of the local chapters offered homage to these national heroes for standing up for their people and sacrificing their lives to protect Indian culture, customs and way of life for centuries. The Palakhi/Pooja was to honor the great king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj signifying Unity under the leadership/values of a great legendary king, whose birthday (Shiv Jayanti) the community was celebrating.

The theme of the Los Angeles celebration was Woman Empowerment and it was attended by close to 1000 people including 180 performers and volunteers. It included a Drama on life of Veermata Jijabai that showed how she handled various challenges in life to create safety and security for all woman, 400 years ago! It showed how she raised a child who later became Chhatrpati Shivaji Maharaj who protected millions of people. The main attraction of the evening was a inspirational Keynote speech by Hollywood actress, writer, producer Eileen Grubba. She shared her life journey from a six year old child to a famous Hollywood celebrity. She described how she dealt with the unimaginable challenges courageously to stay positive, achieve the success and make difference in the society. Eileen started a #ALLinclusive movement and improved the Hollywood Film Industry by advocating “Inclusion for disability and Woman in Film Industry”. Her message at the event, to all woman was to “believe in yourself” and that one woman can make significant difference in the world! … similar to how Veermata JIjabai changed the world by challenging the status quo and by giving right values to her son, Shivaba! The celebration also included a Talent show that depicted the power of women empowerment through dance, Lezim and other art forms. Seven dance schools participated to showcase story of Maharani Laxmibai, Savitribai Phule, Durga Devi and other influential topics. The message from the evening was – “Men and Woman are equal and its everyone’s responsibility to respect safety, security and dignity of others. One woman can make difference in the world by positively influencing the life of her son, daughter, husband and other family members to create just and harmonious society.”

The Governor of The State of Georgia, Brian Kemp had endorsed SMAP’s Atlanta event. The State Commissioner of Insurance Mr. John King attended the event and carried Palakhi of Shivaji Maharaj. The event was held at Gokulgham Haveli, was attended by over 600 people and had 254 children and adult participants. The celebration included drama on the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, dance performances, mesmerizing songs and inspirational speeches. The event highlighted united India where most of the audience, participants, actors and organizers were from non-Marathi background. High school students presented their models of the Indian Forts to show their architecture and strategic importance centuries ago. SMAP’s Atlanta President Monalisa Khandke demonstrated strong leadership in garnering support from various communities including American society in celebrating the First-Ever grand Shiv Jayanti in the state of Georgia.

The San Jose (Silicon Valley), California event took place at Orchard Highschool Auditorium and was sold out a few days before the event. Prakash Bhalerao, a successful businessman and Venture Capitalist spoke on the topic of “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as an entrepreneur”. Mr Parag Tope, decedent of Honorable Freedom fighter Tatya Tope spoke on the topic of ‘Unity’ and Ritesh Tandon presented his perspectives on ‘Community Service’. Mesmerizing songs by Shraddha Pathak and electric dance performances by Swati Savale’s Starrz Academy were the highlights of the evening. They showcased inspiring stories of Rani Laxmibai, Bhagat Singh and other leaders in India. Similar to Atlanta, the event also included Fort Competition for Indian American children. The event was organized by Viraj Raut and Jagdish Kulkarni.

SMAP Stamford Connecticut hosted the event on February 29 at Wilton Hindu Temple. The Programs started with the Palakhi procession, followed by the overview of SMAP by President, Vinit Chopade. Swamiji Balgaopal, did the deep-prajwalan and tilak. Cultural program started with Ganesh Vandana, followed by speeches on great Indian national heroes including Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Rani Laxmibai, Maharana Pratap, Raja Ranjit Singh, Raja Krishna Devraya. Adults and talented kids presented songs, speeches, dances and skits. There was also a live band performance on patriotic songs. Inspiring Powada sung by a six year old Indian American was a highlight of the show.

SMAP Omaha Nebraska celebrated Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Jayanti at Hindu Temple Social hall. Programs started with Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj aarti and overview of SMAP. Mr. Vijay Gayee did deep-prajwalan. A tilak ceremony ritual was also performed for all kids and adults.

Mr. and Mrs Gayee then completed Shivaji Maharaj Arati and presented information about the contribution of Indian Saints and Poets in maintaining harmony in the society. This was followed by honoring Indian National heroes who fought for Indian Independence, who protected Indian dharma and maintained Indian culture. Kids were very fascinated to learn about brave heroic stories of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and other Indian National Heroes.

SMAP’s 2020 Shiv Jayanti celebration was historic. It received overwhelming response from younger generation in all five cities. “With Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as our role model, SMAP promotes the values that he represented,” said Vijay Patil Founder of the organization, “We’d like to identify and create the kind of leaders who will support the cause of unity and demonstrate leadership by standing up for what’s right”. He described four key objectives of the organization: (1) building a network of leaders (2) supporting initiatives that unite people (3) helping ones who are less fortunate to bring equality, and (4) promoting leadership.

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