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Atlanta chapter of SMAP Foundation hosts celebration honoring Chhatrapati Shivaji

BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE

Atlanta, GA, April 5, 2024: The Golden Avenue in Cumming brimmed with color and vigor as the Atlanta chapter of Shivaji Maharaj Antarrashtriya Parivaar (SMAP) Foundation celebrated Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s Jayanti with much patriotic fervor, adorned with a four-foot replica of the Raigad statue of the legendary king, accompanied by a panoply of fanfare, performances, and food stalls, attracting well over 800 attendees, on March 2, 2024.

In its 5th consecutive year of festivities, the event featured GA State Representative Hon. Todd Jones as the Chief Guest and Deputy Consul General of India, Shri Madan Kumar Ghildiyal as the Keynote Speaker. Guests of honor included Cassandra Kirk, Chief Magistrate Judge; Bob Erramilli, Johns Creek City Council; Subash Razdan, Founder, Gandhi Foundation; Himanshu Karnwal, Johns Creek City Council; and Kartik Bhatt, Georgia Board of Examiners for the Certification of Water and Wastewater Treatment.

Men and women dressed in traditional Indian clothing, mostly in Maharashtrian style, gathered outside to kick off the celebrations outdoors in a grand Shivaji Maharaj Palki procession, accompanied by the folk dance form of Maharashtra, Lezim, and the rhythmic beats of Dhol tasha by the Nadtal Group.

Indoors, the festivities began with the traditional lamp lighting, tribute to all Indian leaders by dignitaries, and the Shivaji Maharaj Murti Stapana puja accompanied by Shiv Garjana, followed by cultural programs with over 230 participants. A play about Tanaji Malusare by Kiran Chhibbar’s Drama Company and Dance performances from Atlanta’s top dance Studios including Soorya Foundation, Supriya Dance School, Prady’s Nritya Creation, Vedic Sanskriti School, Steps and Style, NADTAL, Bali’s Dance Studio, Swetha Shetty Dance School, Sheena’s Dance School, and Aarav Shukla’s Dance Team. Raaga Vahini and Shweta Dubey served as the emcees for the event.

In his address, Rep. Todd Jones congratulated the SMAP team and shared his thoughts about leadership. Shri. Ghildiyal highlighted the significance of Chhatrapati Shivaji, also lauding the efforts of SMAP in gathering a large crowd and the attendees for encouraging events such as these.

“We are using Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as our role model to connect community leaders, promote unity, and encourage leadership,” Monalisa Khandke, Founder & President of SMAP Atlanta said. She extended a warm welcome and briefed the audience about SMAP, highlighting the organization’s 250 celebrations in 25 countries worldwide in 2024 to preserve the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on an international scale. “Atlanta Shiv Jayanti celebration stands as a significant part of this global celebration,” she added.

Rahul Deshmukh, SMAP GA Coordinator, presented the journey of SMAP and highlighted various projects such as SMAP University, SMAP Youth, and the Leadership Center in his speech. Pradnya Kharat, SMAP AIL Executive and Program Director, underscored the theme of the 2024 program – “Unity, Leadership, and the Fight for Human Rights,” along with other highlights of the event.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja’s statue, a four-foot replica of the Raigad statue, graciously donated by the SMAP Foundation to the Atlanta chapter two years prior, and Exhibition/project of “Engineering Skills of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj” formed two major highlights of the event. Varsha Patil, SMAP ATL Executive, shed light on the Project Display and Quiz focusing on “Engineering Skills of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.”

The founder of the Maratha Kingdom, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s leadership values are legendary. Chhatrapati Shivaji was born to be a natural leader on February 19, 1630. Known as the Father of the Indian Navy, he was the first to realize the importance of having a naval force and strategically established a navy and forts along the coastline to defend the Konkan side of Maharashtra. A secular ruler, he was very accommodating of all religions. Chhatrapati Shivaji was a staunch supporter of women and their honor. He opposed all kinds of violence and harassment against women. Known as a “Mountain Rat,” he was widely known for his guerrilla warfare tactics such as raiding, ambushing, and surprise attacks on his enemies.

Defeating an army of 20,000 personnel led by General Afzal Khan, he drew the major attention of Aurangzeb, who was the Mughal Viceroy of the Deccan Sultanates (then). Following intermittent conflicts with the Mughal empire for a long time, in 1674, Shivaji Maharaj was formally crowned as the Chhatrapati from his fort in Raigad.

In 1870, a social reformer from Maharashtra, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule initiated the celebration of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Jayanti after discovering his tomb in Raigad Fort.

The event received generous support from Silver sponsors Uptick Financial Services, Realtor Jyoti Darshane. Bronze sponsors American Hindu Coalition, Dr. Anu Bhat & Dr. Subra Bhatt, Global Mall, and Georgia Consulting LLC. Noteworthy collaborators such as Sana Decor and SSG Captures contributed significantly to the event’s success. Atlanta Community Events played a pivotal role in managing vendors.

During the event, SMAP acknowledged the exceptional community work of organizations like Seva International and Ekal Vidyalaya & Ambedkar International Center. Community heroes, including Dr. Anu Bhat, Dr. Subra Bhatt, Dr. Shoba Chokkalingam, and police officers, were honored for their service. Additionally, leadership awards were presented to Raj Razdan, Swetha Pakala, Kiran Chhibber, Prakash Srivastava, and Jai Maharashtra Group of Atlanta for their community service.

Ankur Mali delivered a thank-you speech, acknowledging the organizing team’s efforts in bringing the community together and ensuring the event’s success. The Shivaji Maharaj Antarrashtriya Parivaar continues to excel in promoting Shivaji Maharaj’s legacy and inspiring people to follow his example.

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