Marathi literary fest hopes to build bond with Punjab

Marathi litterateurs will soon offer a glimpse of their rich literary heritage to an unfamiliar audience in the border state of Punjab, in what is perhaps a subtle attempt to ease strained relations between north Indians and certain quarters in Maharashtra.

The 88th Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan (Marathi literary fest), slated for February next year in Punjab, is being organised for the first time in a state upwards of New Delhi. 

The venue for the three-day event is a small village on the border, 52 km away from the holy city of Amritsar. 

“The venue is befitting the soul of the event,” Prakash Paigude, secretary of the All India Marathi Sahitya Mandal (AIMSM), told Deccan Herald over the phone from Mumbai. 

Ghuman village in Gurdaspur district portrays a strong spiritual connect between Punjab and Maharashtra, which many are unaware of. Renowned 12th century Saint Namdev, who hailed from Maharashtra, spent 20 years spreading the message of peace and brotherhood in this village. He travelled thousands of miles to this area and is believed to have founded Ghuman. 

Paigude said it is this connect between the two states that was the sole driving factor to choose Punjab as the location for the upcoming fest. 

The village also has a sizeable number of Saint Namdev worshippers. At least five Sikh shrines here have imprints of the saint. The sacred Guru Granth Sahib also has a chapter on ‘Namdev ji ki Mukhbani’. 

NGO Sarhad had put forth a proposal to organise the annual Marathi event in Ghuman. Founder-president of Sarhad, Sanjay Nahar, who was speaking from Pune, said the festival being held at the place founded by a revered saint of Maharashtra promises a far greater bond between Punjab and Maharashtra. 

“We have proposed to set up a National Pilgrimage Centre in this village. So far, it has been limited to mere assurances. There are many people from Maharashtra who visit this village for spiritual enlightenment, just like the Punjabi Sikh community visiting the sacred Sikh shrine Nanded Sahib in Maharashtra,” Nahar said.   

However, there are dissenting voices against the decision of choosing Punjab as the venue for the event. 

The Marathi Publishers’ Committee opined that a literary fest of the nature of the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan should have a Marathi-speaking audience, which may not be the case in Punjab.

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