We proudly celebrated 30 years of our young organization, a year ago. It is the organization of youngsters, it is the organization of scientifically oriented minds, it is the organization of zealous minds who have the quest for knowing the secrets of the universe and, in that sense, it the organization of all younger minds.
In the year 1985, month Feb, Lokvidnyan Sanghatana organized a Basic Course in Astronomy. From the attendees of this Basic Course, few like minded people decided to meet again to do some constructive work. They met number of times and the result of these frequent meetings was birth of a new organization devoted entirely to Astronomy.
All the knowledge was then available in English Books, and in order to popularize astronomy amongst people, it was necessary to make it available to all in their own language. Hence it was decided to work towards popularizing astronomy in MARATHI, the mother toungue of Maharashtrians. The first meeting for formation of this new organization was held on 6th July 1985, at the Karachi Maharashtra Mandal’s School at Wadia Estate, Kurla (West). Amongst the first few members were Mr (Late) Sudhakar Lele, Hemant Dhamorikar, Dr. Rajiv Chitnis, Mr. Jagdish Kabre and Mr. Dilip Joshi, who was the convener of this meeting and is an active member even today. The meeting laid the foundation for the formation of Khagol Mandal which was then Registered as Organization with Charity Commissioner. Mr. Jagdish Kabre with its first president and Mr. Hemant Dhamorikar as First Secretary.
The first donation of Rs. 100/- came from Mr. Anant Chittal, who on the 25th Aniversary againt donated Rs. 50,000/- to Khagol Mandal. The Organization grew in volunteers and donors as the years passed by. Late Mrs. Mangalatai Abhyakarwas one of the notable consistent donor, who in her will left a sum of Rs 2,00,000/- for Khagol Mandal. Mr. Pravin Herlekar, Mr. Sharad Bhide and Mr. Abhir Joshi are few other notable names in the big list of donors.
Sadhana Vidyalaya Sion, helped Khagol Mandal by giving space of one Classroom right from the beginning. Mandal’s Sky Observation programs form 1985 were supported by Late Mrs Durgatai Patole, who gave her farm-house at Vangani, for Khagol Mandal. Mandal will always be indebted to such personalities who helped us to grow in quality and quantity. The first anniversary was also celebrated at Sadhana Vidyalaya’s hall in presence of the then noted astronomer Mr. Sudhkar Bhalerao.
In the journey of last 30 years, Mandal has many feathers in its cap. Khagol Mandal has been conducting Night Sky Observation programs at Vangni consistently for last 30 years. It started a monthly Marathi magazine “Khagol Warta (खगोल वार्ता)” for its members and ran it for about 25 years, even in PDF format for last few months of its tenure.
Kagol Mandal Family also spread its wings in nearby areas in the form of local units in places like Dombivali, Panvel, Nashik, Thane, Badlapur etc where we have still many active members. These units also independently conducted Sky Observation Programs. Various members contributed to Local Newspapers, Radio and Television programs and also participations in innumerable number of Astro Conferences. Dombivali Unit was active with Sarang Oak, Shirish Phade, Anand Acharya whereas Rajesh Nayak, Hemant Mekade, Santosh Mhaskar, Srirang Karve actively ranPanvel Unit. Sujata and Milind Babar are still actively working as Nashik Unit where Prof Shymkant Acharya and Prof Pradeep Devi were once active. Ashutosh Lotlikar helped setting upThane Unit with Abhijit Tamhane WhereasPraveen Herlekar and Sanjay Deshpande startedBadlapur Unit.
Astronomical Events like Total Solar Eclipse , Comet Watch, Meteor Shower helped to induce curiosity in common man and Mandal’s membership started growing. More and more students started getting attracted towards Mandal and its program and the flow still continues. Khagol Mandal conducted Solar Eclipse tours in 1995/1999/2009/2010 in various parts of the country and aroused interest of local by giving lectures and presentations to the locals and local press. Many dignities attended Khagol Mandal Programs, which included names like Dr. Jayant Naralikar, Dr. Govind Swaroop (in Hamirpur, UP), Dr Shashikumar Chitre, Prof Mohan Apte , to name a few. Members of Mandal organized street plays, songs based on themes of Eclipse , local skywatch etc during these tours.
As the Family grew in Size and Technology, a generation of Astrophotographers came to fore.Sameer Thakur, Nikhil Tungare, Nilesh Desaiand many others took captivating photographs and helped others to learn astrophotography.
Khagol Mandal has organized many Basic and Advanced courses of Astronomy, Telescope making workshops, Model making workshops and exhibitions, Astrophotography workshops during its journey. In 2007, Khagol Mandal was chosen as associate organization by the International Astronomy Olympiad body for conducting its Sky Observation Examination where many of our volunteers helped as examiners, to the IAO body under the leadership of Pradeep Nayak.
Mandal has many many films on astronomical places and personalities. Lonar Crater, Bhaskaracharya’s birthplace, Total Solar Eclipse are few to name.
In the year 2005, Mandal decorated Noted ScholarProf. Mohan Apte, with its first and only “Bhaskar Puraskar“, given for his natable contribution in Popularization of Astronomy amongst common man.
Mandal’s members are now spread across the globe and are connected electronically via email, website and Facebook. They have participated in many programs in places like USA, UK and even conducted one of its program in Qatar.
Dilip Joshi, the founder member of Khagol Mandal has always been its forte. His enthusiasm and art of connecting people has helped Mandal to grow. Milind Kale conducted innumerable outdoor programs during his period of more than 25 years. Pradeep Nayak lead the team of students for past over 25 years. Dr. Rajiv Chitnis, is also one of the ever supporting founder members. Amongst notable contributors during this journey, I can recollect few names like Mr. (Late) Sudhakar lele, Mr.(Late) Vitthal Taiwade, Dr. Rajiv Chitnis, Mr. Ravindra Waghmare who as secretary of Khagol Mandal between 1987-1991,Ravindra Kadam (Ex- President), Nandkumar Walve, Sagar Kerkar (Ex President and Present Secretary), Milind Kale (Ex-President) Minakshi Yardi Kulkarni, Vibha Shukla, Praveen Herlekar,Dr. Abhay deshpande, Dr. Varsha Shukla, Mrinalini Nayak, Madhuri Katti, Gauri Dabholkar, Dr. Aniket Sule, Sameer kadam, Shailesh Sansare, . There are many of my colleagues which volunteered from time to time to make Khagol Mandal a huge success.
In this journey the list of Credit is much bigger than to fit into my mortal memory. I apologise for those who actively participated in many activities but are not mentioned here.
Now , at 30+, Mandal has many assets in its stride which includes a land and building at Umbroli, a small village near suburb of Badlapur, Mumbai. Many Members have expressed their wish to convert it into a Astro-Science park. Apart from this constant streak of volunteers has been its biggest asset. With the change in global situation of education and jobs in last more than 30 years, the nature of interaction of these members have changed, but the bond is same.