The Vanza history goes back to a Kshatriya Ancestry. About 175 years ago, Shree Gopal Lal Maharaj (fourth generation of Shree Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharyaji) visited Saurashtra every so often to go and see his son Gopendranathji. Vanza turned to ‘Vaishnav panth’ – ‘pushti maarg’ as propounded by Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharyaji. His intentions were to promote culture and to educate the Wanza/Vanza community and to relieve poverty and sickness. They then accepted Guru Gopal Lal Maharaj as their Guru. We worship the goddess Hingraj Mata who is the goddess of healing and virtue. She is the kuldevi of the Kshatriya (warrior) caste of Gujarat. Despite being a warrior goddess, Hingraj Mata is cherished and adored, indeed worshipped by her devotees all over the world.
In the early 20th century a number of Vanza Dharjis migrated to the East Africa to take up business opportunities opening up with the introduction of the railway and the resulting development. Initially, only the young men came, leaving their families in India. As time went on their families and other families also migrated. Numbers of Vanzas, especially in the larger towns, grew significantly. This led to the setting up of community organisations to meet their religious and cultural needs. Shree Wanza Union was formed in Nairobi, Wanza Gnati Hittechhu Mandal in Mombasa and other similar bodies in Kisumu, Jinja, Dar-es-Salaam, etc. These organisations grew and prospered, thus providing a focal point for the Dharji community to get together to enhance and teach the new generations about our culture and devotion to Maa Hingraj and Guru Gopallal.
As time went on and businesses prospered and the political climate changed in Africa many members of the Vanza Community migrated to the United Kingdom and settled here. Once again, they started businesses or took up various jobs and established their families in a new country. With the growth in numbers, came the setting up of community organisations. The first such body was formed in Leicester (Shree Wanza Community Leicester). Next, Vanza Society of London was formed. Although it was based in Wembley in NW London, this body was meant for ALL Vanzas in Greater London and beyond. However, there was a large population of the Vanza Community based in the East End of London. In the early days families based in the East End of London would travel to North London and Leicester to attend Vanza functions but with working life and children going to school and the harsh reality of settling in to a new country there was a growing feeling that a sister Vanza organisation should be established in the East End of London.
In 1976 a group of volunteers, primarily Kantilal Tank, Gordhandas Ladhabhai Solanki, Laljibhai Makwana, Bachubhai Lalji Parmar, Valji Lalji Parmar, Pravinchandra Harilal Makwana, Bhovan Kara Nandha and Mrs Javerben Nandha, Haridas Vallabhdas Bhadresa, and Harilal Mulji Kamothi got together one evening in Romford Road and discussed the possibilities of creating an association or organisation. As a direct result of these discussions, Vanza brothers and sisters of mainly (but not exclusively) East London were invited, by word of mouth, to a meeting to be held in Trinity Centre, East Ham. After long discussions and deliberations, Vanza Mandal was established as a bona-fide organisation and a committee was elected. The first President was Gordhandas Ladhabhai Solanki.
The committee immediately got to work, preparing for celebration of our socio-religious events. One of the first was Navratri which was celebrated in East Ham Town Hall. Initially, the venue was not available for Sundays and we used to hold Navratri Raas/Garba at other places on Sundays. Ever since those early beginnings, our Navratri Festival is celebrated at East Ham Town Hall, including Sundays. Our grateful thanks must go to Kantilal Tank, who made the first booking and established a good relationship with the Council officers. With some initial difficulties in the first couple of years the membership grew, with Annual General Meetings being held each year. Vanza Mandal was established to be a key provider of cultural and family related activities for the Vanza Dharji community.
With help and advice from experts and other organisations, a Constitution was drafted to put VANZA MANDAL on a formal footing. This constitution served us well until about 1982. Then, it was decided that VANZA MANDAL should be further formalised and given an official status. In 1983 a new constitution was developed from the earlier draft. An application was made to the Charities Commission to register the Mandal as a Charity. Their advice and suggestions were taken on board and the Constitution was amended accordingly. VANZA MANDAL was then officially registered by the Charities Commission as a Charity with its primary aims and objectives being to support and promote the “Vanza Religion”. We can say with justifiable pride that VANZA MANDAL was one of the first (or earliest) of community or religion based organisations in the UK to be officially registered as a Charity.
Vanza Mandal now stands proud because of the effort and time given to it by past Presidents, Trustees, Committee members and other countless volunteers who have all given up their time for the betterment of the Community.
The Constitution of Vanza Mandal underwent a number of revisions/amendments. The following issues were addressed, among others:
As mentioned earlier, ALL volunteers gave their precious time to Vanza Mandal and deserve to be applauded. For brevity, only the Presidents are listed here. Some served a number of years consecutively, while some were re-elected after a break of some years.