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History Lohana Nairobi

The History
The very first committee elections for the Lohana Mahajan of Nairobi were held at a general meeting on 30th December 1921. Interestingly, the Lohana Mahajan of Mombasa had already been formed and wistfully functioning at this time. The main objective of the Mahajan then, was to unite, organise, and support the community, as well as to enhance greater social integration amongst its members. The very first committee meeting was held at the residence of the founding chairman, Shree Bhanjibhai Sethmi. At that meeting they started a find amongst themselves for the Mahajan and accumulated Sh.33/, of which his contribution of Sh.2/50 was the highest. The original notes of this meeting are published at the end of this historical account.
In order to get the committee going the chairman, suggested that a premises be rented to start a library. This was unanimously accepted and supported by all the committee members. Hence our founding fathers set out on their very first project.
As a means of getting the community together a community luncheon was organised, then known as a shambha’. An interesting and comical fact was recorded in the minutes of the meeting at which this communal luncheon was being organised. The chairman proudly announced that the Mahajan had received an anonymous donation of fifty farthings towards the cost of the luncheon from Shree Kanji Warauji Lakhani! Any shortfall it was decided would be met by the committee members. However, funds raised for the occasion added up to Sh. 197/25, and the total cost of the luncheon was Sh. 128/67 only. These figures give as an insight into the cost of living then.
The founding committee’s year ended well with the proposal for the library unanimously passed at the general meeting of 12th November 1922.
The next committee was elected on 21st March 1923. During this year, the Mahajan was particularly instrumental in supporting needy fellow community members. Helping the sick, the unemployed and the less fortunate of the community became an activity in itself for the Mahajan, Similarly, resolving any misunderstandings or disputes that people had with the N4ahajan were being attended to and resolved. Surprisingly, a special sub-committee was formed to address this issue. Meanwhile the cornmittee also worked towards finding suitable premises to start the library.
1923 saw the legalisation of many of the Mahajans functions. With the advice of some lawyers a Trust was formed for the building that housed the library and additionally a constitutional plan was being compiled. The Trustees appointed were Shree Bhanji Harji, Shree Ratanshi Kheraj Shree Kanji Naranji, and Shree Monji Narshi.
At the meeting of 30th January 1924, the secretary announced that a suitable venue for the library had been located and rented and that they had begun receiving books. Seeing this as a worth while cause a fund raiser was initiated at the meeting to purchase this site. This exercise eventually raised Sh.2743150. Two days later, Shree Bhanjihhai 1-laiji Sedani officially opened the library. Representatives from Kampala and Zanzibar specially attended this auspicious occasion.
It is important to note that this library building had not been purchased yet, but was being negotiated. The owner Bhagwandas and Mulchand were asking for Sh.16000/=, It is recorded that the deal was frnalised on 17th March 1924, and Shree Narshibhai Hansraj with SInce Jivanbhai Shamji agreed a price of Sh.152001= and sealed the sale with Sh.l/= stamp. Sh.6200/=  cash was paid and the building mortgaged at 10% p. a. to cover the balance. Possession of the building was assumed on 4th April 1924. Following this Shree Narshibhai Hansraj set off to Uganda to raise funds to pay the balance Sh.9000/=. Minutes of the meeting of 17th August 1924, show that Sh. 4500/= was repaid from collections from weddings and the Uganda fund raiser. There is no further record of when the balance was fully paid. At this point a ten person sub-committee was working on the constitutional outline.
At the elections of 16th November 1924, two new positions were introduced to the committee. One for an advisor and the other for a volunteer. In terms of activities, 1924 was fairly quiet. Committee and general meetings were called as and when they were required. Nevertheless, to celebrate the New Year there was a social gathering and a Diwali community luncheon was organised later during the week. This set a tradition that we still follow to this day. On the other hand this was an opportunity to raise funds for the Mahajan and Sh.548/75 was amassed.
Evidence of the farsightedness of our fore fathers, can be seen in the minutes of a general meeting where it was suggested that the building be turned into a nursery school for and advertisement should be placed in the newspaper. Around this time the Lohana Mahajan of Kampala had made an appeal for funds which was reject as the commiuee was concentrating on upgrading the library and commencing work on a hoarding facility.
During 1925, the Mahajan steadily saw the library progress, and a librarian was employed at Sh.20/= per month. General fund raising continued, however a special sub-committee was formed to cultivate funds to meet the Mahajan of Kampala’s appeal for financial help. The festive Diwali gathering and luncheon were well attended and a collection of Sh.793/25 was reaNsed. Moreover, 78 brass dishes were donated by various individuals to the community.
At the general meeting of 22nd October 1925, the secretary announced that they had got together a delegation of which Shree Nanji Kalidas Mehta was appointed the chairman. Their request was for Nairobi and other centres to prepare such a delegation, so as to facilitate a regional Lohana conference.
Unfortunately this conference did not materialise and the idea was tabled for some years to come.
On 5th November 1925, it is recorded that the founding chairperson Shree Bhanji Harji Sedani had passed away and a memorial service was held in his respect and a message of condolence from the Mahajan was sent to the bereaved family. Later the Mabajan helped the family make its way to Mombasa and it was decided that Shree Bhanji Haiji Sedani’s picture be placed at the community building.
From what is available, it is seen that 1926 proved to be a fairly quiet year, with only two meetings being minuted. The main concrete decisions that were made were that the present building be separated into a library area, and a guest house for up country travellers. Initially four mattresses were donated to start off this project which was well utilised and served its purpose adequately.
There were six meetings conducted in 1926, under the leadership of Shree Kanji Naranji Lakhani which observed the smooth operation of the library and the guest house. New books for the library were procured and a donation of mattresses from Kericho was received for the guest house. A general uneasiness was voiced that the building was not used appropriately for the welfare of the Nairobi Lohana community which defeated its purpose of uniting and organising Lohanas here. Hence, a subcommittee was formed that would look into building a facility primarily for the social use of the community. In addition, this disharmony amongst community members was also evident by the low attendance at funerals. To resolve this situation a sub-committee was formed that would review the reasons for this low participation and enforce a means of encouraging a more appropriate turnout.
1928 was the year of decision making. In order to maintain its income, participation and continued progress, the Mahajan took the following decisions:
• A subscription of Sh. 11= per month per member was to be collected six months in
 advance. Non-subscribers were not eligible to vote.
• As the current building was proving too small and insufficient to house the entire
 community at functions, it was decided to rent another building and all community activities transferred there.
• One member of every family must be in attendance at any funeral. A fine a of ten cents
   was introduced for absenteeism.
• It was also decided to purchase the land behind the community hall.
Moving ahead to support the field of education, many suggestions were received to put up a boarding facility that would be principally for up-country students in Nairobi. Shree Nanji Kalidas Mehta agreed to financially support this proposal, but argued that the Dayanand Ashram was soon to be opened and would definitely meet this requirement. However, should it fail, he would definitely give his assistance to the Mahajan’s project. At the time, there were already thirty-four boarding facilities spread around East Africa.
The ten cent fine levied on funeral absentees became a rather controversial issue and had to be postponed.
Once again, there was an effort to get together a Lohana conference in Mombasa in 1929, but to no avail. Furthermore, there was also mention of a possible all Africa Lohana conference. With this the year ended for the new committee to take over.
Many decisions were acted upon in 1930. The Mahajan with Shree Jadavji Anandji Savani as the chairman met much more regularly, and continued its activities with much ease. Some of the issues discussed during this year were:
  • The shortage of space in the hall during functions which lead to overcrowding. Hence, it was agreed that a suitable building be rented to overcome this problem.
  • Sh.5000/= of the Mahajans cash was put into an interest bearing fixed deposit account.
  • Rents on shops was to he reduced. (It is not mentioned which shops thy meant)
  • Two volunteers had passed away during the year and their photos were to be placed in the hall in their memory.
  • Was the Lohana Youth league to be under Mahajan? (This year’s records show a Lohana Youth League was formed but, this is not the Lohana Youth League as we know it today. It was just a group of youth that worked hand in hand with the Mahajan)
  • Auditors for the Mahajan were appointed.
  • Move the guest house and the library to the rented building. Dilbar House 1/8/9311)
A conference was organised in Mombasa and eleven delegates were nominated to represent Nairobi. The delegates were to finance their own transport and accommodation to the conference. Later records show that even this conference was cancelled. Mean while, other activities such as welcoming guests from upcountry, a farewell gathering for families returning to India, memorial services, helping  the needy, New Year luncheons and fund raising continued to constitute the Mahajan agenda.
There is not much recorded in the minutes of 1931. The guest house and the library were progressing satisfactorily. The building that the Mahajan used to meet at was discovered to be placed for auction. The Mahajan decided that it would be an ideal building for the community and hence set up a sub-committee to oversee this purchase. Alongside another sub-committee for the library and guest house was also formed. With this Mahajan completed its first decade.  
Tentative plans for a building to meet the ever growing community’s accommodation were presented and accepted at a general meeting in 1932. Furthermore, there was disappointment of the deteriorating situation of the current building. The respective committee was authorised to make a befitting purchase of up to Sh. 15000/= and all funds were to be raised by the committee independently. Tenders for this building plan were put out in 1932.however, in between there were plots for sale opposite where Alexandria Cinema once stood. These plots were accepted by the Mahajan as suitable for their project and agreed to pay Sh.10000/= for them together. But 1933 passed by without purchases.
Still following on in 1935 the building committee was now authorised to buy a plot for up to Sh.8000/=.Finally, in July 1936, it was decided that the best alternative would be to demolish the current building and put up a two storey community hall there.once again a building committee was formed and sketch plans discussed and revised. Fund raising commenced and seven people volunteered to give the Mahajan a loan of 500/= each. Other monies were gathered by having plaques put up on the building to acknowledge once contribution as follows;
  • Sh.2000/= name on outside of the hall.
  • Sh. 1000/= name on library wall.
  • Sh.701/= name on outside wall of guest house.
  • Sh. 50 1/= name on outside wall of guest house.
  • Sh. 151/= photo on the wall.
  • Sh.51/= name on the common donors board.
The results of the fund raisers conducted were S h .3544/75 raised from Nairobi.
Sh. 1139/25 from upcountry and S h .2340/= from Kericho. At the time Shree Harilal Pujara was the secretary and at the meeting of the 12th September 1937, he promised to personally meet any shortfalls in funds the Mahajan may face in the building project. On 15th September 1937 a contract of Sh.20750/= was awarded for the construction, and the foundation laying was done by Shree Ratanshi Kheraj Bhayani on 24th October 1937.
Within four months ‘LohanaCommunity Building’ was ready, and was officially opened by Shree Vasanji Gkuldas Kanabar. This building was mortgaged for Sh .5000/= to pay off the remaining expenses, but was fully recovered in 1939. This was very the first building the Mahajan owned since charter 17 years ago. On 10th May 1939, an insurance policy was drawn on the building.
Despite all these efforts and progress, the need for a larger premise still prevailed. After three years on 16th March 1941, the Mahajan agreed to buy two plots of land for Sh. 3500/= in Ngara on what was then Fort Hall road.
The second decade for the Mahajan, started with constitutional changes that all persons above the age of eighteen years were to pay a subscription of Sh.1/= per month per person. The following adjacent towns were also included into the Nairobi area: Dagoretti, Ngong, Kikuyu, Limuru, Kabete, Escarpment, Kijabe, Thika, Muguga, Ruiru and Kamiti.
The Youth League on its own was progressing well, although there is minimal mention of it in any of the Mahajans minutes. They were looking at establishing a night school for which a complete feasibility was conducted, towards which the Mahajan had agreed to contribute Sh.25/= per month towards its working capital. Contrary to that, according to the minutes of a general meeting it is clear that there was much friction between the two institutions. Alongside this the youth League also prepared for a community census. From 1934 to 1937 there are no records of any youth meetings and in 1937 it was hoped that should the youth league start again that it would be a welcome change. From this we can see that the Youth League during this time was more or less disbanded.
There is further mention that a Lohana Conference was organised in Kisumu, but this too never materialised.
During the third decade three people were honoured, but no reason for these deeds are presented. They were: 
  • In 1935, a cyclist from England called Kishore Sinh Thaker.
  • In 1939, a blind poet from Kenya called Hansraj.
  • In 1940, a gymnast called Kumar Holana.
The Mahajan also had a major and honourable part in resolving disputes, because of its wealth of experience and neutral status. Examples of such disputes are inappropriate to present here, due to the confidentiality promised to the families. However, there was an incident when a fellow Lohana was accused of murder in Zanzibar and was sentenced to hang in December 1935, In order to appeal this case; the Mahajan of Zanzibar had asked for financial help from other Lohana stations in East Africa. 20001= was sent from Nairobi for this purpose.
Around this time a new tradition prevailed. Silk handkerchiefs were presented to volunteers that helped out at the community luncheons. The Mahajan continued its support to education and presented scholarships to two students for a year each. On the fund raising front a film show was organised.
The third decade proved to be one of many calamities and strains for the Mahajan. To begin with there was a general disinterest in the community. Many meetings had to be cancelled for the Lack of quorum, with only fifty people attending the election of 1942. At times, such cancellations of meetings meant that it was difficult to reach decisions that require urgent attention. Forced with no choice, the secretary had to write letters to committee members to avail their decisions on matters then post them back, An example of when this had to be done is when it was necessary to know whether a site should be hired for a boarding facility or not.
Despite many shortcomings, the ‘Lohana Vidyo Tejak Mandal’was introduced to establish and maintain the boarding facility. This facility was started in 1945. To cater for the increase in demand for this, in 1949 a house on 5th Parklands Avenue that would be converted into a boarding house was purchased. Unfortunately due to the lack of students it was closed down in 1951.
Effects of the 1st World War also perpetuated here and many at the time were leaving Mombasa. (There is no reason given for this). To cater for these migrants the Mahajan had prepared housing facilities and other conveniences for them, but were not utilised.
On a brighter note, financially the Mahajan was stable as the Sh.5000& that had been earlier invested into a fixed deposit account, had continued to be reinvested and earned a considerable amount of interest.
Unfortunately the guest house was being misused and it’s recorded that the care takers often resigned. Although the issue was discussed for 2 - 3 years, the Mahajan was said to have a lax attitude in this matter as it forgave all the “vandals”. But, today many will otherwise agree that the judgment made was correct.
There were no minute books found for the years from 1944 to 1955, but the following information was derived from circulars and rough minutes.
The “Lohana Jyot’ a monthly magazine was launched in 1946, by the Youth League, independently of the Mahajan. The magazines main proposition was the need for a joint Lohana conference, which eventually materialised in November 1947, after many efforts had failed. In 1947, the “Vidyo Tejak Mandal’ and the “Lohana Volunteer Society’ were transferred under the banner of the Mahajan as a sub-committees.
Moving onto the fourth decade, we see many years of progressive and successful years for the community. Although there was a great emphasis on building a new hail, other cultural and religious activities were equally well conducted.
The house that was used as the boarding in 5th Parklands Avenue was finally sold for Sh. 161,000/= and the land on which the rest house stood was bought for Sh.212, 5000/= in 1948. Additionally, a subcommittee was formed to oversee the construction of a new and large ball that would cater enough space for community functions. The members of this committee were: -
Shree Andeiji Odhavji Nathwani
Shree Kanji Naranji Lakhani
Shree Gordhandas Dharamshi Kantaria
Shree Dr. H. R. Pawagadhi
Shree Babubhai 1’. Modi
Shree Madhubhai Hirani
Shree Shamji Harji
Shree Bhagwanji Kakubhai Radia
Shree Shamjibhai Oheewala
This committee was given the authority to raise funds and commence work on the building. Shree Kanji Naranji donated Sh.75, 000/=, where as the family of Shree Gordhandas Dhararnshi Kantaria donated Sh.25, 000/, as did the Nathwani family. Community morale was high, funds were raised within no time and the hail built likewise. Unfortunately with all the zest, the hall ended up costing a lot more than it had been budgeted for. Consequently, this put the Mahajan into a financially disturbing position. It was a worrisome situation and it was proposed that the original River Road property be sold to meet the deficit. A general meeting was called for this purpose and the motion to sell the property was defeated by 15 votes to 17. Such a close call shows how controversial the subject was. This, it is said, may have been a blessing in disguise because efforts were generated elsewhere to raise funds which actually made members work harder to meet their targets. The treasurers report of 8th
1962 shows some of the funds raised as follows:
  • Film show - Sh.1,000/=
  • Youth League contribution - Sh. 15,000/=
  • Fun fare (Fete) 1960- Sh.27,626/=
  • Fun fare (Fete) 1961 - Sh.32,643/=
  • Subscriptions of “Classified Members Scheme” - Sh,17,000/=
However, this was not enough to pay off the deficit and money was borrowed from East Africa Insurance Co. and East Africa Building Society. Further to this Shree Gordhandas Dharamshi Kantaria and Shree Kanji Naranji Lakhani personally loaned the Mahajan Sh.55, 000/= each, as did Shree Amratlal Lakhani and Shree Anderji Nathwani Sh.5, 500/= each. When the committee of 1962 retired there was still an outstanding amount of Sh.3l8, 000/=. Repaying this amount proved to he extremely difficult, especially since the Mahajan’s monthly income was Sh.4, 450/=, and its expenses Sh.4, 860/=. These expenses included interest payments of Sh.3, 285/=. Thus the Mahajan would be making a profit of Sh.l, 575/=, had it not been for the loan, instead it was facing a net deficit of Sh.410/= each month. Up to this time the Mabajan had paid Sh.97, 840/= in interest payments alone. This did not affect the cultural and religious activities of the Mahajan though which continued as usual.
‘Chopda Poojan” was introduced in 1958 at the community hall. Many businessmen took advantage of the social event and this also raised some funds for the Mahajan. On the side line some individuals regularly contributed to the Refugee fund which benefited many helpless families, via school fees, rations, clothing and other necessities. The Mahajan continued its work as resolving disputes in divorce cases and signing and recording passport documents. It was also involved in a case to help a mental patient that had been admitted to Matharc Hospital, as well as reviewing its constitution. Quite a range of activities wouldn’t you say!
Before the end of the Mahajan’s fourth decade many assets were acquired through donations, like a microphone and loud speakers, a wall clock, and particularly a ‘Mandap’ for weddings.
The fifth decade started with the building of the present dining ball. Following this all efforts were concentrated on fund raising to meet the Mahajan’s deficit. Amongst the main committee workers the following took up the challenge to free the Mahajan from all its dues. They were:
  • The Chairman, Shree Gordhandas Dharamshi Kantaria
  • Shree Kantilal Devani
  • Shree Narandas Ruparelia
  • Shree Prabhudas Kotecha
  • Shree Ka!idas Thakrar
  • Shree Ratilal Kanani
Incomes from some of the fund raiser they conducted are listed below:
Fete - Sh.17, 952/=
Film show - Sh.5, 500/=
Jagdish Pandya Show - Sh.2, 330/50
Including other contributions Total income for 1963 was Sh.103, 313/=
Fete - Sh.8, 325/=
Film show - Sh, 7,000/=
Including other contributions total income for 1965 was Sh.145,l04/=
Play organised - Sh.5, 759=
Debts were as follows:
1/1/1963 East African Building Society Sh.278,000/=
31/12/1963 East African Building Society Sh.20, 000/=
1/411964 Standard Bank Sh.17100/=
31/12/1964 Standard Bank Sh.12, 000/=
3 1/12/65 Standard Bank Sh.51.000/=
                  Refugee Fund Sh.2, 500/=
                  Youth League Sh.2, 500/r
                  Mahula Mandal Sh.4, 000/=
Interest paid in 1962 amounted to Sh.25, 777/= and in 1963 amounted to Sh.30, 901/=.
The disbanded “Lohana Volunteer Society” had funds of Sh.6, 500/= which they presented to the community in July 1966 and the outstanding loan from the Youth League was waived.
Four hundred sets of stainless steel crockery sets were donated by the Mahila Mandal, which was increased to five hundred sets in 1965. By 1970, another 400 sets had been presented by individuals and further seventy-one sets donated by the Mahajan. In 1972, the community was the proud owner of a full one thousand sets.
Thanks to their dedication and hard work, the six member committee’s challenge was finally met by August 1966. With their mission accomplished Shree Kantibhai Devani and his committee wished to retire, but he was re-elected on 21st March 1967.
A mandir committee was formed that would work towards preparing a mandir in the hall. The temple was officially opened on l4thApril 1968. Immediately then the thought of a dining hall was materialised at a cost of Sh. 160,000/=. Given the magnitude of this project, it was surprisingly completed in a very short period. Shree Amratlal Sunderji Raithatha donated a considerable sum of Sh.26, 000/=, to have the hall named after him. The dining hail was officially opened on 6th December 1970. Gas cookers were installed in the kitchen, and both halls were sound proofed alongside.
Interest in education had not entirely been diverted, and to support this Gujarati classes were started at the premises. The knowledge of our mother tongue is surely the most valuable education one can get.
Now the Mahajan was back to being financially stable. Fund raiser was out of the question for quite some time to come. So at the first general meeting of 1967, the secretary, Shree Kantibhai Devani, gave new direction for the community to concentrate on. At this meeting he defined the role of the Mahajan, apart from the facilitating community luncheons and weddings. He mentioned three points that the community should look for from the Mahan. They were;
  • Religious and cultural progress
  • Education and encouragement for the youth
  • Helping the needy in the community morally and otherwise
With these new thoughts the community changed course and worked more toward community service as the current facilities were more than ample and expansion was put aside for a while. A new agenda was set and the community set to execute these activities one by one.
Firstly, decorative lights were invested in for the outside of the building to be used during festive occasions. The road within the compound was tarred and a census of the community conducted. When the old house in the compound was vacated, it was turned into a guest house with thirty beds. A similar fully furnished guest house was also at haiti The Refugee committee was renamed the Welfare committee and everybody seemed to be working together hand in hand, including the Mandir committee, the Youth League and the Mahila Mandal. In the sports field, the community honoured three proud National level Lohana Sportsmen. They were:
  • Since Ashwin Shretta who was also awarded the national Sportsman of the Year Award by the Late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta
  • Shree Akhil Lakhani (cricket)
  • Shree Pranlal Modi (Badminton) 
Funnily in 1972, it was suggested that our community should put up a board in the hall with the names of all the past chairmen and secretaries, as other communities do. In agreement to this, past records were uncovered for the details and it was then, that they realised that the community should be celebrating its Fiftieth Anniversary that year. Hence they decided on celebrating this achievement in a grand way.
From 1973-75, Shree Natubhai Tanna was the chairman, and he introduced the community to the concept of making a will; also his committee conducted a census of the community and published the first Nairobi Lohana directory. During this tenure, the squash court, board-room and dart-room were built: funds for which were raised through a play “Duniya ne undha chasma”. This construction project was a joint-venture between the Lohana Mahajan and the Lohana Youth League. In 1975 Pujya Shree Moraribapu’s first “Katha” in Nairobi was hosted by the Mahajan.
The Lohana Mahajan also hosted Pujya Shree Rameshbhai Oz&s first ‘Bhagawat Sapta” in Nairobi in 1984, and later Pujya Shree Moraribapu’s second “Katha”.
During 1985 a raffle was launched to collect funds to improve the current facilites; build a temple hail, caretakers’ quarters, an ablution block and a guest house. Plans were designed, approved and the construction was completed within the year, under the Chairmanship of Shree Himmatbhai Devani.
Following this, the adjoining property was purchased for Sh, 800,000/= with the assistance of Shree Gordhandas Dharamshi Kantaria and Shree Manekial Rughani.
Student education had always been on the agenda for the Mahajan committee, and in 1988 with Shree Rajnikat Kantaria as chainvan, an Education Fund was established to help young Lohana scholars with their tutelage fees. This Fund is still functioning. In the same year the kitchen was renovated and extra facilities like the cold store were added.
In 1991 a Medical Relief Fund was initiated with the mandate to help community members with their medical expenses. The Fund is also still functioning.
The prayer hall was converted to Ram Krishna Temple in 1992, and the ‘Pran Prathista” was conducted by Pujya Shree Pramukh Swami. A large number of Lohanas and other Hindus turned up for this very auspicious day to witness the opening of the Temples

  • Diwali Patrika, Children’s Feeding Program & Annakut Samagri

  • Diwali Dinner with Live Music

  • Navratri Celebration 2019

  • A Walk & Yoga at Karura Forest

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