THE FAST-GROWING, industrial city of Pune is situated on the Deccan Plateau, at the confluence of the Mutha and Mula rivers, and is bounded by the Sahyadris in the west. Its pleasant climate and proximity to Mumbai made it the perfect monsoon capital for the British in the 19th century. Then called Poona, it became an important administrative centre and military cantonment. Even today, the Indian army’s Southern Command is based here.
Pune was also the childhood home of the Maratha leader, Shivaji. From 1750 until 1817, it was the capital of the Maratha Confederacy and was ruled by the Peshwas. The remains of their Shaniwar Wada Palace is in the old city. Built in 1736, the palace was razed in a fire in 1828. Only its outer walls and the main entrance with large spikes, designed to deter the enemy’s elephants, survive. Further south is Ashram Bagh Wada, a beautiful Peshwa palace with an elaborate wooen facades . For many visitors, Pune is synonymous with the famous Osho International Commune founded by Bhagwan Rajneesh or Osho, and situated at Koregaon Park in the north of the city. The flamboyant pop mystic, or “sex guru” as he was called, had a meteoric rise in the West. Even after his demise in 1990, his well-appointed ashram continues to attract devotees from Europe Americana.
loused in a traditional Maratha house or wada, is the charming privatelyowned Raja Kelkar Museum. On display are a collection of beautiful everyday objects such as pots, lamps, pens, ink stands, collection of nutcrackers, and other utilitarian items. An interesting piece is a Maharashtrian Chitrakathi scroll painting, used in folk theatre performances.
The Tribal Museum, east of the railway station, showcases the state’s tribal cultures, especially from the Sahyadri and Gondwana regions. The Aga Khan Palace, across the Mula river to the north of the city, was where Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned by the British for two years; today, it is the Gandhi National Memorial. Gandhi’s wife, Kasturba, died here and her ashes have been interred in a memorial in the gardens. Other places of interest in the city include St Mary’s Church, a fine garrison structure consecrated in 1825; the rock-cut Pataleshwar Temple, dating from the 8th century; the Parfait Temple perched on a hilltop; and many fine gardens, including the Empress Botanical Gardens and the Bound Gardens. Pune is the centre of Maratha culture, with a lively tradition of theatre, classical music and dance. It is also an important university town and is home to the prestigious government-run Film and Television Institute and the National Film Archives.
ENVIRONS: About 6 km (4 miles) southwest is the National Defence Academy, the training school for army, navy and air force cadets, at Khadakvasla. Further southwest are the spectacular forts of Rajgad and Sinhgad (the “Lion Fort”). The latter is associated with Shivaji’s general, Tanaji Malasure. According to legend, he tied strong ropes to monitor lizards, made the creatures stick to the fort walls with their adhesive foot pads, and thus scaled the walls and captured the fort.