This post was pending since January 2012. I was in Pune for a conference, but the day I left the city, I was lucky to get the hospitality of my friend Santosh Sali. He painstakingly took me around the circuit that I have shared with you – must visit!!
Shreyas: Lunch- near Deccan Gymkhana, this is one of the best places one could get a Maharashtraiyan Thali at Deccan Gymkhana. Especially their salad, sweets like Puranpoli and Ukadicha Modaks are heavenly! Ukadicha Modak have the filling similar to the fresh coconut halva, and the outside layer has a very delicate, mellow taste and it is very soft because it is steamed, not fried. A must-eat!!
Caves: Can you imagine a cave in the middle of a city? Its neighbors are banyan trees, a busy road, a nice garden and much more. As you enter the campus, you see a circular formation. The roof says it all – that it is cut out from a single block. This is a housing for the Nandi that faces the lord Shiva in the temple, which is made in the same fashion as we have at Ellora. Welcome to Pataleshwar caves! The Archeological note says that it dates back to the 8th century!!!
The feeling, especially after reading this is amazing. Just touch the stone on the pillars and it seems to tell you something… This effect is heightened by the fact that you don’t expect to see anything quite like this in an area surrounded by a hospital, patent office, meteorological office and several school-colleges.
Then there is BKS Aiyangar’s Yoga Ashram, considered among the top training centers in India.
But the jewel in the circuit would be Shaniwar Wada.
It’s exquisite. And so full of rich, valiant, romantic history. The outline is that the Maratha rulers had shifted their residence away from the heart of their empire, and the prime minister – Peshwa looked after the daily reigning. The first Bajirao constructed this fort with beautiful, impressive and strong features: Just see how grand it looks now, after so many years after the 17thcentury, and inadequate upkeep:
There is also a gate known as Mastani Darwaza in this complex. Mastani was Bajirao’s beloved. Some stories identify her as a dancer and the Peshwa’s concubine, and according to some other stories she was a princess married to Peshwa as Bajirao rescued her father from enemy attack. What is noteworthy is, this woman was beautiful, an accomplished dancer and knowledgeable in music, a trained fighter and horse rider. She also was known to have heavy influence on Bajirao, which other family members did not like. Stories have it that she was later shifted from this main complex elsewhere. She died soon after Bajorao died in an illness.
Very close to this place is a memorial museum, known as Lal Mahal, where they have a line up on display explaining the history of Shivaji, his early years and some of his political career. The icon in the front is of queen Jijabai, Shivaji’s mother – a powerful lady with strong convictions, an active leader with high influence on the people of her country.
Finally before ending the circuit at the Pune station, there was the Dagdusheth temple to be visited. It is said that this is the original Ganesh temple from where the love for the God through out Maharashtra was made ceremonial, because the British had forbidden the public gatherings. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a lawyer and a freedom fighter, popularised Ganesh Puja attended by huge number of devotees, which helped him unite the people and communicate with them effectively.