The past makes the future, they say. This is indeed true about Pune- the second biggest city of Maharashtra. The ‘Oxford of the East’ or ‘Deccan Queen’, the city of Pune is a beautiful blend of the old and new India. Apart from being an educational and cultural center of Maharashtra, Pune also has a rich heritage.
The foundation of Pune, or erstwhile Poona, dates back to 2000 years ago. The earliest and first recognized period was dominated by the Rashtrakuta dynasty from 90 BC to 1295 AD.
Thereafter, till 1720 AD, the town was under the rule of the Mughal Empire. This was also the time when Shivaji, the great Maratha ruler was also active. In fact, Pune was his home in the growing up years, till he moved his base. Post Shivaji, the Peshwas ruled from Pune, under the leadership of Peshwa Baji Rao I and his descendants.
Finally, post-1820, the British government took over the town and made it into their ‘monsoon capital’. This was the time when many other communities like the Jews, Parsis, and Bohris moved to Pune. The influence of these historic communities is still prominent in the city’s culture in certain pockets, which defines Pune in its true essence.
Though the city has evolved into a high-tech, modern metropolis of the country, Pune has still managed to preserve its heritage in its historical monuments. You can take a walk along its old town, or rent a car in Pune to explore the remnants of its past.
Shaniwar Wada- Built in 1730, this palace was the residence and administrative headquarters of the first Peshwa Baji Rao I. Sprawling across a huge area of 652 acres, the palace is a popular destination today. The fine yet resilient façade, a widespread garden flanked by forts and fountains, the palace reflects the pomp and grandeur of the Peshwa dynasty. However, today, apart from being an architectural wonder, the Shaniwar Wada is also popular as a haunted palace.
Ohel David Synagogue- The early Jew community of Pune and one of the few ones of India, had quite an influence in their days. The Ohel David Synagogue is one such monument. Also called the Lal Deval (because of its red stone construction), this used to be a prominent place of worship for the Jews of Pune. It was built in 1863 by philanthropist David Sassoon, who had contributed largely to the betterment of the Jews in India.
Dagah of Shaikh Salla- Though earlier a religious place, this dargah stands today as a trace of the Islamic rule in Pune. It was built during the early years of the rule when the first Muslim leaders moved into the city.
Aga Khan Palace- For those who are unaware, Aga Khan was the founder and a prominent leader of the Bohri Muslim community of India. This palace in Pune was built in 1892, by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III (of the same family). An edifice of architectural excellence, this palace reflects a fine amalgamation of colonial and Islamic artistry. The palace and its premise had a key role in India’s independence movement. Thereafter and therefore, this place today serves as the Gandhi National Memorial Society.
Shivneri Fort- A 17th century, robust military structure, this fort was the birthplace of Shivaji, which makes it a significant historic landmark of the city.
Sinhagad Fort- This is a small fortress on a hill, located about 25 Km south of Pune. Though in ruins, this place had quite an interesting history, which goes back 2000 years ago. Originally occupied by the Turkish ruler Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, the fort was taken over by Shivaji in the Battle of Sinhagad in 1670. The hill fortress is circled by other Maratha occupied forts like the Raigad Fort, Purandar Fort, and Torna Fort.
There are plenty of more forts, fortresses and historic monuments in Pune, waiting to be discovered. The next time you want to explore this magnificent city, head from Mumbai to Pune by road.