Welcome to Punya or ‘the city of virtue’. The Sankrit name of Pune evokes memories of a city dotted with temples and religious institutions. Pune is all that and more. It is the eight largest metropolis in India and the second largest city in the state of Maharashtra.
The city was the seat of the Maratha Empire. Under the great ruler Shivaji, it saw rapid growth and development. Under the British Raj, it was also the ‘monsoon capital’ of the Bombay Presidency.
Today, Pune is a vibrant metropolis, famed for its educational and cultural facilities. Its economy is strong and bolstered by well-established manufacturing, glass, and sugar industries. The nineties saw a wave of foreign capital investment here. The boom in the IT and automotive sectors here saw its population burgeon to 55 lakhs and the per capital income leap to the sixth highest in India. Pune continues to attract skilled labour from all over the country. Add to that fine educational institutions with students from all across and you have a city with a very cosmopolitan feel.
As a matter of fact, all communities come together to celebrate its famous Ganpati festival. Pune is the origin of this festival which is celebrated with great fanfare all across Maharashtra and parts of India. During this ten-day long festival, almost every neighborhood puts up a tent with an idol of the elephant God Ganesha, complete with decorative lights and blaring music. Soak in the festive atmosphere and even be part of the idol immersion parade!
Pune has very distinct summer, monsoon and winter seasons. Summers are hot, with April being the warmest month. But owing to its high altitude, nights remain cool all through the year. During the rainy season, be sure to step out with an umbrella! And when you step out, do sample the local cuisine.
It uses liberal amounts of coconut, garlic, chillies and is a foodie’s delight. Don’t forget to try the famous Puran Poli (a dessert bread), bhakri (millet pancakes) with pithla (a flour-based curry)!
Sightseeing in Pune includes:
Pataleshwar Cave Temple – This is an 8th centuury rock cut temple. Made of basalt rock, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It has a cube-shaped sanctum and a cicular courtyard right in the front. Its umbrella shaped canopy supported by massive square pillars. A must-see for the religiously inclined and the architecture enthusiasts.
Aga Khan Palace – The palace was built by Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III in the year 1892. It is also called Gandhi National Memorial because Mahatma Gandhi, who was kept under house arrest here during the 1940s. His wife, Kasturba Gandhi and his long-time aide, Mahadev Desai both died while under house arrest here. Visit the museum inside the palace complex to see a rich collection of photographs and personal items of Mahatma Gandhi.
Red Palace – This is one of Pune’s most famous monuments. Constructed way back in 1630 AD, it was built by legendary king Shivaji’s father. Shivaji lived here until 1645 after which it fell into ruins. The present day structure was rebuilt by the Pune Municipal Corporation in 1988.
Shaniwarwada – This palace fort was the seat of the Maratha empire. It was built in 1736 at a sum of Rs. 16,000, an astronomical amount in those days. It derived its name from ‘Shanivar’ which means ‘Saturday’ in Marathi. It was largely destroyed in 1828 by a raging fire but you can still see some of the surviving structures that bring back memories of the princely state!