Dubbed as the ‘Oxford of the East’, Pune has some of the best colleges, which
Dubbed as the ‘Oxford of the East’, Pune has some of the best colleges, whichattract students from across the country. As a result, it has become such a melting pot of cultures. The Film and Television Institute of India, Symbiosis International University, Fergusson College and Maharashtra Institute of Technology are among the top colleges in the city. Pune is a city where the past and the present both assert themselves with equal tenacity. So, how does one wander into a city, which is like a fabric holding so many different times simultaneously in its weave? The answer is to go slow, and gently tug at a thread that is of interest to you.
If you enjoy spotting wildlife, go to the Bund Gardens on the Burning Ghats Road in the winter. The Mula Mutha flows by, frustratingly out of reach. There are no boards here to indicate a pathway to the banks. You must find it yourself – dirt tracks will lead you to the water’s edge, where you can enjoy a pleasant stroll. On the other side of the river, a large patch of forested land has been cordoned off as a bird sanctuary.
Here you will soon discover that you are not the only one around. A young foreigner might be busily sketching a landscape, envisaging it as his masterpiece. Further down, a photographer might be sitting on a rock, with his multi-lensed camera trained on the river. Slowly, the roar of city traffic will begin to fade away. You will hear other sounds, such as shrill birdcalls and eventually you will see the birds too. Brown-coloured cranes taking off from the water, a posse of brown and white ducks floating merrily, a white, long-legged bird making a water raft of a floating weed and a soaring eagle, its keen eye ever watchful. Walk further, along the long grass with maroon and pink wildflowers, where you might startle birds hiding in the undergrowth. Continue till you begin to hear the distinctive gurgle of water; the river here turns into a small waterfall. Arriving at this little haven in the middle of a bustling city will definitely be a lovely surprise.
If culture and music are what interests you, Pune is the best destination in the state and probably one of the best destinations in India itself. Aptly termed the cultural capital of Maharashtra, the city plays host to classical, indie and contemporary music shows and plays throughout the year. While the Deccan Gymkhana area, with various auditoriums to showcase music and theatre events provides venues for culture vultures to whet their appetites, Koregaon Park and its surrounding areas, with a young population, have been instrumental in giving a boost to the Indian indie music industry. Many famous international musicians have also performed in this small city.
The city hosts the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav, which is an annual Indian classical music festival. Over 60 years old, the festival is a favourite among music connoisseurs in the city. Pune is also where India’s biggest music festival, NH7, started five years ago. The three-day festival is held between October and December every year. It showcases the biggest names in contemporary Indian and International music industries, and attracts huge crowds.
Pune has plenty of autorickshaws, which are the primary mode of transport within the city. It’s not worth trying to get around in local buses. Private cabs can be hired for sightseeing. Pune Railway Station is centrally located while the airport is about 8 km northeast of the station. The interstate bus station is attached to the railway station.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
An excellent place to start is to walk into a bookshop and pick up the new INTACH ( W intach-pune.org) heritage map for Pune. Their maps have a do-it-yourself guide for walking and driving around the heritage sites.
For anyone interested in temple tourism, the Dagdusheth Halwai Sarvajanik Ganpati is a must visit. Located in Budhwar Peth, the temple houses one of the most serene looking Ganpati statues. Devotees from all over the state flock to the temple and offer their prayers to Lord Ganesha.
The temple was built by a rich businessman named Dagdusheth Halwai in 1893. However, it came into the limelight as the spot where Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a famous freedom fighter, first thought about organising a public Ganesh festival. Eventually this festival became instrumental in uniting people from different walks of life during the struggle for independence.
Till today, this temple hosts grand celebrations during the Ganesh Festival. This festival is also celebrated on a large scale across Pune and other parts of Maharashtra.
With umpteen cultural centres such as the Balgandharva Drama Theatre and legendary eating joints and restaurants, the Deccan area is a favourite among old timers and visitors who wish to experience some of Pune’s original charm. Although a lot of new joints and restaurant chains have opened up in the area, the older and more popular restaurants such as Vaishali, Rupali and Wadeshwar on Fergusson College Road continue to attract loyal crowds.
You can visit the Pataleshwar Caves (next to Jangali Maharaj Temple) on the busy Jangali Maharaj Road. These 8th-century cave temples are dedicated to Lord Pataleshwar, God of the Underworld. Cut from a single rock, the temple is famous for its massive pillars, and large rock cut statues of Nandi, Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and a huge shivalinga.
Come June, Pune gears up to receive a sea of devotees who are part of the Pandharpur Palkhi processions. The warkaris (pilgrims) who follow the bhakti spiritual tradition of Hinduism take up a journey from Alandi to Pandharpur, by foot, to worship Lord Vittal (also known as Vithoba), the resident deity at Pandharpur. Lord Vithoba, considered a form of Krishna, is popular among his devotees as a god who stands for humanity and equality and rejects all kinds of discrimination.
Pilgrims associate themselves with different palkhis (groups of warkaris who follow various saints such as Tukaram, Dhyaneshwar, etc.) and carry out this 11-day procession during the Ashadha month of the lunar calendar.
Clad in saffron, the warkaris are seen in huge numbers across the city for the three days during which they pass through Pune. During this transit period, parts of Pune, where the palkhis set up their camps, turn into fairs, with petty vendors trying to make the most of the visiting pilgrims. Many families and houses in Pune have the tradition of hosting these palkhis during the three days. The city also witnesses major traffic jams and diversions during these three days. However, the palkhis are a riot to watch for anyone interested in their tradition or willing to be exposed to a different culture.
National Defense Academy (NDA)
The National Defense Academy in Khadakwasla is a Joint Services academy where cadets of the Indian defence services go through a combined training before going on to train for either the air force, army or navy. Being the first tri-services academy in the world, NDA’s alumni have fought in every major conflict in which the Indian armed forces have been involved in, since it was established in 1954.
Located near the Khadakwasla Lake, the NDA is a sprawling 7,015 acres campus, strategically located near the Arabian Sea and other military establishments in Pune. The campus houses museums and war memorials that can be accessed by visitors and also organizes a video screening on the Indian Armed Forces. Those interested can apply for the appropriate permits to visit the campus.
Kirkee War Cemetery
Kirkee (present day Khadki) houses a war cemetery dedicated to the soldiers who fought in the two World Wars. The area contains two war cemeteries erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and holds the graves of 1,668 service personnel from World War I and 629 from World War II.
The contemporary face of Pune, Koregaon Park stretches along the Mula Mutha river. Characterised by tall banyan trees that are a throwback to times long gone, the area underwent rapid transformation in the 1970s. While the Colonial-style housing complexes and curio shops have a quaint, run-down feel, hotel Westin and KP Plaza PVR multiplex speak loudly of the changing times. A venue for rave parties in years gone by, ‘KP’ continues to be a favourite nightspot.
A plush residential area, Koregaon Park was made famous by the controversial spiritual guru Rajneesh, who later came to be known as Osho. The Rajneesh Ashram that he set up here in 1974, now called the Osho International Meditation Resort, remains the chief attraction. Although it is still a common sight to see the Oshoites (followers of Osho) walk the lanes in floating maroon robes, it is the young working crowd and college students who give Koregaon Park a casual vibe. Sandwiched between the South Main Road and the North Main Road, exploring its lanes is an enjoyable experience – bargain over curios and other knickknacks, unwind at trendy boutiques or salons, or give into your adventurous side and step into a tattoo parlour.
The 12-acre Osho Teerth Nullah Park is a tranquil garden where one can unwind and appreciate nature. Once a garbage dump, it was painstakingly converted by the Oshoites into an oasis of exotic plants, trees and flowers
Entry Free Timings 6.00–9.00am, 3.00–6.00pm
Koregaon Park has also become a preferred destination for art and music enthusiasts in the city, with many galleries and clubs coming up in its vicinity. The Bliss Art Gallery in Lane E showcases many pieces of contemporary art and organises frequent art shows. The Ark Art Gallery on North Main Road also organises interesting shows. However, it’s the High Spirits Café that really steals the thunder in this area. This cozy, friendly neighbourhood club showcases art works of various local upcoming artists and holds High Souk, an event where upcoming and established artists can sell their handicrafts and interesting souvenirs. The club is also the preferred destination for every music enthusiast in the city. It brings in the biggest names in Indian indie music scene, genre no bar, while simultaneously, very frequently, encouraging local talent. The neighbouring Greek-themed Euriska also often hosts some good bands and musicians.
With most expats making Koregaon Park their home, the area is extremely cosmopolitan. Many cultures come together here, making it a harmonious neighbourhood. From Durga Puja to Christmas, Koregaon Park celebrates most festivals (not just Maharashtrian) with fervour and becomes a common ground for people from various communities to come together and feel at home. The area also houses the Lubavitch Chabad House on the North Main Road.
While here, do pop into the legendary German Bakery. A casual dining place, it is easy on the pocket and offers simple but delicious fare such as sandwiches, pizzas, burgers and pasta. Desserts are more pleasing as are the breakfast options. Near by you’ll find interesting shops for art and craft items and jewellery. Shah Stores has a good collection of semiprecious gems and jewellery, while Crystal Point stocks lucky birthstones, healing and Reiki stones.
The city of Pune is divided into localities known as peth. Upto seventeen peths are located in the central part of the city, which were mostly established during Peshwa times as administrative units. You can walk through the peths, down delicate, narrow lanes and see some beautiful wadas (fortress-like homes, such as the famous Shaniwar Wada, which was once the residence of Baji Rao I, the Patwardhan Wada and the Binewale Wada. The brick tiles on the rooftops, the fine brickwork on the façades and the elaborate, strange animals and plants that feature in the woodwork on the exteriors of these buildings are delightful to observe.
The same walk takes you down Tambat Ali – the copper lane. The rhythmic, simultaneous fall of many leather-coated metal hammers actually increases the fatigue resistance of the vessel, besides giving the characteristic burnish on its surface. This particular craft is called matharkaam and the artisans, koshta kasar.
Kasba Peth is famous for being the residence of Shivaji for a short while. The current Lal Mahal is an attempted reconstruction of his residence. Jyotibaiphule Mandi, easily walkable, houses a large, old market selling a diversity of things. In the old British stone structure, light pours in from a wooden ventilator lattice that runs around the structure. Here a vendor sits amid large platefuls of brinjals. The ones with spiky heads grow by the Krishna river. The banana leaf seller has hung up old, unusual prints of the god Vithoba blessing his devotees. The small snack shop of Baldev Gupta has reputedly been here for two entire generations.
The Tulshibaug Temple has lovely woodwork on its façade, a tall shikhara, a pretty compound with residences and small shops and a wall with pretty depictions of Lord Rama’s life. Vishrambaug Wada must be seen for its beautiful façade, with the large dark curves of wood, rich with fantastical carvings of animals and plants, holding up the balcony.
The cantonment area has wide, lovely roads, and a series of churches and syna gogues dating from the 19th century. You must stop by the St Xavier’s Church, with its gothic altars and the stained glass window with depictions from St Xavier’s life and the Ohel David Synagogue with its striking façade of exposed bricks. St Paul’s Church, with its carved façade, and the archives of the Peshwas, the Peshwai Daftar, are notable.
If you’re interested in astronomy visit the science centre for a show on the premises of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune University.
This unusual campus, with its ‘fractal hostels’, the ‘black hole’ at its centre as an architectural principle, Foucault’s pendulum and unusual arrangement of buildings, all designed by Charles Correa, is well worth a visit. Jayant Narlikar, eminent astrophysicist and science-fiction writer is the founder-director of this institution.
IUCAA Campus Entry Free, but by prior appointment by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) Tel 020-25604603 Timings Thursday 4.00pm Sky Show Timings Friday after sunset W iucaa.ernet.in
This unusual museum in Shukrawar Peth, located in the heart of the city, has been built on the initiative of one collector, Dr Dinkar G Kelkar. Here you will see, in a very un-museum-like, almost homely gathering, specimens of temple architecture from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, bric-a-brac from different homes, replicas of old Paithani paintings, 18th- and 19th-century dolls from Sawantwadi, utensils from the 19th century alongside a 20th-century Ganpati made of aluminium utensils.
Location Off Bajirao Road, Raja Kelkar Sangrahalay Road, Shukrawar Peth Entry Indians ₹50; Foreigners ₹200 Timings 10.00am–5.30pm daily Photography ₹200, Videography ₹500 Tel 020-24482101 W rajakelkarmuseum.com
Aga Khan Palace
Extensively used as a location for the film Gandhi, the palace houses an assortment of photographs and personal objects of Mahatma Gandhi. The samadhis of Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai are also located here. The palace was built by Aga Khan III, Imam of the Ismaili branch among the Shias. The palace was donated by his descendant to the Government of India to make a Gandhi memorial.
Location Yerwada Entry Indians ₹5; Foreigners ₹100 Timings 9.00am–5.30pm Photography free, Videography ₹25 Tel 26612700
Kesari Wada and Deccan College
If you are or ever have been a nationalist, you might want to visit Kesari Wada in Narayan Peth. Bal Gangadhar Tilak lived here for a long time and published his famous newspaper Kesari. By the stair case is the old printing press that once printed this newspaper. Upstairs is a gallery of photographs, some details of Tilak’s trials, handwritten letters by him and the fountain pen used by Rajguru. Before you, the photographs present the legend as a man. Here and there, life-sized replicas of Tilak surprise you from within glass cases: Tilak sitting at his desk, Tilak in prison. The paper still operates from the same premises. People still live in the wada. The straggle of an overgrown tulsi greets you from a faded wooden porch with a sign telling you that this used to be Tilak’s study.
Across the river at the Deccan College, where students gather to study archaeology and linguistics, a small lock greets you at an old door and a marble inscription above tells you that this was Tilak’s room between 1873 and 1875. In the identical adjacent building, still a boy’s hostel, a bright T-shirt and pairs of socks seem to cock a snook at the grim aged walls of stone. The New English School started by Agarkar and Tilak continues to this day.
The handmade Paper Institute
Ambedkar wrote the first draft of the Indian Constitution here. MK Gandhi encouraged the setting up of this unit and KB Joshi, a chemical engineer from the city, set up this waste management, innovative institute. Get your own collection of paper from here.
Location Near Agriculture College Compound, KB Joshi Road, Shivaji Nagar Tel 25530191
Prabhat Museum, FTII, NFAI
The Film and Television Institute of India, India’s premier institute for film studies was established in 1960. It institute is located in the grounds of the erstwhile Prabhat Film Company. Prabhat Museum itself has a very limited, scanty collection from the rich period of cinema in the 30s and 40s when Prabhat Film Company flourished as a film studio in Pune. Take a walk in the historic grounds of FTII. If possible, look up the studios, which continue to be used. Also visit Shantaram Pond, named after V Shantaram, where the historic film Tukaram was shot, and ‘Tuka’ sat, under the still existing banyan tree.
Location Law College Road Timings 3.00–6.00pm on weekdays Tel 25431817/ 3016 Museum Entry Indians ₹10; Foreigners ₹250 Timings 3.00–5.00pm Photography ₹100
At about ₹300 per reel, you could view some classics from India and abroad at the National Film Archive of India.
Location Prabhat Road Tel 25652259
TIP Visit W nfaipunope.gov.in, call or correspond beforehand, to make the process easier
The commercial nerve centre of the Cantonment area, Mahatma Gandhi Road (Main Street) is bustling throughout the week. The British set up a base in Pune in the year 1817 that grew into a military settlement. Today, the Indian Army’s Southern Command has its headquarters here. Colonial buildings, tree-lined roads, gothic churches, sprawling gardens make up this part of the city. While the unattractive SGS Mall stands opposite one of the city’s oldest institutions, Dorabjee’s departmental store, another old timer, the West End is finally undergoing renovation to keep pace with the changing times. This small stretch of MG Road is flanked by East Street on one side and by Centre Street and Taboot Street on the other. Tucked between Main Street and East Street, Fashion Street has over 400 stalls selling all sorts of goods at bargain prices. Walk around to discover some historic buildings such as the Colonial Edward Albert Library (East Street, Camp), built in 1881.
The 95-year-old Dorabjee’s is a well-stocked gourmet store and a one-stop shop for all delectable goods. This quaint place, with Parsi-style cupboards, where all groceries were weighed and packed in brown paper bags, was renovated to today’s modern bazaar look. There are three levels now, of which one is completely devoted to delicatessen, in-house bakery and patisserie. Don’t miss their impressive selection of wines from across the world.
In line with fashion trends of the season, Clover Center is popular with the young crowd avoiding a visit to the many malls with steep price tags. Western wear, handbags, footwear, lingerie, intricate jewellery – every day clothing requirements are catered to. Do not expect street like bargains or high-end quality.
However, the tailoring shops stock good fabric and do fabulous work with embroidery and beading to create formal gowns and wedding finery. A few Kashmiri shop owners here sell very fine silk scarves, shawls and exquisite silver jewellery.
For those looking for old-fashioned bazaars, far removed from the hip, popular places such as KP and MG Road, the stretch of Laxmi Road is heaven. Peddlers move around with different wares: new designs of envelopes to present shagun (money deemed to be auspicious) in at weddings; dresses, clips, the Nav vari sari and the traditional Puneri sari. The small shops in the Tulsi Baug enclosure are great for utensils and silver nose pins.
A walk around the peths will yield all sorts of unusual shops. For example, the cane shops with canes for the elderly, batons for policemen and long sticks for school masters. Special shops selling wares for ‘Kanhaiyya’ – a diversity of dresses and head ornaments for your idols at home. The Juna Bazaar experience, at Kumbharwada, on Wednesdays and Sundays, is a must for those who like to look for their shopping treasures among what is counted as junk.
A range of malls has also come up across Pune. An interesting shop is Either/Or (Sohrab Hall, 21 Sassoon Road, opposite Jehangir Hospital). An eclectic collection of skirts, handbags, books on poetry, slippers and kids’ wear, all inventively designed, are available here.
WHERE TO STAY
Designed like a somewhat generic Indian palace Le Meridien (Tel: 020-66411111; Tariff: ₹13,000–20,000), on Raja Bahadur Mill Road in the centre of the city, is the grandest of Pune’s hotels. Vivanta by Taj – Blue Diamond (Tel: 66025555; Tariff: on request), of the Taj group, is Pune’s oldest luxury hotel on Koregaon Park Road. Also in Koregaon Park are The O Hotel (Tel: 25670011; Tariff: ₹6,000–8,000), The Park Central (Tel: 41054105; Tariff: ₹2,700–3,800) The Central Park Hotel (Tel: 40104000; Tariff: ₹10,000–15,000), and Bel-Air (Tel: 30520570; ₹2,500–8000) in Koregaon Park, has special packages for early bird booking and long stays. The Oakwood (Tel: 25670011; Tariff: ₹6,000–8,000) is near Goodluck Square on Bhandarkar Institute Road. Woodland Hotel (Tel: 26212121; Tariff: ₹3,000–7,000) is walking distance from the station at the Sadhu Vaswani Circle.
Hotel Swaroop (Tel: 25676477; Tariff: ₹2,000–2,400) is in the quiet Lane No. 10 of Prabhat Road with good service and locally well-known simple Maharashtrian meals. Smart Inn (Tel: 25538811; Tariff: ₹1,650–2,950) is in Shivaji Nagar, off Fergusson College Road. Hotel Homeland (Tel: 26123203 Tariff: ₹1,200–1,900) is a good bargain, housed in an old British Raj heritage structure. On Jangli Maharaj Road, Ginger Pune (Tel: 66333333; Tariff: ₹2,699), has decent rooms, Wi-Fi, and a restaurant.
WHERE TO EAT
If authentic Maharashtrian cuisine is Pune’s bread and butter, its restaurants offering international cuisine are its heart and soul. Keeping up to the cosmopolitan image the city has, it has some top quality restaurants and eating joints offering food from around the world. Given a choice, we would call most of them legendary but it’s best if we leave you to experience them and figure out why we think so. Below is a list of the city’s eating joints that you must try.
The Flour Works is located at the intersection of two quaint roads in Kalyani Nagar. This place has an utterly charming ambience and serves quality European and American food. A few kilometers away, Arthur’s Theme in Lane 6, Koregaon Park, is a must visit for anyone wanting to savour authentic European and Mediterranean cuisines.
Malaka Spice in the adjacent Lane 5 is famous for its delicious South-Asian spread. Prem’s on North Main Road serves up sumptuous sizzlers and you can head to the popular German Bakery nearby for some German and Italian food and cakes.
From its outlets in Koregaon Park and MG Road, Pune’s original Burger King (before the international chain with the same name entered the Indian market), now called Burger, serves some of the juiciest burgers ever. Pick anything on their menu, really.
Who wouldn’t like to eat English food in a toy town? Head to 11 East Street Café, on East Street, and you are sure to feel like you’re on a movie set. La Bouchee d’Or on Boat Club Road is a little café serving French cuisine and freshly baked breads.
Visit Garden Vada Pav in Camp to taste Maharashtra’s favourite snack, vada pav. It’s just a mobile cart, but the crisp, crunchy vadas sandwiched between soft pavs are divine.
Vohuman Café on Sassoon Road is one of Pune’s oldest establishments and is a must visit for anyone traveling to Pune. Order their bun maska and cheese omelette. Café Goodluck in Deccan Gymkhana is another oldtimer. Order their paneer bhurji, caramel pudding and Irani chai.
Vaishali on FC Road is famous all over Pune for its south-Indian food. Love, Sugar Dough/ Pink Butter in Shivajinagar is an English-themed café that serves the best cupcakes in Pune.
Authentic doesn’t do justice to describe Durvankur in Sadashiv Peth. Do visit Durvankur and savour their Maharashtrian thali when in Pune.
Polka Dots, in Aundh, reasonably priced, delicious Mediterranean and Continental food. The restaurant also has a branch in Kalyani Nagar. Also in Aundh, April Rain offers North-Indian, Thai and European food.
Try the street food, snacks and dessert options at Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale. They have outlets in Baner, Kalyani Nagar, Deccan Gymkhana and Sadashiv Peth.
If you wish to try some spicy Maharashtrian snacks, Masti Misal, in Kothrud, is a good option. Mayur Pav Bhaji and Juice Bar in Karve Nagar serves some good snacks at very affordable prices.
Jejuri (40 km)
A scenic, religious town, Jejuri is largely visited by pilgrims from the neighbouring towns, on most weekends and festive occasions associated with Shiva. A lovely drive on a smooth road through lush countryside and small towns, ideal for a tea break or an early breakfast of vada pav, then a halt at a colourful bazaar that marks the town. Shops essentially stock what pilgrims seek: puja baskets, fresh flowers, and heaps of turmeric, the main offering to the presiding deity, Lord Khandoba.
It’s almost as if the entire town and it’s inhabitants are engulfed by a haze of haldi (turmeric) – every deity, stone sculpture, the temple floor, the pujari’s dhoti, people’s clothes. As part of the offering, devotees throw handful of turmeric powder into the air accompanied by loud chanting. According to legend Shiva appeared as a turmeric plant to a group of shepherds and hence it is considered as an offering. Again, the residing deity Khandoba is often described as shining like gold and the sun, covered in turmeric. A popular family deity in Maharashtra, Khandoba also finds mention in folk songs. His wives Mhalsa and Banai are also identified with Shiva’s wives, Parvati and Ganga.
A flight of 350 steps, lined with stone deepmalas (tall stone oil lamp holders), lead up to the temple. It is a good idea to take a break during your ascent to enjoy the views of the surrounding hills. Once at the top the vibrant yellow of turmeric everywhere and the deep red of kum kum will greet you as you enter the temple premises. The main doorway has a nagarkhana superimposed on it. There are long queues along the large courtyard of people waiting for darshan; for those disinclined there are panoramic views and an opportunity to picnic outside the temple complex. A fortress like structure, the shrine has 18 kamani (arches) and 350 deepmalas, a deepstambha in front of the temple and a rather imposing mandap. An ornate devali-styled nagara shikara is decorated with motifs, figurines of animals, deities and demi gods. The garbhagriha has two lingas, one of Khandoba and another of Mhalsabai.
The older of the two shrines in Jejuri, the ancient temple of Kadepathar is peculiar for its two lingas. Getting to the temple involves a steep climb, but you will be rewarded by breathtaking vistas of the yellow flowers that dot the landscape. A few dhabas in the temple premises cater to tired visitors, serving tea and snacks. There are no stay options here, so make sure to head back to Jejuri before sun set. There are plenty of cheap eating options in Jejuri. Those looking for a fancy accommodation option can try Fort Jadhavgadh on Hadapsar Saswad Road – a heritage resort.
Ralegan Siddhi (87 km)
Recognised as a model village by the World Bank Group, Ralegan Siddhi transformed from being an extremely degraded village in a semiarid region of poverty to the richest in the country.
The village, situated within the Ahmednagar District, and at a distance of 87 km from Pune, is best known for its environmental conservation techniques. Programmes such as tree planting, terracing for reduction of soil erosion, canal digging, use of solar energy and biogas made from community toilets, have been extensively implemented here.
The village sarpanch (elected head), Anna Hazare, has been instrumental in transforming the shape of this village over the last 25 years. In his quest to make the villagers hardworking and to get rid of all social evils, he banned the consumption of liquor and smoking tobacco. If you come across a wise old man sitting under a banyan tree in the village, he is sure to narrate to you the story of how Ralegan Siddhi was once full of drunk people who wasted their lives and how the banning of alcohol has brought about positive changes.
Today, this little village stands as an example for the rest of the villages in the country that are aiming at positive economic growth and sustainable development.
For more information, contact Anna Hazare’s office in Ralegan Siddhi (Tel: 02488-240401).
Tamhini Ghats (87 km)
Situated on the Konkan route that goes to Goa via Mulshi, cutting through the Sahayadri Range, the Tamhini Ghats are an ideal destination to head to during the monsoon. Full of picturesque views and waterfalls, the ghats are a perfect setting to unwind and appreciate the beauty of nature. The road to these ghats is bad in parts but once you’ve reached, you can halt your vehicle for a couple of pictures or a quick stroll.
Bhimashankar (110 km)
If you want to walk the less trodden path, Bhimashankar is the place for you, with its stretches of sacred forests, lofty hills and the whispering waters of the Bhima river. The sacred linga and the source of the river attract many devotees. Then, there’s the rich Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary. And you can enjoy all this from a cosy retreat. Make sure to visit the exquisite Nagara-style 18th-century Jyotirlinga Temple erected over a swayambhu linga. A small trail begins behind the temple and leads deep into the heart of the forest to Guptbheema, the origin of the river Bhima and one of the most beautiful spots here. The sanctuary also offers many treks in the forest, including one to the sacred grove of Vandev. Watch out for the shekru, an endangered giant squirrel.
Where to Stay and Eat
Blue Mormon Jungle Resort (Cell: 09822667149; Tariff: ₹2,000–7,600) is a 175-acre resort with a lake. Both vegetarian and nonvegetarian food is served here. Ratwa Resort (Cell: 09421008880, 09850248880; Tariff: ₹1,500, dorm ₹2,000), about 6 km from Bhimashankar, has spacious as well as clean cottages and a vegetarian restaurant.
Besides the resorts you are staying in, you can also eat at the local food stalls that line the Temple Road, serving vada pav, poha and thalis.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Regarded as the first leader of the Indian Independence Movement, Bal Gangadhar Tilak is credited for turning India’s struggle for freedom into a mass movement. Born into a Maharashtrian family in Ratnagiri, Bal Gangadhar Tilak is a name that every Maharashtrian proudly boasts of even today.
The first fight for Indian Independence in 1857, ignited many other civilian rebellions across the country. The British, realising the growing unrest within the Indian population, made more stringent laws against the Indians and their growing vernacular media.
Following this, the Indian National Congress was formed and Bal Gangadhar Tilak became a part of it in 1890. However, he opposed the INC’s moderate approach toward the demand for self-government. He published two newspapers, Mahratta, in English, and Kesari in Marathi. By pushing radical content through Kesari, he encouraged the common man to be part of the movement. This resulted in Tilak’s imprisonment for 18 months with a charge of incitement to murder.
Once out of jail, Tilak was revered as a martyr and hero. He coined a new slogan, “Swaraj (self-rule) is my birth right and I shall have it,” and strongly pressed for self-governance. In 1907, he split from the moderates of the Indian National Congress and began to agitate more aggressively for freedom. He was a pioneer of the Swadeshi movement which inspired citizens to use indegenous goods as opposed to the British-made imports. He also participated in the Boycott (of foreign goods) movement.
Probably his greatest victory as a mass leader came when he transformed the household Ganapati Festival in Maharashtra, into a public affair. This helped in uniting people from all walks of life, on a religious platform, and mobilizing them to work for the Indian Independence movement. The festival is celebrated in Maharashtra even today with much pomp and show.
Tilak also helped in founding the All India Home Rule League, which sought self-rule, in 1916–18. He travelled from village to village and encouraged locals to join the Independence movement. This made him a national leader.
For his immense contribution of taking the movement to the common man, he was given the title Lokmanya (accepted by people as leader).
Kayani and Budhani
Spoken about more than many historic sights in the city, Kayani Bakery (6 East Street) is a delightful gem from the past. Emigrants from Iran, Hormuz and Khodayar Irani opened this bakery in 1955. Nothing has changed its appeal and popularity as locals and visitors continue to queue for the scrumptious Shrewsbury biscuits (₹320 per kg), though much more is on offer (mawa cakes, wine biscuits, cream rolls and tutti frutti). Do not be dissuaded by the crowd at the counter as everyone is attended to within minutes. Be ready with your cash to avoid a stern glance from the owner. This Bakery is open only for several hours during the day – shuts during lunch time and reopens in the evening – so, check the timings before you decide to visit this place.
Started in 1955, Budhani Bros (682, Taboot Street) is reputed for making the crispiest potato wafers in various flavours (cheese, tomato, masala, sali). They supply to most supermarkets in the city, so you need not make a special trip to the main outlet to grab a packet. Other snacks such as dry fruit chiwda, salted cashew nuts and peanuts are worth trying as well.
When to go Winters, from November to early February, are the best. The monsoon has its own charm. March to June, a dry heat singes the city, so avoid these months
Location At 1,965 ft on the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, at the confluence of the Mula and Mutha rivers, which unite to make the Mulamutha
Distance 163 km SE of Mumbai
Route from Mumbai Mumbai-Pune Expressway to Pune, via Lonavla
Air Nearest airport: Lohegaon Airport. Serviced by Jet Airways, Air India and Indigo. Taxi costs approximately ₹300 to the city centre
Rail Nearest railhead: Pune Junction
Road From Mumbai, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway makes driving the best option for getting to Pune. The toll charge for cars is ₹195
Bus MSRTC’s Asiad and Shivneri bus services have ordinary, AC and Volvo, Mercedes AC seater/sleeper coaches daily, from 5.00am to 2.30am. Neeta Tours & Travels, Purple Travels and others run run Volvo, Mercedes coaches daily. Log on to
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