Pune, or Punewadi, as it was earlier known, is a place in Maharashtra where the past meets the present. Punekars, as they like to fondly call themselves, have profound love and respect for this historic city. They take immense pride in being an integral part of this culturally, historically, and politically decorated city.
Pune is also known as the cultural capital of the state. Rightly so, because culture and tradition have so much more importance and reverence in the city-dwellers’ hearts that it keeps them rooted and also helps the unique culture of the city thrive. The city has a peculiar, distinguishable character that it has strived to maintain over the years and that is precisely what sets it apart from the other cities.
Pune emerged along the banks of the river Mutha and the 18 Peths or wards were in the heart of the city. Each Peth had a specific role to play in the city’s daily routine and administration. These Peths, now in the heart of the city, still continue to have narrow, winding lanes with Wadas flanking either side and tiny local shops that have existed for generations together. Thus the significance of all the Peths in Pune lasts even today.
Pune was home to numerous courageous and celebrated men and women alike. It witnessed Shivaji Bhosale become Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj under the able guidance of his mother Jijabai; it saw revolutionaries like Mahatma Jyotiba and Savitribai Phule, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and, Swatantryaveer Savarkar to name a few. It was also considered the nucleus for various freedom struggles and home to countless freedom fighters.
Pune, during the Peshwa rule, was considered the most politically charged place in India. The city saw the Peshwas rise to power and also witnessed their downfall. This period saw Pune in all its shining glory. The Pune of Peshwa era or Peshwai Pune as it was referred to saw an abundant rise in the number of wadas as a place of residence. With architectural marvels like the Shaniwar Wada, Vishrambaug wada, Kasba Ganpati, and Omkareshwar temple being built; the city had a distinctive architecture with wooden structures, peshwai arches, parrots, and banana flowers, multiple courtyards, intricate carvings and so much more!
The city has always held its art, crafts, culture, heritage, and historical lineage so close to its heart that it strives to keep it alive even today. Local artisans and craftsmen have been assigned places to sell their goods and these markets are thriving even today. With the Kumbharwada hosting the kumbhars or potters, the Burud Ali (ali meaning street) is known for its bamboo and cane goods, Tambat Ali has artisans creating unique pieces from brass and copper; the city hosts these artisans and craftsmen so well while also giving them their due.
Pune is big on Ganesh festival and celebrates the festival with immense pleasure and fanfare. The first sarvajanik (public) Ganesh Utsav was started here in Pune by Bal Gangadhar Tilak (Lokmanya Tilak) and is still celebrated with great joy and vigor. Ganpati idols are installed not just in homes but also on the streets and people celebrate their beloved Ganpati Bappa for eleven days before bidding him adieu.
The Dhol-Tasha Pathak during Ganpati is a custom that one will find Punekars taking immense pride in. Dhol-tasha basically is a combination of percussion instruments that were previously used during the war but are now used to commemorate the aagman (the arrival) and the visarjan (the departure) of Lord Ganesha during the festival.
Pune also takes its ‘Natak’ culture very seriously. A natak basically is a play or a drama. In Pune, one can find women dressed in silk sarees with gajras adorning their perfectly done hair buns, accompanying men dressed in kurtas or the likes on their way to the theatres. Music, dance, art, and drama are any Punekars’ weaknesses and they do treat them like festivals that need to be celebrated.
Pune is also home to several Kushti players and has a few Talim (a place to practice Kushti) in the city. It is an age-old sport that is actively practiced and is flourishing in the city even today.
Pune is also known as विद्येचे माहेरघर, which loosely translates to ‘the hometown of education. It is also referred to as the Oxford of the East because of the numerous education institutes that surround the city, namely: Fergusson College, Sir Parashurambhau (S.P.) College, Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, College of Engineering Pune (COEP), and countless more!
Pune with its lush green landscapes (which gives it the name Deccan or Dakkhan, meaning south-side (plateau)), pleasant weather, and not much hustle-bustle was a pensioner’s paradise a few decades ago. It gradually became one of the most sought-after places in Maharashtra. It is also an IT hub today and boasts numerous educational institutes. Political associations, cultural, historical, and religious significance was just as much a Queen back in the day as she is today. Hence, it is rightly called as the Queen of the Deccan.
Diddee, J., Gupta, S. (2000). Pune Queen of Deccan. Pune: INTACH, Pune.