The approximately 140-year-old Mahatma Phule Mandai (1884), formerly known as Lord Reay Market (1939), is regarded as the city’s oldest and largest vegetable market even today. The location is at Shukrawar Peth, in the heart of the city of Pune. Its sloping red roof, basalt rock, and intricately carved Porbandar stone embellishments make it easily recognizable from afar. Its grand scale compared to its vicinity it resides in, along with prominent Gothic architectural elements makes it an impossible structure to ignore. The Mandai, with an 80 ft tall octagonal tower with eight wings containing arms that radiate in all directions and spread over 1.05 acres of area.  The Mahatma Phule Mandai—Pune residents affectionately refer to it as “Mandai”—holds both history and culture.”Mandai”—holds both history and culture.

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Mahatma Phule Mandai Pune_©tanyajose

History of the Market Yard

Mandai played a vital role in the social, political, and cultural reforms in the city’s development, according to historians. To meet the needs of residents’ everyday needs, Mandai was created as a permanent communal market space replacing the Market open-air market located near the Shaniwar Wada since it became chaotic and uncontrolled after the  Shaniwar Wada fire in 1829. The previous market at Shaniwar Wada was convenient for most citizens due to its proximity and hence was opposed by many civilians along with Mahatma Phule who ironically is said to have objected to the construction of the market using public funds. Under the direction of British engineers Meliss and Ducat, local builders Rao Bahadur Bapuji Kanitkar and Naraso Ramchandra Godbole started construction on the building in the year 1882 and completed it in the year 1886.

Role In Freedom Struggle 

However, the market now serves as Pune’s commercial center and was previously a significant site for the liberation movement. The open space in front of the Mandai, which was used for hosting political rallies, public occasions, and social events, has witnessed many freedom fighters addressing large gatherings like Gandhi who spoke at an event held in Mandai. A clandestine radio station had begun its operations from Abhyankar Wada, right behind Mandai.

Mandai as a museum 

The building also housed the Reay Industrial Museum, which served as the first public museum in Pune. The Industrial Museum intended to showcase artifacts in India that could be sorted as antiquities, or as industrial arts. The crafts, exhibitions, and industrial arts could potentially give financial rewards to India and Britain.

 The Vegetable market as a community space

There are currently more than 520 fruit and vegetable stalls. The significance of Mandai will always be a remnant of the British era for the Pune residents despite being an ancient part of the city’s legacy.

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Octagonal Tower_©tanyajose

The prominent octagonal central tower radiates into 8 wings. Every wing is dedicated to certain vegetables and fruit along with shops dedicated to seasonal mangoes, berries, guavas, etc. The design is done in such a way that one can experience the facades while walking alongside the road in a sequence. All eight entries lead to a naturally well-lit space with an occasional cool breeze.

The entrance is greeted with lovely hues of antiques, flowers, wonderful aromas of fresh fruit, and traditional cuisine items. The northernmost outer lanes have fruit vendors, the middle ones have vegetable sellers and the southeast part is reserved for onion and potato sellers. The shops are raised on a platform for easier loading and unloading and for easier viewing of fresh produce for customers.

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Produce from market @tanyajose
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Market @

Architectural Elements

The tower has Gothic features from the Gothic arches, Lancet windows, coping, voussoirs, string courses, cornices, and finials that are intricately carved from Porbandar white stone. The octagonal tower has a lancet window and a small rosette detail in the central spandrel on each side topped by the pitched tiled conical roof supported by teak rafters. A veranda with a tiled lean-to roof surrounds the tower. The first-story veranda floor is supported by iron rafters and iron pillars with Corinthian capitals. The Façade of the structure showcases symmetry. On all sides, two open Gothic arches are placed on the ends of each of the wings with a small clearstory window providing light to the double-height structure.

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Produce from market @tanyajose
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Gothic Features_©tanyajose

Mandai as Exhibition

A wonderful local art exhibition is held in January as part of a cultural festival called Art Mandai. The fruit and vegetable dealers let artists set up shop and use their space to display their creations. The bhaji mandai transforms into a hub of music, theatre, art, and photography for just one day. Moreover, during Ganesh Chaturthi, the market’s oldest Ganesh mandal in the city draws an impressive crowd.

Public Space

Amidst the urban landscape of the city, Mandai lies hidden in the cocoons of heritage at the core of the city. From market cum museum to community gathering and exhibition space the Mahatma Phule mandai has stood the test of time. The Architecture stands out however, the function market fits and blends into the local life of the people. It will continue to be the heart and soul of the community, which gives people a chance to interact with each other and create a strong sense of place.


Dastane, Sarang. “Mahatma Phule Mandai completes 125 years | Pune News – Times of India.” The Times of India, 6 October 2010, Accessed 14 August 2023.

Jain, Anushka. “Mahatma Phule Mandai in Pune: A heritage, a home.” Make Heritage Fun!, 15 April 2017, Accessed 14 August 2023.

“Mahatma Phule Mandai Complex.” Sahapedia, Accessed 14 August 2023.

“The Reserve: Archive of Top-Reviewed Essays.” The Reserve: Archive of Top-Reviewed Essays | Berkeley Prize Essay Competition, Accessed 14 August 2023.