of the Deccan
me down to Paradise City where the grass is green and the
girls are pretty” - Guns N Roses, rock group
Dhruva travels to Pune expecting a sleepy suburb, instead
he encounters a city bursting with energy
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grass has always been greener in Pune for Mumbaikars. One
of the greenest urban areas in the country (more than 40 per
cent green cover), Pune with its salubrious climate, a comparatively
pollution-free atmosphere and laid-back character is popularly
billed as the Pensioners Paradise, where
over the years hordes of stressed out denizens of Mumbai have
made their homes.
to Pune City, Shaniwarwada
of the Deccan, Cultural Capital of Maharashtra
and Oxford of the East are some the sobriquets
for Pune. It is a city with a glorious past, an innovative
present and a promising future. The brand new umbilical cord
of the Express Highway notwithstanding, Pune has finally emerged
from the shadows of Mumbai to forge its own identity as a
over 400 square kilometers with a population close to four
million, the one time sleepy town, nestling in the hills of
the Sahyadri Range of the Western Ghats, has metamorphosised
into an Information Technology-BioTechnology (IT-BT) hub,
Maharashtras answer to Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Positioned by the state government as the latest and best
IT destination, Pune in the past few years has witnessed a
slew of IT parks being sanctioned, the largest of which is
in Hinjewadi. The results of the state governments efforts
are slowly coming to light and in Hinjewadi all the major
players have a development centre. Also a host of other international
Joint Ventures have begun functioning in private IT and software
In the 60s and 70s, led by Bajaj Auto and TELCO,
Pune witnessed an unprecedented growth of industry with the
likes of Thermax, Sandvik Asia, Century Enka, and Alfa Laval
(then Vulcan Laval) setting up shop here. This inevitably
led to a sprouting of ancillary industries transforming the
city into a business hub.
Vishram Baug Wada
the future of Pune was not in old economy. Last year, TELCO
posted the highest ever corporate loss in India, Bajaj Auto
has shifted its expansion to Aurangabad and other traditional
industry has died a natural death. Along with it went the
small-scale ancillary industries.
problems also cropped up with the infrastructure being stretched
and rise in pollution levels.
Despite all this the city has marched ahead with vibrancy,
the enormous cultural changes notwithstanding.
a competitor to Indias Silicon City Bangalore for IT
investments, the city does not quite clearly know how it is
going to reconcile this post-modernist positioning with the
traditional mindset of closing shop for three hours in the
afternoon for a homely lunch and siesta. As if to accentuate
this contradiction, a recent study showed that the penetration
of Personal Computers (PCs) in terms of number of PCs per
capita is the highest in Pune. Also the number of basic telephone
connections is also higher than much bigger cities like Ahmedabad.
Pune picks up trends faster than you can blink. It is said
that every time Mumbai sneezes, Pune catches a cold. The city
is a favourite with marketeers for new brand launches, an
everyday affair nowadays.
Bowling alleys, pubs, nightclubs, go-karting etc. have all
added to the excitement of this happening city. In the past
couple of years, major 5-star hotel chains like Le Meridian
and Holiday Inn have set up swanky properties in the city.
these sweeping changes, the inner city or old Pune seems to
have stood still in time with its narrow congested Wadas (as
the old styled houses are called) and Peths (or localities)
concealing interesting bits of history in its inner folds.
A walk down the different bustling Peths, each one named after
the day of the week, gives you a glimpse of a bygone era.
Wada, from where the Maratha empire once ruled and then waned
equally fast and also where the Peshwas indulged less in administration
and more in palace intrigues, is a majestic structure, especially
Dilli Darwaja, the main entrance.
in the centre of the old city, the palace was built in 1736
and was the chief residence of the Peshwas until 1827 when
it was mysteriously destroyed in a fire. Only the fortification
walls with five gateways, the grand Nagarkhana and Hajari
Karanje, a 16 petal lotus shaped fountain with 1,000
heads remain. The sound and light show of Shaniwarwada is
worth a visit.
to this grand edifice is the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, which
houses the motley collection of art and allied objects of
a single individual. Among the 36 sections full of antics,
carved palace doors, miniatures, the Mastani Mahal is particularly
famous. Mastani was the mistress of Peshwa Bajirao. Across
the road is the Lal Mahal, housing a gallery of paintings
on the incidents of Chattrapati Shivaji Maharajs life.
interesting site connected to the Peshwas is the Parvati Hill
on Satara Road, near Swargate. The Parvati Temple on top of
the hill was the private shrine of the Peshwa rulers.
The Parvati Museum next to the temple houses replicas of ancient
paintings, old manuscripts, weapons and coins. Ensconced deep
in the heart of the city at Shivajinagar, the Pataleshwar
Cave Temple is an eighth century rock-cut temple reminiscent
of Ellora. The Shiva shrine in it is an architectural marvel
hewn from a single rock with massive pillars.
home as far as history is concerned, the Aga Khan palace is
a major landmark of the city and one connected to our freedom
struggle. The beautiful palace with salons, suites and manicured
lawns is where Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders of the Indian
National Congress were imprisoned during the 1942 Quit India
Movement. It is named Kasturba Gandhi Smriti Mandir in memory
of Gandhijis wife who expired during imprisonment.
Darwaja, main entrance of Shaniwarwada
garden of Osho Ashram
the cityscape is dotted with such windows to the past, Osho
Ashram of Rajneesh in Koregaon Park, is a pocket of the new
age lifestyle. Listed amongst the most popular sights in Pune,
the one hour guided tour of the premises provides a glimpse
of their celebration of life philosophy.
the guided tours (two) which have to be booked in advance,
the Japanese garden (open from 6-9 a.m. and 3-6.30 p.m.) developed
over a nalla by the disciples is also worth a
dekko. The Ashram propelled Pune on the world map long before
it was marketed to the international tourists by the colourful
cultural extravaganza of the Pune Festival (Ganpati festival).
The city comes alive displaying all its myriad hues during
this ten-day festival organised by MTDC, the Pune Festival
Committee with the co-operation of the Department of Tourism,
Goverment of India and the people of Pune.
sports events like traditional bullock cart race, acrobatics
on the malkhamb, water sports, trekking, golf,
cycle and motor-cross rallies, body building contest and yoga
demonstrations are the main features of the festival. In addition
there are ghazal nights, instrumental music concerts, classical
dance performances. Film stars and celebrities from other
walks of life also visit the festival.
Amidst such celebration of culture has been the emergence
of Pune as an IT hub adding to this cauldron of contradictions.
The influx of IT professionals and entrepreneurs will mean
further growth as a youthful, cosmopolitan
city, a trend set by the large number number of educational
institutes and defence establishments.
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