Pune is a city of many things and one of the most important things that define Pune is its historical identity. Though it cannot be compared to the historical importance of Delhi, Pune nevertheless holds a special place. Let’s check out some of the most important historical places in Pune and the stories behind them.
This is the first historically important location in Pune. Located in the heart of Pune, close of Shanivarwada is Lal Mahal, a place where young Shivaji lived and trained with Jijamata ( his mother) and Dadoji Kondev. The original mahal was built by Shahaji, Shivaji’s father for Shivaji and Jijabai, but that palace fell into ruins and eventually razed to the ground. The current Lal Mahal is symbolic and built by the PMC. Lal Mahal also became famous for the encounter between Shivaji and Shaista Khan. Shaista Khan had laid a siege to Pune and occupied Lal Mahal but Shivaji with his famous guerilla warfare techniques not just defeated a powerful Mughal army but cut the fingers of a fleeing Shaista Khan at Lal Mahal. Today, Lal Mahal is converted into a mini museum that holds paintings and replicas depicting the era of Shivaji Maharaj.
Shanivarwada was built and gained prominence in the Peshwa era. Situated close to the Lal Mahal, Shanivarwada was the seat of power and most important decisions were taken here. This wada also had a history of misfortunes and that too made the wada historic. Shanivarwada has the reputation of being haunted with the ghost of Narayanrao, a young Peshwa who was killed by his ambitious uncle and aunt. It is said that Raghunathrao wanted to be the Peshwa and hence he sent out a message to his followers to capture Narayanrao but Raghunathrao’s wife Anandibai, changed a single letter thereby making the sentence “Kill Narayanrao” A 17 year old Narayanrao was brutally killed while he ran to ask his uncle’s help. There is a popular belief that every full moon night, one can hear the pleads of the young Peshwa in marathi Marathi words “Kaka Mala Vachva” (Uncle save me) from the ruins of Shanivarwada.
Kesariwada is an important part of India’s Freedom struggle. It was the residence of Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak. Important activities related to freedom struggle happened here. Tilak also started the newspapers Kesari in Marathi and Maratha in English here. The wada housed the newspaper office. Long discussions about Swarajya and India’s freedom struggle shaped here. The idea and implementation of Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav too was witnessed by Kesariwada. The Kesariwada today has murals about the activities, the office of newspaper Kesari, writing desk and original letters of Tilak. The wada also hosts the first Indian National Flag unfurled by Madam Cama.
Aga Khan Palace
Aga Khan Palace was built by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III in 1892. He wanted to help the famine struck people of the surrounding villages and hence commissioned this palace which gave employment to 1000 people. The palace shot to national recognition when Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi and his secretary Mahadev Desai were put under house arrest here following the Quit India Movement. They were imprisoned between August 1942 to May 1944. Mahadev Desai and Kasturba Gandhi both died in this period and their Samadhi’s are located here. The palace also hosts a small museum that includes some furniture, from that period, letters, photographs and a few household items used by Gandhi during their stay.
Ferguson College Room No 17
Fergusson College Room No 17 in Block I of the boys hostel looks like any other room from the outside, however a small marble plaque at the top informs people that Swatantryaveer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar lived in this room during 1902-05. Many know about his jail term in Andaman but not many know that his ideas of nationalism were strengthened in Pune. He was a youth leader and started the Abhinav Bharat Society. His room is preserved in his memory. It has a bust of Vinayak Savarkar and the room is open for public on his birth and death anniversaries.
This was the fort that was earlier named Kondana. Shivaji’s brave general Tanaji Malusare won the fort, but lost his life while fighting. Shivaji famously said, “Gad aala pan Sinha gela” loosely translated as ( We won the fort but lost a lion) The fort was renamed Sinhagad in the memory of Tanaji Malusare.
Tanaji Malusare was busy preparing for his son’s wedding and so Shivaji was hesitant about asking him to go on this mission, however when Tanaji heard this he said his son’s marriage can wait, but first we need to marry Kondana with Swarajya. He and his soldiers climbed a steep trek and fought valiantly to win back a strategic fort for Shivaji. This tale is popularly told by the Ballad of Sinhagad. Today there is a bust of Tanaji Malusare, his Samadhi and a small info center that gives information and history about the fort.
Pataleshwar Temple is one of the oldest monument in Pune India, constructed during the Rashtrakuta period. The temple was carved out in the 8th century and is made of basalt rock. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is below the present level of roads and is located in cave. The temple structure though incomplete offers some great insights into the architecture of 8th century. Being the oldest monument in Pune, it is declared a protected monument by the government. This temple is located in the hip JM road area, yet the place is cool and quiet and hence is a popular place for students to study during exams.
Kasba Ganapati temple was commissioned by Jijamata ( mother of Shivaji Maharaj). Story goes that when Jijabai arrived with an infant Shivaji to Pune and were settling in Lal Mahal. Dadoji Kondadeo, the administrator of Pune, while rebuilding the city, found a ganesh idol and promptly informed the same to Jijabai. She thought this to be auspicious and commissioned the temple. Since then Kasba Ganapati was also considered the gram devata of Pune. ( local deity)
Katraj Lake was built to supply water to Shanivarvada and the Pune city. This was the main water supply system for Pune in the 1750. Massive ducts and underground tunnels were used to connect the Katraj Lake reservoir. Though not used for water supply anymore, the palace is a good example of man-made lake from the 18th century. Today you can enjoy boating here and visit the nearby Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park.
David Sassoon was a wealthy businessman and treasurer of Baghdad between 1817 to 1829. He was also the leader of Jewish community in Mumbai. He was a philanthropist and builtand built a lot of educational institutions in Pune and Mumbai. The David Synagogue or ‘Lal Deval’ as itsit’s popularly known in Pune was built by him for the Jewish community. The Lal Deval got its name because of the red bricks that are used in its construction. Today David Synagogue is a popular place of worship for Jews in Pune. It also attracts a lot of tourists for its Neo Gothic architecture and history.
So, if you are in Pune don’t forget to take your kids to these places of historical importance. What better way to educate children about the history of a place than visiting those historic places, isn’t it?