A chance meeting with Shri Pandurang Balakawade a famous historian was an added unexpected bonus as he shared his knowledge with us – right there, outside the Kasba Ganapati. A great coincidence indeed! I made the mistake of not carrying a pen and my faithful dairy hence this post is based on my recollections. There are bound to be some gaps which I intend to correct as and when I do get correct info. Please bear with these shortcomings…
First mentions of Pune were in the 11th, 12th and 13th century literature as a tiny settlement on the banks of the Mutha River. There are references to temples, some of which still exist and are worshiped. Our walk that began at the Shaniwar Wada covered some of these sites namely the Kedareshwar temple, Kasba temple, Tambat Ali, Trishund Ganapati, Nageshwar temple, ruins of an old ‘Kot’ built by a Bahamani king and Dhakta Sheikh Salla. The Punyeshwar and Narayeshwar temples do not exist now.
In the above period, making bangles out of shells from Gujarat and a type of pottery was a predominant occupation of Punekars in that era. They traded spices and cotton cloth via ports on the western coast with European countries. The town was pretty tiny then and limited almost only to areas around the present Kasba Peth. Three major odhe (streams) flowed down from the Bhuleshwar range of the Sahyadris and through the town. Easy access to water may have been one reason for the habitation to prosper.
We got a first hand impression of narrow byelanes (called bol, ali in Pune) which were part of the ‘Peth’ development. Street planning in the later Peths is more organised and plot sizes based on use (narrow deep plots for business areas and bigger squarish plots for the then cantonment area in Sadashiv Peth). Dwellings in Kasba Peth were very close – uncomfortably so for us present day urbanites! Yet several hundred years ago it must have made sense to live close together to ward off enemies…
During their reign (from somewhere in the 1710s), the Peshwas created many lakes around Pune and redirected the three main odhe (streams) by building pipelines. This not only freed up land for construction but became a water source since the river water could not cater to the by now rising population. These masonary pipes were tall enough for a man to stand up in and exist till now.
History and growth of Pune during and after the Peshwa rule, during the British Raj and the Independence struggle is available more freely. Most vade (square residential buildings) that exist now are from this period.
It was a wonderful three hours, a journey back in time to learn how this city arose. We appreciate the organisers efforts and Sharveya Dhongde in taking us on back in time. We look forward to more such walks!