Heritage Walk

A heritage walk in Pune! While we vaguely knew about the history of the Shanivar Wada or the gram daivat (Kasba Ganapati and Jogeshwari) we were very curious to know if there were any remnants from the time that this city arose and developed. We have read about and participated in heritage walks, walking tours of other cities in the world… Reading a book and walking along simply would not recreate history. It had to be a guided walk…

Our wait was finally over with a walk organised by Nature Walk and Creative Outdoors with Sharveya Dhongde as the expert. It was an amazing experience! He ably recreated the atmosphere of a bygone era as we visited some ancient temples that are not commonly know and recounted the related history as we went by.
The ‘walk’ began punctually which is quite a feat for Puneites who are notorious for their disregard for punctuality! This boded well for the next few hours…

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.

Some time in the former half of 1600s the city was destroyed by Adilshah of Bijapur and a donkey led plough was said to have been used to raze the city. It was only when Jijbai and her young son Shivba came to Pune with the dream to set up the Maratha empire that Pune got a second life. A golden plough was said to have been used to plough the ground to rejuvinate agriculture… Gradually the town grew as did the power of Shivaji… Prosperity came to Pune.
After Shivaji, the Peshwas contributed extensively to city development.

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!

While authorities have made some efforts at restoration or protection of such historical sites more needs to be done. I have included links to some web articles with more information about places mentioned in this post. Do share any historical information or links to them so we all are better informed.




One Reply to “Heritage Walk”

  1. Your post evoked nostalgic memories on my childhood days which I spent in the places you mentioned. (Looks like I have become "heritage" too!)
    I used to conduct Heritage Walks in Mumbai and am so happy to know Pune is following suit too.

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