Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dakshinayana Part Fifteen – Pune: The Maratha heartland

Sitting in front of Delhi Gate, Shaniwarwada, Pune
At 10.30 in night, I left Aurangabad for Pune in bus. Less than 15 people were on board, so I moved to an empty seat in the back and slept. After some time, someone started calling me. At first, I thought I was hearing that sound in dream. Then I opened my eyes and checked time in watch – 2.30 in the morning. A well built man standing in the front told me - “Pune”. Why Pune is so close to Aurangabad? If Pune was somewhat far I could have for more time. Finally I woke up, took my bag, got down from bus, moved towards the stand and sat in a chair. After trying desperately for half an hour, I was able to sleep in sitting mode itself (However, cold wind woke me up several times). A couple of hours passed and the environment became nosier; I opened my eyes and turned around – as Stephanie Meyer said “Breaking dawn”!!!

Pune – Citadel of Maratha power

Pune Jn Railway station
Just like many other cities, Pune also started as a small agricultural settlement. She saw the administration of Rashtrakudas, Yadavas of Devagiri, Ahmednagar Sultanate, Mughals, Marathas, East India Company, British crown, before finally settling under newly born republic in 1947. Pune rose to prominence under the founder of Maratha Empire – Chatrapati Shivaji (crowned as Chatrapati in 1674). However, the rise was not peaceful - Mughals under Aurangazeb were determined to bring Deccan under their control. This led to a 27 year long conflict between Marathas and Mughals, which end with the death of Aurangazeb in 1707. It is to be noted here that, this three decades long conflict also bankrupted Mughals both militarily and economically. Just 7 years after the death of Aurangazeb, Marathas reached Delhi which resulted in a Mughal firman (imperial directive), which practically conceded almost all Maratha demands.

Later Pune came under the control of powerful Peshwas. During the years of Marathas ascendency, they won a good number of wars [Battle of Palkhed (1728 against Nizams), Battle of Vasai (1739, against Portuguese), Battle of Arcot, Battle of Trichinopoly, Battle of Delhi (in 1757 against Afghans), Battle of Peshawar (in 1758 against Afghans) are some of them] and brought a major portion of India under their control.

However a major loss in 3rd Battle of Panipat - against Ahmed Shah Durrani in 1761 AD - broke the central authority. Later the empire metamorphosed and emerged as a confederacy under Peshwas of Pune, Gaekwads of Baroda, Puars (or Pawars) of Dewas & Dhar, Holkars of Indore and Malwa, Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain, Bhonsales of Nagpur etc. Marathas once again become prominent and scored a couple of major victories, especially under the command of Mahadji Scindia (capturing Delhi in 1788, defeating Nizams of Hyderabad etc are some of them).

Then came British, Marathas fought three major wars against them.

First ended in the defeat of British at Battle of Vadgaon in 1782.

Second resulted in British victory and Treaty of Deogaon in 1803 (in Odisha, after the Battle of Laswari Marathas gave up province of Cuttack then included included Mughalbandi/coastal Odisha, Garjat/the princely states of Odisha, Balasore Port, parts of Midnapore district of West Bengal), Treaty of Surji-Anjangaon in 1803 (after the Battle of Assaye and Battle of Argaon, Marathas ceded Rohtak, Gurgaon, Ganges-Jumna Doab, Delhi-Agra region, parts of Bundelkhand, Broach, some districts of Gujarat, fort of Ahmmadnagar to British) was signed.

Narayan Gate
Third one also ended in British victory. At the end of this war, Treaty of Gwailor (Shinde and British East India Company) was signed on 1817, which gave Rajasthan to Company; Treaty of Mandeswar on 1818 (Holker and British) made Holkar state a subsidiary to Company; Bhonsle was defeated on 1817; Peshwa was surrendered on June 1818. This war made the Company an overlord of present day India south of River Sutlej. Peshwa's territories become part of Bombay Presidency; land seized from Pindaris became Central Provinces; Rajputana princes accepted British overloadship as well.

At the end of third Anglo – Maratha war, after the victory at Battle of Khadki against Peshwas, Pune was captured by Company on November 1817. During British rule, Pune became a torch bearer to many social and national movements led by Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Tarabai Shinde, Vitthal Ramji Shinde, Dhondo Keshav Karve, V. D Savarkar etc. M.K Gandhi was imprisoned in Pune's Yerwada Central Jail and kept in house arrest at Aga Khan Palace.

Currently second biggest city in Maharashtra, Pune is also home to National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla and National Chemical Laboratory at Pashan. This city also serves as headquarters for Indian Army's Southern Command.

Kasba Ganapati Temple

Kasba Ganpati Temple
From bus stand, I went to Pune Jn railway station. After placing my bag in clock room, took another bus to reach Kasba Ganpati temple. Kasba Ganapati is the presiding deity (gramadevata) of Pune. It is believed that, Shivaji’s mother queen Jijabai Bhosale built this temple in 1630. This is a small temple; you can see Ganpati’s different forms here. After praying there for some time, I went outside and walked towards Shaniwar Wada.


Inside Shaniwarwada
Built using teak, stone, lime etc this palace was the seat of Peshwas until they surrendered it to British East India Company on 1818. Unfortunately, a sudden fire in 1828 razed this building to ground. After walking for a short distance from Kasaba Ganpati temple, I reached at the entrance of Shaniwar Wada. There was a bus, conducting city tours, parked outside the building. However, I had to reserve that facility in advance to use it.

Most beautiful of Shaniwarwada’s remains is its iconic and imposing Dilli (Delhi) gate. I stood in front of the gate for some minutes, watching its size as well as rows and rows of iron spikes in it. After buying ticket from fort entrance I went inside. Only a big outer wall and foundations of an old building are there. Outer wall contains six gates - Dilli Darwaza, Mastani Darwaja, Khidki Darwaja, Ganesh Darwaja, Jambhul Darwaja or Narayan Darwaja. As the name may suggest, Dilli darwaza is facing Delhi. After spending some 30 minute inside the building and hearing a conspiracy theory about 1828 fire, I went outside.

Sinhagad Fort

From Shaniwarwada, I boarded a bus to Swar gate. It is from here we have to go to Sinhagad fort. Due to some reason, I loved this name – Swargate - at the first instance itself. After having a juice, I went to the bus stop to catch a bus to Sinhagad. Without much success, I waited there for a long time. Finally, got a shared auto – 40 INR. Within a short duration, other co-passengers got down at various points. So auto driver talked with another one, and arranged my rest of the journey in that auto. Before reaching Singagad, I had to take one more auto. Last one dropped me in a Y junction near to Sinhagad.

Kadakwasla Dam and Pune city
From this Y junction, one road is going to the fort. However it’s not a bus route. Either we can use our private vehicle or in a jeep waiting there. The problem here is jeep will start her journey after 8 people are there on board. If one wants to start early he/ she have to pay for missing people. As I was the first person to reach there, had to wait for 7 more people. They assured me that, enough people would come in next bus. Next bus came and went; only three girls came - making the total to 4. As I was waiting there for long jeep driver came and asked me – Are you ready to share the cost for rest of the people? I said ok, but girls refused. In between a marriage possession came and went – traditional Marathi marriage. Next bus added a couple as well as a guy to our group, making the total to eight. Finally, we started our journey through the lap of hills. Through the glass in the front I could see the see the beautiful colour covering the hills.

A view from the top
From the top, view was excellent. One can see numerous small hills on one side, Kadakvasla dam and Pune city on other side. National Defence Academy, Kadakvasla dam are located on the side Sinhagad – Swar gate road. One can see the dam from road, however NDA is 3km away.

A view from other side
Aga Khan Palace

Aga Khan Palace
Before reaching Pune, I thought Sinhagad fort may be the difficult one to reach. However, Aga Khan Palace turned out to be the difficult one. Most of the people I checked with were not heard about this palace. Finally, I got a person who knew where it is, with his help I got down at Yerwada. From here many shared autos are available. At the beginning itself, I told the driver – “Aga Khan Palace”. We started the journey and it went on and on. At one point we took a right turn from the highway and moved to suburban areas. Finally he told – “last stop” and took a U turn for return journey.

What the hell? I asked, “Where is the palace?” 
Suddenly an elderly lady got in. She told the driver “Why you took him here? Palace is on the main road”

Driver “He (means I) had to remember him about my destination”

I told to the driver, “That’s exactly what I told you in the beginning itself.” I was sad and angry, if I could not make to the palace today, it may not be possible to visit Panjgani – Mahabaleshwar belt tomorrow. After all how can I leave Pune without visiting Aga Khan Palace? Only 15 more minutes left to close the Palace.

Old lady to me “Palace is way back in the main road, take another shared auto to go back and get down in the main road.” (please note that entire conversion was in Hindi)

Damn. Finally I got in to another auto, this time I told the girl sitting opposite to me “Tell me when we reach Aga Khan Palace”.

She “Sure”
After some time, when we reached a corner she told “That is Aga Khan Palace”
Me: “That is?”
She: “Yes” (pointing to a corner).

I asked the driver to stop and got down at that corner itself. Auto continued its journey. I looked everywhere; there was no sign of a palace. All I could see is a building with a cross at the top – a church. It can’t be Aga Khan Palace. Whatever happened I am sure, Aga Khan is not going to place a cross on top of his palace. People were going in to church for praying. After checking with many people, finally I got a person who knows about the said palace. It was far away from the place, on the side of main road itself. Then on what basis, she told me that – Aga Khan Palace located in that area? I spent around quarter of an hour talking to that guy and waiting for an auto. However nothing was coming. Finally I had to walk all the way back to main road and catch another bus to railway station.

Before 8 ‘o’ clock I reached the railway station. After having some dinner from the station, I spent rest of the night in the station itself – by sitting, walking, sleeping in a chair in sitting mode itself. Without mentioning an interesting incident, that day’s accounts won’t be over. After 10pm, some guys came put their bed sheets in the platform itself and slept there. One dog was standing some 6 meters away from my chair (in the platform itself). Suddenly one guy came, for some 5 seconds looked towards that dog, and gave a kick (using his legs) at its back side. Dog made a crying sound and ran away. This guy put his bed sheet at the same position and slept there.

Pataleshwar Cave Temple (also called Panchaleshvara or Bamburde)

In the morning, from a bus stand close to railway station I got a bus to Pataleshwar Cave Temple. Located in Jangli Maharaj Road, this cave temple was built during the reign of Rashtrakuda period in 8th century. After getting down the bus and walking through Jangli Maharaj Road for a while, I reached the temple. This temple, carved out of basalt rock is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple, even though left incomplete, is still in use. In front of the temple, there is a Nandi mandapa – top of this mandapa is supported by stone pillars. There was not more than 4-5 people when I reached there. After praying there, and took a walked around I came back to the main road.

Nandi Mandapa

Walking... Walking... and Walking

View from Ambedkar Bridge
I didn’t have any other plan for that day, so thought of seeing the city in foot as far as possible. I started walking from JM road, in the direction of Railway station; in between I crossed the river flowing through the city. It is hardly a river; I can say a big open drainage channel in the middle of the city. People were defecting openly in to the river. I spent some time on the footpath of one of the bridge built across it. In some parts, especially close to the river, foot paths are so dirty that you would often think twice before making another move. However, this is not applicable everywhere, in many other locations city was very clean, roads were wide and vehicles generally obeyed the traffic rules.

Crushing the cane to make juice - Sweet and tasty. On the way to Palace
I continue my walking, and finally reached the railway station, through Sasson Road. I thought of taking bus to Aga Khan Palace for a while, however though better of that and continue on foot. After some time, crossed the river once again – using Ambedkar bridge (located close to Yerwada bridge) – and finally reached Aga Khan Palace. In total it took more than 8 kms on foot.

Aga Khan Palace

Palace from a side
This palace was built by third Agakhan, Sultan Muhammad Shah Agakhan, in 1892 in order to provide a source of income for famine affected people in nearby villages. After the launch of Quit India movement in 1942 Gandhi, his wife Kasturba, his secretary Mahadev Desai are arrested and interned in this palace from August 9, 1942 to May 6, 1944. Both Kasturba and Desai passed away during the captivity, and their samadhies are located here. This palace also contains a number of items used by Gandhi; a small amount of Gandhi’s ash is also present next to the samadhi’s of Kasturba and Desai.

Ashes of M. K Gandhi
Samadi of Smt Kasturba Gandhi

Samadi of Mahadev Desai, Secretary of M.K Gandhi

After visiting the entire palace, I sat in the lawn of the palace for close to an hour. School students who came to visit the palace were playing near-by.

Pune Junction

A View form the platform
From Agakhan palace I got a bus to Pune Jn railway station. As there is nothing else to do in Pune and there was not enough time to visit either Lonawala or Mahabaleshwar range, I thought of staying for rest of the day in the railway station itself. Many trains came and went, however a long queue was forming at one end of the station – people were standing in this queue for a more than one hour. I walked towards them, and asked one guy about his destination. They were general compartment travellers waiting for an express going to Patna, but that express will come in the night only!!! 

Fixing street lights
For rest of the time, I walked throughout the railway station, and slept for a while. In the night, when the train to Patna came, officials from RPF also came to maintain the queue. Whoever tried to break the queue, were forced fall in line. Finally that train headed towards its destination. What made me sad is the fact that, in order to get in to the general compartment they have to stand for close to half a day!!! When railway officials are thinking about high speed rails and other things for extra ordinary high cost they might walk through some of the busiest stations in India and try to understand what is the real solution for mass transportation in India.

Finally, after midnight, around 1.30 in the morning my train came. Finally back to Bangalore...


From the middle of the road

Traditional marriage yatra

Pune city from a distance

From the top of Sinhagad Fort

Another view of road

A view form the bridge

A view form the road

Another view of Palace
For reading rest of the articles please visit,

Dakshinayana Part One – An Introduction
Dakshinayana Part Two – Bangalore to Bhopal
Dakshinayana Part Three – Sanchi
Dakshinayana Part Four – Bhopal: The city of lakes
Dakshinayana Part Five: Ujjain – The Holy City, hearing the sounds of forefathers
Dakshinayana Part Six: Indore – Trade hub of Central India
Dakshinayana Part Seven – Jabalpur: Kalchuris, Gonds and Narmada
Dakshinayana Part Eight – Kanha National Park and Mandla
Dakshinayana Part Nine – Chhattisgarh and Raipur
Dakshinayana Part Ten: Nagpur – The Orange City
Dakshinayana Part Eleven – Sevagram: Walking with Gandhi
Dakshinayana Part Twelve – Aurangabad: The City of Gates
Dakshinayana Part Thirteen – Ellora Memories
Dakshinayana Part Fourteen – U shaped Ajanta
Dakshinayana Part Fifteen – Pune: The Maratha heartland

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