Maharashtra : A heritage walk and a modern city

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->Mumbai


Continued from here

We were up early for the part of the Pune trip I was most eager about, the heritage walk. We got to the location at 7 am and headed off with a small group, 2 locals, one American and the 2 of us being guided by a Dr.Ajit Apte. And how wondrous it was. Some highlights of what we learned

The lovely little bylanes that we happened on, ever so often in our walk.


    • Mihrab : An ornamental indentation in the wall of a mosque, which marks the direction of the mecca. Mihrabs vary in size and color but are usually shaped like a doorway and decorated with tiles and calligraphy to make it stand out.
    • Ganesh patti or Kumbha patti : A wooden strip on the top of the entrance door to the house, that would either have a Ganesh or a kumbha design (coconut and betel leaves in a small pot) was carved out as a sign of auspiciousness
    • The grills in a couple of homes had the bust of Shivaji or Queen Victoria as part of the design.

      If you really zoom in, you can see the Queen on the railing where the gentleman stands
    • Shaniwarwada : was where the kings resided, there were other areas for the commoners(done up in Agra style) and comb makers. It had walls of 2-8ft thickness and stairs within the walls themselves.

      Lots of pointing, this time at Shaniwarwada
    • Kasba Ganapati temple : The male deity of the town and the first idol immersed during visarjan in Pune. Also, it’s considered auspicious to give the first wedding invite to the temple here.
    • Lal Mahal : We saw the gate closed and sighed in disappointment seeing the working hours of the place. Our guide, however, tweaked the gates to open them up! Though the building is a reconstruction atop the original structure that was there, the place itself holds great value for being the location of one of the the greatest commando attacks in the history of the world. The attack on Shaista Khan by Shivaji with a troupe of 2000 that wilted down to 50 as stages of the attack progressed made for a gripping tale.
    • Shaniwarwada : Arguably the most popular with 5 gates. Spikes added on the door to prevent elephants who were then used to crash it open. The sun and moon symbols on it to indicate the longevity of the empire.
    • Origin of the surnames Fadnavis : clerk/officer in charge and Peshwa : Chief minister. We also learnt of the popular Nana Fadnavis who handled all the affairs of the Peshwas.
    • Shizam wood and Burma teak used for construction still resist termites and decay because of its oil secretions.
    • Nana Wada : A night school for the underprivileged and a day school run in the premises of a historical building made my day.

      Historical structures continuing to be used as the foundation for the future: Nanawada
    • Baji Rao: the only unbeaten general.
    • Bhausaheb Rangari : I’d heard of the story of the Ganesha festival being used to unite people and bring the masses into the fold of the freedom struggle. But hadn’t heard before of this gentleman whose home was the start of this. He was a renowned doctor of repute and the most memorable part of the walk was the door to his house, that could be unlocked from inside and from outside without a key and I was the proud person of the group to figure out the latch. This was to allow escaping freedom fighters to enter quickly and evade the police.

      The magic door, behind this guy who photo-bombed it
    • Tambdi Jogeshwari : the temple that housed the female town deity and protector. It was also the 2nd location that got the privilege of visarjan of Ganapati.
    • Bhide wada : My personal favourite historical place on the walk was a non-descript location that was the first place in the region where girls were educated by a native person. Near it was also the first library for the vernacular (Marathi) language.
    • Mahatma Phule Mandai : was the vegetable and fruit mandi ironically named after the person who opposed its construction with public money.
    • The Sree Ram mandir in Tulsibaug with monkeys sculpted all over. The Nagarkhana housed a traditional musical instrument called Chaughada that is played every day. Both are located next to the Laxmi road that was the commercial street of Pune since days of yore.
    • Vishrambagh wada where we ended our walk was a pleasant place where people would come to be entertained with music or dance. It had beautiful lamps all over the ceiling.


What sights this space may have witnessed!


On the guide’s recommendation, we had our breakfast at the popular place ‘Sri Misal’ after a wait in a mercifully quick moving queue. We got back to our car for the rest of the day and headed to the other spectrum of time at Lavasa, the modern private hill city.
The drive was beautiful all through the way once we crossed the city’s traffic that refused to let us leave comparisons with Bangalore aside. We sat down by the lake we passed by just after the toll to relax a while and enjoy the pleasant breeze and view the surrounding hills.

Away from it all..


A little further and we reached the planned township. Built surrounding a water source, we headed straight to the promenade for a heavy meal after which we strolled around the area. It was a nice place to explore on foot/on hired cycles and had options for water sports.


What I’d enjoy the most, however, was just sitting by the water on a bench and reading or gazing into the landscape. We left there and got to the hotel after returning the car later that evening.21600847984_2cd6cd5fea_o-2

Up next : Remember Ajanta and Ellora from your textbooks?

Maharashtra: Wandering in Pune

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->Mumbai


Some vacations are not for chilling in the typical sense. They are for wonder and fun and meeting people, places, and new and interesting versions of yourself that you didn’t know could calmly hike 6kms after the more hectic 3 days of foot-work or stay awake without fatigue till 1AM.

Pune : 2 days

After a birthday spent mostly at the bank either physically or mentally, the highlight being a lovely lunch with (mercifully) a group of folks who did not know of it being my birthday, and being interrupted even during the lunch with 2-3 bank related interruptions, all I wanted was to head out the next day with a reasonable level of things settled in.

After starting work from 6 AM and going on till 11 AM (we had booked tickets mid-day by mistake instead of the evening in our holiday planning rush) and wading through Bangalore traffic we managed to get into the flight that would take us away, just long enough for us to be away to be glad to get back home too🙂

We landed in Pune and headed to our hotel room only to be absolutely delighted with it. Cosy and carefully decorated with attention to detail it was just what we needed for a quick nap to start off our vacation. Early in the evening we were up and decided to ramble around the Koregaon park area with my walking shoes (that I was eternally grateful for throughout the trip). Our first stop was German bakery that was just a couple of minutes away from our hotel. It was the first eatery I’d ever been to with a security check and metal detectors, no thanks to the nasty bombing of 2010 that killed and injured many. Keeping that thought aside, we tried to focus on the bakery itself and decided amongst ourselves that we liked it. Some satisfying cheese filled jalapenos and coffee later we decided it was enough nourishment to tide us over our walk of the area. As popular as the kheema pao was, as a speciality in Pune, I didn’t feel up to finishing that for tea and decided to try it some other day.

We continued walking in the area past the Osho ashram that we considered visiting, however stumbling upon a Quora post on a very weird guy describing the place made us decide against it. Nevertheless, it was an interesting stroll through residences of people we’ll never be as rich as. The Ganesha idols in pandals were also all over the place.


Pandals everywhere for Ganesha Chaturthi

We stopped at a sufficiently interesting place for something to drink and had drinks called Boom(Musumbi,Khus,Lemon) and Jhoom (Musumbi,Rose,Lemon) to satisfy our thirst and our tickled curiosity. The cheese from the previous meal still filling us up, we walked back to the welcoming hotel to rest enough for another interesting day.


Interesting dreams paid us a visit : a visit to the heavens and being chased back to the earth , form-changing creatures and floods for me, and a honey badger attacking a cat for him. We took a rick to pick up the hired car for the day and headed off to yummy breakfast of alu vada, puri with shrikhand, and sitaphal milkshake. Following the maps to Sinhgad lead us to a suspicious fine of Rs.250 for a toll ‘missed’ because we were in a hired car. But that was also the first time we passed by the war cemetery. We couldn’t help but stop there even if only by the road, every time we passed by it on our trip. This was only the first.

On the way to Sinhgad


After a bumpy ride with beautiful purple and yellow blooms and thriving plantain plants on either side of the rocky surfaces ,we did reach Sinhgad and were welcomed by the sight of thinly sliced amla, raw mangoes, guava, cucumber, kulfi and boiled peanuts.  We headed off on the trek uphill to reach the top. For all places on this trip, the recurring theme was to carry as much water as comfortable, good walking shoes and hats. Even despite it being expected to have mild weather/rains, it was predominantly sultry. We passed by towers and pools of water randomly showing up along the way. The walking route, however, was quite confusing with it forking every few minutes.


Lots of prettiness


After Kuvempu’s in Shimoga, this was yet another scenic samadhi, this time of Raja Ram Mohan Roy one of my favourite social reformers.

A samadhi with a view


Other than the view from there, it also had a catchment of water and a small Ganesha temple beside it. Once we reached the top it was scenic with the Khadakwasla river also visible. The beautiful breeze gave some respite and sufficiently revived us to make our way back down.


Warning : These yummy looking peanuts have no salt 😦 But try everything else!


After some disappointing boiled peanuts (they were steeped in turmeric and didn’t have any salt!), we entered an area that promised ‘unique art’ for an entry fee. It turned out to be metal etchings depicting Shivaji’s life starting from the time his parents were wedded till his own demise. It made for an interesting overview of him. Just as we were about to leave we also stumbled upon the horse stables of the older ages that were essentially a rock carved out into sections for the animals to rest.
We were quite hungry and decided to head out to the thatched hotel of the guy who first called us over when we had parked the car. We got to sit on chairs at an angle due to the inclined mud-floor, and what a view it was.

A great view and delicious food. Life doesn’t get better


I had the most delicious usal made with green gram. Turned out that the rest of the trip would disappoint me as I continued to order it everywhere hoping for a repeat of the taste. Anand merrily consumed 2 tiny pots of the matka curd too and it was clear that was not a day for food complaints.

This is certified yummy


We lingered a bit more, bought some bottled water, promptly left it behind and then headed off to the Khadakwasla dam in search of some soothing water views.

It was, however, teeming with people and we just went around it without stopping. Looking for places to cover the rest of the day we headed to the Pataleshwar temple within the city. It was a rock cut temple below the ground level, but otherwise wasn’t much to write much about.

Pataleshwar temple


To further our culinary adventures for the day, we headed off to Kalyan bhel which was supposed to be the best in Pune. We did have bhel puri but our Bangalore- bhel- puri-adjusted palate found it too sweet to be completely happy about it. We had to return the car, so stopped again on the road by the war cemetery, then returned the car, packed some dinner of a salad and some chilli-cheese toast from German Bakery again and walked back to the hotel to rest for another day.

Up next : A mix of old and new in Pune