Divya posted on 30th March

Beyond Shaniwar Wada: 6 Spots In Pune That You Didn't Know Had Historical Significance

Pune is considered the ‘Cultural Capital’ of Maharashtra, and a hot-spot for historical sites. For tourists and locals alike, there’s plenty to discover in our city – from ancient Wadas to former Palaces, bustling markets, to warrior memorials; here are our top picks.

Pune Nagar Vachan Mandir

Pune Nagar Vachan Mandir is a 169-year old library, located in the heart of Budhwar Peth. Built in 1848, it burned down and was re-established as a library in 1879. It still stands as a functioning public library – with a collection of over 50,000 books, and more than 3,000 registered members. The library houses an extensive collection of Marathi books and newspapers, but have introduced English ones as well. Visit here for a dose of old-world charm; admire their beautiful colonial-era architecture, towering portraits hung on the walls, high ceilings, and the lure of old books {nothing beats the scent of books, in our opinion}! For the nominal fee of just INR 30 per month, you could even sign up to become a member. Bonus points: they’ll even deliver books to your doorstep! To find out more, read our recommendation here.

Vishrambaug Wada

Vishrambaug Wada was built in 1807 and was the residence of Peshwa Bajirao II until his defeat at the hands of the British in the Third Anglo-Maratha War. Famous for its aesthetics – alluring facades, and hand-carved teak wood-work columns, pillars, ceilings, and more; it showcases typical features of Maratha architecture in earthy tones of red, brown, and white – which make it a great subject to photograph. In addition to being a luxurious three-storeyed mansion for the Peshwa, Vishrambaug Wada was the original site for many educational institutions – including a Sanskrit school in 1821, and {later on} also the Government Engineering College, Deccan College, Pune University, and Agricultural College. Currently, it houses a few offices of the PMC and a Post Office on its ground floor. A small museum of Maratha artefacts {for which there is an entry fee} was installed here by noted Maratha historian Babasaheb Purandare, and a handicraft shop by SMILE (Savitri Marketing Institution for Ladies Empowerment) is housed inside the Wada as well. Parts of Vishrambaug Wada are still undergoing restoration, but it is open to the public.

Mahadji Shinde Chhatri

Shinde Chhatri is a memorial to the 18th-century military leader and commander-in-chief of the Maratha army – Mahadji Shinde. The location of the memorial shrine or ‘chhatri’ {meaning umbrella}, marks the site at which he was cremated in 1794, right next to a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva – which Mahadji Shinde himself had ordered to be built. The architectural style is a fine example of Anglo-Rajasthani, and a stunning sight to see. Exquisite carvings on yellow and black stone, coloured window-panes, and old paintings and photographs make it a popular draw for tourists. The memorial went through a period of neglect but is now being restored to its original splendour by Mahadji Shinde’s descendants – the Scindia family of Gwalior.

Mahatma Phule Mandai

Formerly known as Reay Market, it was re-named Mahatma Phule Mandal Market in 1938. It was originally built by the British Government in 1885, in the then-popular neo-Gothic style of architecture – and also served as the municipality office, for some time. One of Pune’s largest vegetable markets, the prominent features here are the market’s octagonal structure with a central tower and eight entrances. The bustling market is packed with 526 stalls selling fruits and vegetables, and even articles for religious worship can be found here. During Ganesh Festival, the 127-year-old heritage market puts up their own Ganesh Mandal – named Akhil Mandai Ganapati, which is one of the most famous and iconic mandais in Pune. Locals, migrants, people of all different religions and backgrounds come together here – and a visit here will give you strong, warm ‘community’ vibes.

Kasba Peth

Kasba Peth is the oldest residential ‘Peth’ in Pune and fondly referred to as the “Heart of Pune City”. Points of interest here are the famous Kasba Ganpati Temple, Lal Mahal, as well as its skilled crafts-people in Kumbhar Wada (locality of earthen pot-makers) and Tambat Ali (locality for brass/copper utensils). Our favourite part is the magnificent, colourful murals by the Pune Street Art Project – which are tucked away throughout Kasba Peth, like hidden gems in a treasure hunt. Be sure to park elsewhere and walk through the narrow lanes of Kasba Peth – you never know what secrets you’ll stumble upon!

Savitribai Phule Pune University

Savitribai Phule Pune University {formerly, University of Poona/Pune} was established in 1949 and features a 411-acre campus, housing over 43 academic departments. In 2014, the University was re-named for the 19th-century eminent social reformer, activist, teacher, and poet – Savitribai Phule, who also pioneered the first Indian-run school for girls in Pune, in 1848. The current main building of the University {where it was relocated to in 1949}, was built in 1864, and originally called ‘Governor House’ {which was formerly the seasonal retreat of the Governor of Bombay}. When visiting the University campus, don’t forget to check out 60-year old Jayakar Library, which is famous for rare manuscripts, and hand-written multi-lingual books {more on that here}.

#LBBTip: The main University building – also deemed a heritage site – is also the proposed location for a new and upcoming museum, which will feature artefacts and relics from Shivaji Maharaj’s era. We heard that the architects of the museum plan to create the entrance through a tunnel what was built during the British rule – read our report, here.

Anything Else?

Of course, no tour of Pune goes without mentioning iconic sites like Shaniwar Wada, Aga Khan Palace, and the Pataleshwar Temple and Caves. If you’d rather do a one-day tour of historical sites in Pune, check out our recommendation for the Pune Darshan Tour here. For the adventurous and outdoorsy kind, don’t miss our guide to the top Forts around Pune worth exploring, here.