It is said that being a square prevents you from going around in circles but when the square in your city ends up being a roundabout, there’s not much you can do other than drive round it in….well, circles. Hehe. Unless it’s a rectangle. Or a trapezium, or any shape other than a square. You still drive around it in circles.
Jokes apart, city squares are areas that always fascinate me. I love how each of these places have a specific landmark such as sculptures, fountains, parks or even a building of importance to demarcate them. Speaking of squares, Imma get to the ones in my city of Pune. Squares in India are known as chowks in Hindi and speaking of the squares or the chowks in Pune, each one of them is decorated with a sculpture which either depicts a scene from mythology or a part of Pune’s cultural events or a social moral or even a cause which needs a spread of awareness. So, without further ado, Imma show ya some squares in Pune and the sculptures that define them.
I began with this square as it brings home my joke of squares being roundabouts, hehe:) This square here, is quite a new one and the sculpture of four school children indicates an entry into a school area beyond the square. There’s three schools surrounding this square and although I personally can’t imagine being this happy about going to school, the sculpted children do emanate a sense of innocence and playfulness. Keeping that vibe in mind, Imma tell you a fun story about a house right opposite this square, concocted by yours truly at the age of six:) One of the lanes starting from this square leads to a huge mansion-like house, nestled amongst large trees. The gate of this house, ever since I can remember, always remains shut and there’s no security guards that can be seen. There’s also no cars leaving or entering the gate and this inactivity led my six year old self to believe that the house was haunted by the spirit of Bloody Mary. Back then, Bloody Mary was the in-thing in horror among my circle so anything remotely eerie was associated with Bloody Mary and although she never came out of the mirror in a dark room, twelve years later, I still call the house the ‘Bloody Mary House’ and the gate has still not opened. Happy Early Halloween, folks!
This is one of the most artistic squares in the city and also quite newly made. The sculpture on the square depicts a scene from mythology, showing the Hindu God Vitthal, a manifestation of the Hindu God Vishnu who is considered the ‘Divine Saviour’ making a holy appearance in front of all His devotees. In Maharashtra, there is a group of devotees of the God Vitthal known as ‘Varkaris’ who make an annual pilgrimage from a place called ‘Alandi’ in Pune to a town called Pandharpur in a neighbouring district. This pilgrimage is called a ‘Palkhi’ which is the marathi word for palanquin as the varkaris carry palanquins of Hindu saints. This pilgrimage is usually taken in the months of June or July and during that time, the streets are filled with the pilgrims, singing hymns and playing classical instruments. The day of the pilgrimage is a holiday in the city and it really makes for a good atmosphere of devotion, forgiveness and all things divine. Talking of this sculpture, it depicts these varkaris and shows a part of Pune’s religious culture.
These two sculptures were at a square towards the most popular marketplaces located in the heart of the city. The area has multiple squares with large sculptures and these two mark the beginning of such squares. The sculpture above depicts the whole idea of the pen being mightier than the sword. Pune is no novice to literary pursuits and it also holds the title of ‘The Oxford of the East’. The Quill and Ink can also be interpreted as the city’s lineage towards education. The sculpture of the motorcycle simply signifies the presence of a two-wheeler vehicles’ market right ahead. The market sells everything, right from bike tyres to second-hand cycles to seat covers to mechanics and all that’s required for your two-wheeled vehicle’s grooming. This is a market where you’ll get everything under the sun.
This is a gate which has a sculpture depicting the Hindu saint Tukaram Maharaj. He was one of the saints of the ‘Varkari’ pilgrims that I mentioned above and he is well known for writing hymns and devotional poetry. The next square that Imma show you also depicts the ‘Varkaris’, providing a closer look at the pilgrims themselves.
These sculptures give a glimpse of the way in which the ‘Varkari’ pilgrims travel. In the sculpture above, you can see two pilgrims holding the ‘Palkhi’ as well as two of them playing classical instruments. The ‘Varkaris’ usually play a string intrument called the ‘Ektara’ or a kind of a drum. Some even carry small cymbals to keep tune with the hymns. In both the sculptures, you can see the ladies carrying a pot on their head. The ladies taking the pilgrimage often carry a pot of the Tulsi plant on their heads. Tulsi is Holy Basil and is considered sacred among the ‘Varkaris’. The Palkhi pilgrimage forms an integral part of Pune’s culture and this is seen through its various depictins in art.
This sculpture is located right ahead of the square depicting the ‘Varkaris’. The statues show religious harmony and brotherhood where people of all religions, though different in their beliefs, are united by love. I really like the thought that goes into making these sculptures which not only beatifies the street but also spreads messages of positivity.
This square was a chance discovery in a small lane behind a hospital. The square doubles as a temple to the Hindu God Shiva who is believed to be the ‘Destroyer of Evil’. I love the minute and artistic details in the statue and the lane in which it is built is rather quiet and in the shade of trees which gives the square a perfect sense of tranquility.
These two sculptures are located at a square on a turn in the road. The one of the left is a mark of appreciation for the essential workers of the country, such as doctors, nurses, policemen and cleaners. I love how each profession is clearly depicted and it really makes one proud of the essential workers, especially in light of the ebbing pandemic. The sculpture on the right is a sign of homage to the martyred soldiers, another lovely gesture to honour the brave-hearts at the border.
This is my favourite sculpture, owing to its uniqueness and the masterful craft. This square is built to raise awareness on eye donation and supporting and empowering the visually challenged. Organ donation is a cause that really needs to be heard as it literally helps in saving a life and it’s definitely a cause that is gaining more awareness in India which is a sign of hope and enlightenment.
These two sculptures depict Maharashtra’s history and culture. The sculpture on the left shows a Mavala soldier who fought for the Maratha Empire in the 17th century. The huge red turban is a ‘Mavala Pagdi’ which was worn by these soldiers during battle. The sculpture on the right is a Maharashtrian fisherwoman, wearing a traditional saree and carrying her catch on her head. The fisherfolk in Maharashtra are called ‘Kolis’ and they reside mainly in the coastal areas of Maharashtra called Konkan.
This sculpture of an anchor is built in a square located in the military area of Pune. It is a memorial sculpture for the naval martyrs. I live in the Pune Cantonment or the military area of the city and there’s quite a few sculptures which serve as memorials for the martyrs as well as the unknown soldiers.
The last square in this post is also located in the military area of Pune. The clocktower gives the whole place a very fantastical vibe. It also has a picture of Mirabai Chanu, the silver medallist in weightlifting at the Tokyo Olympics. The Indian team recorded their best ever performance and medal tally at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, a feat that’s being celebrated by the whole country. There’s posters of all the medal winners on walls and clocktowers, nicely illuminated and decorated:) The tank on the right is from an Army Memorial Park which displays the weaponry from all the crucial battles fought by the Indian Army. The park also has a parade and flag hoisting ceremony for visitors and it’s a nice place to learn about India’s battlefield history.
And here we are, returning full square, around the roundabout. Hehe:)
And that is a wrap!
Until next time,