The city of Pune is a lot like a rotating spectrum wheel that one sees in a science class. The various colours of the wheel represent all the things that the city stands for, namely its history, its trendy lifestyle, the rich culture and tradition and its fast, bustling environment. And when this wheel rotates and you look at the centre, you see all these aspects fuse together, and that exactly is the heart of Pune.
The city centre of Pune, known as Tulshibaug, is not only the most historical area of the city but it is also the seat of Pune’s native culture as well as the city’s most popular shopping destination. The area can be reached by multiple roads but in this blog, Imma talk about a street called Bajirao Road which ultimately leads tight into the heart of the city.
This is a panoramic view of the ‘Vishrambaug Wada’, a historical mansion situated on Bajirao Road. The mansion was built in 1807 and it was the official residence of Bajirao II, the last Peshwa of the Maratha Empire. Diving into a bit of history, ‘Peshwa’ is a term used for the Prime Ministers at the time of the Maratha Empire in India.
The Peshwas initially served under a sovereign ruler or an Emperor called ‘Chatrapati’ but as the Empire progressed, the Emperor became a nominal ruler and the Peshwas or the Prime Ministers assumed complete power and became the ultimate rulers. Bajirao II was the last such Peshwa before the British assumed complete control over India, hence abolishing the Maratha Empire in the year 1818.
Today, the Vishrambaug Wada is a tourist spot, showcasing the way of life of the Peshwas. A lot of the mansion is currently undergoing restoration so many parts of it aren’t open to the public. There’s also a local handicraft shop in the mansion premises. The entrance gate has lovely stone carvings and the whole thing is pretty intact which is rather impressive and it shows how good the architects and builders were, back in the nineteenth century. I especially love the dragon like sculptures in the picture on the left as it gives the mansion a mysterious gothic look.
Outside the mansion, there’s a line of shops, selling everything from clothes, to jewellery to shoes and even a stall selling cups.
I love how the cups are so neatly stacked and what was really amazing was that despite the throngs of shoppers and pedestrians, there was not a single breakage and service was very systematic, despite the shop being on a pavement. A lot of the shopkeepers even announce their wares by shouting form their stalls. Sometimes, such a shout can give one quite a jolt but it does give a vibe of a medieval era market which makes the whole experience really fun.
The slippers that you see here are a unique aspect of the state of Maharashtra. The slippers are called ‘Kolhapuri Chappals’ as they originate from the city of Kolhapur which is about four hours away from Pune. These slippers were first worn in the thirteenth century and their popularity increased owing to their durability. Today, the Kolhapuri Chappal has a GI(Geographical Indication) tag for the Indian states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. The slippers also have a global outreach owing to the Hippie movement which popularised it in the Unites States in the 1970s. It’s really fun to see how a simple sandal can take over the world:)
Moving on from Vishrambaug Wada and Bajirao Road, we will step into the area of Tulshibaug, the beating heart of Pune. The area is essentially a shopping centre but its many lanes lead into courtyards and temples and secret passages with a rich history. Tulshibaug is best explored on foot in order to explore all its hidden passages. Also, walking is more convenient owing to the large crowds in the area. However, people also bring in their bikes and scooters through the narrow lanes and ever so often, the huge sea of people will part to let a poor biker through:) The picture above shows a small section of one of the entrances into the Tulshibaug Market and of course, the popularity speaks for itself:)
Lemme take you folks window shopping!
This is an imitation jewellery stall in Tulshibaug. It has all kinds of jewellery imaginable and some which I’m not even familiar with, hehe. Tulshibaug is rather famous for its jewellery as it has a lot of traditional as well as modern and trendy styles which appeal to crowds of all ages. I especially love shopping for earrings and bangles here and merely looking at a jewellery stall makes my shopaholic heart happy:) I mean, jewellery like this could find its way into an Indian wedding trousseau and there’s really no difference between actual gold jewellery and the imitation ones sold here. In fact, the look and the prettiness remains the same and the price is very reasonable. This is the best place to shop for traditional Maharashtrian jewellery.
Up next is a shoe-lover’s paradise. Ok, Imma be honest here, this was the first time I actually paid attention to the shoe shops in Tulshibaug and I was absolutely blown away! I haven’t seen such pretty shoes in malls and branded shops and walking into one of these stalls made me feel as though I’ve walked into the wardrobe in ‘The Princess Diaries’. There’s stilettos, flats, ballerinas, sandals and even boots in all colours and styles, like this place is where the Fairy Godmother got Cinderella her glass slippers, I’m absolutely sure of it. Besides, let’s talk of the shop arrangement, the whole entrance is decorated with shoes which gives a very ‘Alibaba’s Cave’ vibe and what’s impressive is that despite the crowds and the variety, there’s no pushing and shoving and business is conducted in a very orderly manner.This shop here sells household items, right from utensils to cookery essentials to plasticware and bottles and hot water bags and even mops and brooms. This stall doesn’t spark much excitement for me but for the adulting adults out there, this one’s for you, go crazy! Hehe.
I do like the Captain America bottle though….This is a unique shop which can be seen very prominently in Tulshibaug. It’s called a ‘Puja Shop’ which sells all the essentials required for Hindu prayer and worship. Most Hindu homes in India have a small shrine and such shops cater to these shrines as well as big temples. There’s a lot of decorations and flower arrangements available as well as tiny idols of Gods and Goddesses and the attire for decorating these idols such as miniature clothing and jewellery. There’s also stuff like candles and incense sticks with a whole variety of fragrances.
Now, we are gonna take a break from window shopping and head into one of the hidden alleyways in Tulshibaug. This courtyard here is in the premises of a temple dedicated to Lord Ram, in one of the hidden lanes of the market. The temple and the courtyard date back to the seventeenth century and have still stood the test of time. There’s been some restoration work recently which has really enhanced the whole place. The courtyard is a nice, relaxing sit-out for weary shoppers and the temple complex really brings in a sese of tranquility.
This is one of the walls in the courtyard, depicting hand-painted scenes from the Indian epic, the Ramayana. The epic tells the tale of Lord Ram and all his adventures while in exile and the daring rescue of his wife Sita who was kidnapped by the demon king Ravana. The epic is every Indian child’s favourite owing to the magic and action and especially the feats of the Monkey God, Hanuman, in many ways, the real hero of the story:) I love how the paintings have been maintained and the detailing is so on point!
This is the panoramic view of the entire temple complex and courtyard. I love how the place gives a medieval Indian feel and takes one back into mythology while on a shopping trip.
These here are shops selling traditional Indian toys which include miniatures made out of metal and wood. One of the common games in India is playing house so a lot of these miniatures include household utensils like a mortar-pestle, a rolling pin, a stove, a wardrobe etc. and modern toys include washing machines and electric irons:) I have two sets of these miniatures at home and it’s good both for playing house, as well as for decorating your home.
This was the luckiest part of the trip to Tulshibaug. It is a huge idol of Lord Ganpati, the Hindu God of wisdom and scribes. Before I get to the luck of witnessing this very idol, Imma tell you a bit about the Ganpati Festival, the very essence of Maharashtra. The Ganpati Festival is celebrated for ten days during the end of August or the beginning of September and is almost exclusive to the state of Maharashtra. This festival was first celebrated in 1893 as a mark of reviving Indian cultural and religious practices under the British rule. The festival, at that time, was a sign of revolution, launched by the freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak, to oppose the restrictions on religious expression imposed by the British. The Tulshibaug Ganpati here was established in the year 1901. It is a 14 feet idol, inlaid with gold and silver. The city of Pune has five major Ganpati idols called the ‘Manache Ganpati’ in Marathi which means ‘Respected and Honoured Ganpati’. The Tulshibaug Ganpati is one of the five Manache Ganpati and at the time of the festival, it’s impossible to get a proper look at the idol owing to the masses. I was really lucky to find the idol at an empty time and honestly, it was breathtaking. The whole shrine seems to have a power of its own and the whole bustle of the Tulshibaug Market around it seems to drain out. This is another advantage of exploring the market on foot.
Imma actually give you lot a bit of a quiz to guess this final structure of the trip. Is it a town hall? Or is it a government quarter? Or is it perhaps a part of a Palace? Or have I simply posted a picture of London?
-20 if you say any of the above options, +30 if you say none. This building here is a vegetable market.
This is the ‘Mahatma Phule Mandai’ or vegetable market which was established by the British in 1882 and is still fully operational today. The British architecture really makes it stand out and the clock is my favourite part of it. I haven’t been inside the market recently but that would make for a whole blog in itself and we’ll leave that for next time.
All in all, Tulshibaug is a must-visit if you’re in Pune. I know the crowds seem overwhelming but as a local, I’m telling you that it is not chaotic at all. There’ll be no shoving and stampeding and business in all the stalls is conducted very systematically. I’d recommend walking though as that really enhances the experience. A word of advice, be respectful to the shopkeepers. A lot of times, shoppers resort to shoplifting and it’s really sad to see them argue when they are caught. The prices aren’t high at all and a lot of the times, the shopkeepers themselves give you a discount and it’s absolutely abominable to steal as selling their wares is the shopkeepers’ only form of livelihood. Another piece of advice is that always carry a bottle of water as the day gets hot and it is quite an activity to shop on foot. Being respectful and a little prepared for the heat and crowd will truly give you an unforgettable experience.
And that is a wrap,
Until Next Time,