What’s in a name? More than you might think, especially when you walk down Puneri streets, most of which are named after legends. Look around you; Senapati Bapat Road, Laxmi Road, Shankarsheth Road etc. are not just names of streets. Some people were important enough to be awarded this road to immortality. This is why an analysis of these names proved to be a revealing exercise.
The existence of a street is not limited to its name or a date; they have the same function as branding. They tell us a story about a city, its character, fondness for a particular religion, social stigmas and the historical way of life. So let us tell you the story of some of Pune’s streets named after people who made a difference in various walks of life.
Courtesy: Laxmibai, wife to philanthropist and social reformer Dagdusheth Halwai.
We are all familiar with the Shrimant Dagdusheth Halwai Temple and its grandeur. But what is relatively unknown is the fact that Dagdusheth built the idol of Ganapati when he lost his son to plague. At that time his Guruji Shri Madhavnath Maharaj asked him to build a Ganapati idol and love it like he would his son. And, in return he would get the same love and fame, which he would have gotten from his son, had he lived. Thus, the famous Shrimant Dagdusheth Halwai Temple came into existence. He later went onto create a Temple Trust, which carried out philanthropic work from the donations. His wife’s name was Laxmibai, and the current Laxmi Road was named after her.
Tanaji Malusare Path
Courtesy: Tanaji Malusare aka “Sinha, The Lion”; a fearless Maratha warrior who won Sinhagad for Shivaji.
Of all the stories behind Pune’s streets, Tanaji Malusare Path from the city to Sinhagad, is the most adventurous and heart wrenching. Legend has it that in the quest to win back the fort from the Mughals, Shivaji sent an army led by his commander Tanaji Malusare. Tanaji planned the attack to take place in the dead of the night from the backside of the fort, which was a dead drop straight into the forest below. A slope so steep that it was impossible to scale it. He used a monitor lizard, known for its vice like grip, with a rope tied around its waist to send his army up the steep cliff. After 342 Maratha warriors had climbed, the rope snapped and plunged 60 warriors who were mid-way to their death.
Undeterred, Tanaji ambushed the Mughal army of around 5000 with his 342. They had the element of surprise on their side. Unfortunately, Tanaji was fatally wounded and succumbed to his injuries, but not before killing Udaybhan and winning the fort.
Shivaji, upon hearing of the victory and Tanaji’s demise is believed to have said, “Gad Jinkla, Pan Sinha Gela” (We won the fort, but lost our lion). Later Shivaji renamed the fort Sinhagad after Tanaji Malusare, who was fondly called “Sinha” by everyone.
Courtesy Jagannath Nana Shankarsheth; a visionary and social reformist who made a difference to the society.
Fondly known as “Nana”, Shankarsheth was born in a wealthy Brahmin family in Mumbai. But his family originally belonged to the Konkan region. His acute busi- ness acumen was soon noticed and he became quite an authority on investments for merchants from abroad.
He quickly became actively involved in the betterment of education facilities in Bombay. He is known to have donated funds to form a school for girls much to the dismay of some of the members of the Hindu community. He also formed the Indian Railway Association with Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, which was instrumental in designing and running the first train between Mumbai and Thane.
He funded the Jagannath Shankersheth Scholarship for promoting Sanskrit. This is a highly sought after scholarship even today, with students preparing for it over a year in advance. He is known to have donated generously to Hindu temples and to Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai. He passed away in 1865, aged 62.
Vithalrao Vandekar Road
Courtesy: Vithalrao Vandekar; a social reformer and a strong spokesperson for the downtrodden Bahujans.
Vandekar had a huge following in Mumbai with supporters for his social reforms for the socially backward class. He worked tirelessly along with the likes of Jyotiba Phule, Narayan Lokhande and Sayaji Rao Maharaj of Baroda. Vandekar was a part of the “Satyashodhak leaders”, who were on a mission to empower women and improve the general rights and living conditions of the Bahujans. He celebrated Jyotiba Phule’s 60th birthday by bestowing on him the title of “Mahatma” for his work on upliftment of women. He is best remembered for his selfless work and ability to get the wealthy involved in his fight for equal rights.