Before it was the city of black stone wadas which slowly transformed into a Pensioners Paradise with rich bunglows. Today it is the IT City with modern buildings taking over. Even then, the cultural capital of Maharashtra has many things that defines its Puneri traits. Be it the refined language, the high degree education or the sarcasm and patya that define us. Some of Pune’s monuments imbibe its culture, defining our legacy to the world. Here are a few monuments in Pune that define not only the city’s architecture but its culture and pride as well.
Look at a postcard of Pune or an article talking about Pune, this iconic monument always finds a mention. The Peshwai building defines the heritage, legacy and the culture of Pune, and is a symbol of Pune’s strength and beauty. The fort was built in 1732, and was the seat of the Peshwas of the Maratha Empire until 1818. The fort itself was destroyed in 1828 by an unexplained fire, but the surviving structure gives us a glimpse of the past. Peshwa Baji Rao I, prime minister to Chhatrapati Shahu laid the ceremonial foundation of this complex. The fort has 5 doors and is built in teak, stones and lime (mineral).
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Another monument that is iconic to Punekars and every Maharashtrian in general. The Lal Mahal is the place where our great leader, Shivaji raje Bhosale spent his childhood. It was built by Sahajiraje in 1630 AD for his wife Jijabai and son to stay. This is also the place where the famous encounter between Shivaji Maharaj and Shiasta Khan took place. By the end of the 17th century, the building was razed to the ground as a result of frequent attacks on the city. Some of the soils and stones from Lal Mahal went on to be used to build the Shaniwarwada for luck. The current Lal Mahal was rebuilt by the Pune Municipal Corporation in a somewhat close to the original. The construction began in 1984 and was completed in 1988.
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Previously called Kondhana, Sinhagad is an iconic fortress strategically located at the centre of surrounding forts like Rajgad, Purandar and Torna. Perched in the Bhuleshwar range of Sahyadris, it is situated on 1312 meters above sea level. It has two gates, the Kalyan Darwaza and the Pune Darwaza. The fort has quite a long history, and thus is an important monument for Marathi people. However, the most famous battles of Sinhagad was fought to recapture it by the lionheart named Tanaji Malusare. He lost his life in the effort but his brother Suryaji took over and captured the fort. Mahraj expressed his sorrow over losing a brave warrior, saying “Gad aala pan sinha gela” (The fort is ours, but we lost our lion). Thus the name Sinhagad.
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The beautiful building was built by Sultan Muhamed Shah Aga Khan III in 1892. The palace was an act of charity by the Sultan who wanted to help the poor in the neighbouring areas who were drastically hit by famine. The majestic palace however is known for housing Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian freedom struggle. It was here that he served his prison term (what luck living in just a beautiful monument). Wife Kasturba Gandhi along with Mahadev Desai and Sarojini Naidu were imprisoned here as well. Kasturbaji and Mahadev Desai passed away here and their samadhis are located here.
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The reason Pune gets its name as the Oxford of the East and the Education capital of India is due to this iconic structure. Though not as old as the Fergusson College or College of Engineering Pune (COEP), the establishment of Pune University brought fame to Pune, equalling the stature that Nalanda and Takshashila had in ancient times. It was thanks to the keen interest of CM and Education Minister of that time, B.G. Kher that this 411 acres campus and iconic building is allotted to the University in early 1950. The campus was part of the battlefield where the 3rd battle between the Peshwas and the British was fought. It is here that the British built the Governor’s mansion where the present main building is located.