A cultural and heritage rich city like Pune is bursting with some interesting offering for all and that is exactly what Virasat Pune did when it organised the Heritage Festival 2014, from April 13 to April 20. Right from heritage walks to local products workshops and more, it did allow one and all to breathe Pune. Virasat is a venture of Janwani and Pune Municipal Corporation to promote the city’s heritage. And the second day started with the INTACH Cantonment Heritage Walk, early at 8am. With a reasonable crowd, the tour walked around the Cantonment or Camp area, starting from Shivaji Market.
We were informed that the cantonment area got developed when the British came to Pune in 1818. The British never went to the old city area but developed the Camp area into three parts. The first was the Cantonment area for British personals. This is the area beyond MG Road. At main Mahatma Gandhi Road, you met Europeans and Parsis shops, with housing similar to the ones found in the Peth areas. The third area was the civilian area which is beyond the GPO. Then the churches came in, with the St Mary’s Church being the first one in 1840s or 50s. The next was St Xavier’s Church which is a simple Gothic church.
The walk started with a walk into the Shivaji Market which was the first planned market in the city. The simple Gothic style market has iron columns with ornamentation in cast iron. A large window in the North side catches the north diffused light which suits the Indian climate. The market houses all kinds of fruits and vegetables, apart from being a chicken market and had all Indian sellers. While walking, you could notice the buildings and housing which reflected the then era. In fact, some of the houses from that era still seen on Sachapir Street. One checked the Post Office on the Sachapir Street build with clear storey window for ventilation and decorative additions made from lime. Some houses were built with European country tiles which differed from the local Mangalore tiles. There were even assembled houses to be seen, with the Queen’s face motif.
Thanks to the influence of Parsis in the city, the next stop was the JJ Agiary, built along with the Garden. The Agiary was built by Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy whose other contributions included the Bund or dam at Bund Garden, and support to Deccan College and BJ Medical College. The walk continued in the direction of Lal Deval (Red Temple) or Ohel David Synagogue build by the Sassoon family. Though a Synagogue, it is built on the lines of a Gothic church and happens to be the biggest Synagogue in Asia. It also has the tomb of David Sassoon inside.
The GPO building, the next stop, is a good-looking Palladium style building in the classical style. It is unlike the Gothic style building seen elsewhere in the city and includes Tuscan style columns. While sipping tea at a nearby stall, have a look at the zero stone there from where the distance to post offices in other cities is counted. In fact, the distance between Pune and say Mumbai is counted between the two GPOS and the zero stones.
The last stop was the pristine St Paul’s Church which is again a Gothic style building, complete with buttress, lancet windows, gargoyles and the works. Shortly after being built, the roof collapsed under the fire and was again expanded and made higher. But this made the church too stuffy and the doors had to be kept open during service.
The whole walk had the interested asking questions and sharing of information taking place between all present. The morning time served the purpose perfectly, as the participants were able to see the sights more easily, despite the rising sun.