A lot of historical spots are peppered all across Pune city. A perfect balance of traditional and modern, our city has it all. Holding history and utility in both hands is Mahatma Phule Mandai, or as Punekars lovingly address it- Mandai.
For those who do not know, Mandai is Pune’s largest vegetable market. Located in Shukrawar Peth, its importance is unprecedented; the market itself is a major landmark now. With eight entrances, it can be overwhelming and confusing to anyone who does not have a good hang of the old city life.
We’d know, wouldn’t we? We took a foreigner to visit Mandai once and you can check his reaction here!
During the early British rule, a huge open-air market used to be held outside Shaniwar Wada. After a thorough discussion, Pune (then Poona) Municipality shifted the market indoors (the present day Mandai). The construction began in 1882 and was completed in 1886. It was named Reay Market, after the then Governor of Bombay, Lord Reay. Even then, the market was used as a wholesale market for vegetables. It acted as a perfect elder sister to a smaller market in the vicinity selling household items – Tulsibaug.
Mandai’s building has a Gothic style architecture, depicting the beauty and importance of that era. The builders used masonry carved from local grey stone. The most prominent and visible part of the architecture is the squat, octagonal tower. Four market wings are housed in the ground floor of the verandah of this tower.
Today, there are more than 520 stalls of fruits and vegetables. The reason behind Mandai’s popularity is that the fruits and vegetables are sold at a much cheaper rate than other places in the city. These days, even exotic and imported fruits and vegetables like Avocado, Iceberg, Green Apples are readily available here.
Another important aspect of Mandai is, of course, the Ganpati and its Mandal. Named as ‘Akhil Mandai Ganpati’, the Ganpati and the mandal are extremely important in Pune. It gets a lot of visitors and devotees from all across Maharashtra during Ganeshotsav.
The idol itself – Sharada Ganesh idol – made from eco-friendly materials is another highlight. The Mandal is known for its social work and political activeness; it has started a lot of social and hygiene initiatives for Pune’s residents. All in all, Mandai is a pivotal part of Pune and its history, a British era relic which is utilised by Punekars, for Punekars.