Most Punekars tend to correct anyone who refers to Pune as ‘Poona’. But, how many of us really know how the city got its name?
Before Pune transformed into what it is now, it was a pensioner’s paradise; full of sprawling bungalows and beautiful greenery. Move further back into the past and Pune was once the summer capital of the British, with many English-styled cottages and buildings still adorning the city. It was, therefore, christened the Queen of Deccan. What’s more, it was the cultural capital of the Peshwas and was full of wadas.
Pune finds its roots as part of the Yadava Dynasty and that was only after it was a part of the Rashtrakutas. All said and done, this city’s history can go even further, as historians have found stone-age implements on the banks of the Mula river. Pune’s history is one that can keep a historian busy for decades, and how it got its name is a tale in itself.
There are many reasons behind Pune’s christening. The word ‘Pune’ is derived from the Marathi word Punyanagari, which means the city of virtue. The name can be attributed to the fact that Pune is situated on the confluence or sangam of the Mula and Mutha rivers. This merger of two rivers is considered sacred or punya.
The oldest origins of Pune can be seen from the copper plates of the Rashtrakuta dynasty, dated 937 BCE, which refer to the town as Punya-Vishaya or Poonak-Vishaya. The Pataleshwar stone-cut temple was built during this era. By the 13th century, the city became known as Punaka Wadi. It was later that it was renamed to Punyanagari and was considered the city of virtue. Many temples were built during this time, the most prominent being the Punyeshwar Temple. It would go on to change from Punyanagari to what it is today.
The city was called Pune during the rule of the Marathas, when Shahaji Raje Bhosale (father of Shivaji Maharaj) appointed Rango Bapuji Dhadphale as the first administrator of the city. Pune would be the place where Shivaji Maharaj spent his childhood days. During the long-running conflict between the Marathas and Mughals, the town was occupied by Aurangzeb from 1703 to 1705, and renamed to Muhiyabad.
The Marathas, however, successfully recaptured Sinhagad Fort and the city was once again titled Pune. Pune would then see its most glorious days when it flourished as the cultural capital of the Peshwas and prospered as a result of the efforts of Baji Rao Peshwa and Nanasaheb Peshwa. It was their reigns which attributed to many peths and baugs that the city takes immense pride in even today.
The British rule, however, brought with it yet another metamorphosis and the city witnessed entitlement yet again. Pune became Poona and was seized from the Peshwas by the British after winning the battle of Kirkee (presently Khadki). It was during this time that Pune saw the establishment of many educational centres such as College of Engineering Pune (COEP), Fergusson College and University of Pune. The Pune Municipality was also established during this time, in 1858.
Post its independence from the British rule, Poona finally became Pune again and has stayed that way ever since. All maps and administration entities such as official buildings, corporations and organisations that were created after the city’s liberation refer to the city as Pune.
937 BCE: Punya Vishaya or Punaka Vishaya
13th Century: Punaka Wadi
13th-16th century: Punyanagari (the official name of the city is unknown)
16th century: Pune
1703 to 1705: Muhiyabad
1705 (throughout the Peshwa and Maratha rule): Pune
During the British rule since 1817: Poona
Present: Pune (changed from Poona in 1977)