Human civilisations have prospered on the banks of rivers; Pune city too has flowered on the banks of the Mutha river originating from the Sahyadri range of mountains. Eminent archaeologist Dr. H. D. Sankalia and his colleagues from the Deccan College carried out excavations of the Mutha riverbed and banks. These researchers found evidence of human civilisations that existed 100,000 years ago along the Mutha river. Pune finds mention in some of the Puranas.
What's in a name?
Down the centuries, Pune has been ruled by several dynasties. The earliest evidence found (copper plates of 758 A. D. and of 768 A. D.) reveals that the Rashtrakootas ruled this region then. At that time, Pune was referred to as Punaka Vishaya and Punya Vishaya. Copper plates of 960 A. D. and 963 A. D. refer to it as Punaka Wadi and Punaka Desha. Here Vishaya means region. Later on, the city has been mentioned as Kasabe Pune. The Pune Gazetteer explains the term Pune as Punya - a holy place. In Hindu tradition, a confluence (sangama) of two rivers is sacred. Hence, this city, where there is a confluence of two rivers, is Punyanagari. After the Rashtrakootas, Pune was ruled by the Yadava dynasty. After the fall of this dynasty, it came under Muslim dominance till the middle of the seventeenth century.
Some of the remains of this period can still be studied. The first is the Pataleshwar Temple on the Jangli Maharaj Road. It is a temple of Shiva in rock-cut caves with over forty pillars, and a bull (nandi) in front of Shiva, with sixteen pillars. This dates back to the Rashtrakoota age and is close to one thousand years old. The second monument is the set of dargahs --Muslim places of worship. The senior and junior Shaikhsalla on the banks of the Mutha river, near the Shaniwarwada, are constructed on the earlier temples of Puneshwar and Narayaneshwar.
The rise of Shivaji:
With the emergence of Chatrapati Shivaji, who founded the Maratha empire, Pune became known to the Delhi Sultanate. Shivaji, born in 1630, at Shivneri fort near Junnar just 90 km (50 miles) away from Pune, spent his early childhood in Pune at Lal Mahal, a palace built by his father Shahaji, where Shivaji's mother Jijabai lived for a decade. Shivaji was crowned in 1674 at Raigad. Dadaji Konddev, Shivaji's mentor, developed Pune city. He constructed a temple of Ganesha called Kasba Ganpati This is the grama devata where invitations for all religious functions are first offered be it for a marriage, upanayana ceremony or any other functions. It was in this Lal Mahal that Shivaji attacked the Moghuls and defeated Shahistekhan, the uncle of Aurangazeb.
Eighteenth century Pune:
The Peshwa rule
After the death of Shivaji in 1680, his son Sambhaji ruled the Maratha kingdom. Aurangazeb tried to squash the Maratha kingdom and finally succeeded in brutally killing Sambhaji at Wadu near Pune. Aurangazeb named Pune as Muhiyabad. Aurangazeb, however, could not counteract the Maratha tactics and he died near Aurangabad. Pune city again rose to power during the eighteenth century, under the leadership of the Peshwas who virtually ruled the Maratha kingdom from 1713 to 1818. Balaji Vishvanath was the first Peshwa or prime minister, appointed by the king Chhatrapati Shahu who selected Satara as his capital.
Pune gained importance during the period of the second Peshwa Thorla Bajirao who ruled from 1720 to 1740. During his time, the palace of the Peshwas - Shaniwar Wada was built. This famous monument of Pune city has five doors. The main door is called Delhi darwaza. The Peshwas went out for their military campaigns through this door and were also received here when they returned after succeeding in the campaigns. The door next to it is called the Mastani darwaza. Bajirao married Mastani, a Muslim, and lived with her in this palace. She used to pass through this door when she went to visit Bajirao. To the east are two doors. One is the Jambhul darwaza and the other in the corner is the Ganesh darwaza. There is a Ganesh temple in front of this door. Ladies of the royal Peshwa family took this door to visit the Kasba Ganapati temple. To the south is the Narayan darwaza. From this door, the dead body of Narayan Peshwa was moved out. To the west there is no door, but there is a passage to reach the upper part of the wall of the palace. The various mahals or buildings were constructed by different Peshwas. There are still remains of a fountain with thousand outlets called Hazari Karanje. It was Thorala Bajirao who expanded the Maratha empire into north and central provinces. Nanasaheb Peshwa succeeded Thorala Bajirao Peshwa and ruled the Maratha kingdom from 1740 to 1761. He tried to control the Nizam and maintained peace. He was instrumental in urbanising Pune city and encouraged the setting up of Peths or wards in Pune. He also encouraged people of different vocations to establish their settlements. He constructed the famous Parvati Temple complex, a pride of Pune city. He designed a water supply system from Katraj Lake that lies to the south of Pune city. A number of temples and palaces were constructed during his time.
The Marathas suffered a setback in the battle of Panipat in 1761 near Delhi. Nanasaheb who never recovered from this setback, died the same year. Madhavrao Peshwa (1761-1772) succeeded him, During his short tenure, he controlled the Nizam and brought confidence among the people. However, he was confronted with family troubles started by his uncle Raghoba Peshwa. He died at Theur, near Pune, which is famous for its Ganpati temple (one of the Ashtavinayakas ). Ramabai, wife of Madhavrao Peshwa committed sati and embraced death along with her husband. A temple exists today in her memory.
Narayanrao and Savai Madhavrao succeeded Madhavrao. Narayanrao was killed in an encounter with the soldiers employed by Raghoba Peshwa, uncle of Madhavrao, his predecessor. However, Raghoba Peshwa could not become a Peshwa, since he was sentenced to death by Chief Justice Ramashastri Prabhune on charges of plotting the murder of Narayanrao. Savai Madhavrao (1774-95) administered the Maratha kingdom with the help and advice of two groups --one headed by Nana Phadnis, a diplomat, and Madhavrao Holkar Mahadji Shinde the famous generals of the Maratha army. These Generals expanded the Maratha kingdom in the North and in Madhya Pradesh and challenged the Delhi Sultanate. During his time, he constructed the present famous Saras Baug Ganpati Temple, improved the Parvati temple complex and encouraged urbanisation of Pune city by establishing Sadashiv, Narayan and other Peths.
The Maratha power came to an end in 1818, when the British led by Mount Stuart Elphinstone defeated them and established the British Raj in this region. During this period, the French, the Portuguese and the British powers established contacts with the Peshwas, sent representatives for various functions. Pune and Delhi were the only centres of power during this century.
The British period:
Crucible of the freedom struggle
The British brought with them their educational and administrative systems. With the establishment of the Bombay University in 1857, numerous educational institutions were founded throughout the Bombay Presidency. Pune has been recognised as a seat of learning and the Deccan College (1851) led the educational movement in Pune. Tilak, Agarkar, Bhandarkar and other luminaries of the nineteenth century studied in the Deccan College. They studied in the English language, but a literary movement was started by organising the first Marathi literary conference in 1878. Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade, V. K. Chiplunkar and others took lead in this sphere of life. Tilak, Agarkar, Nam Joshi and Principal Apte founded the Deccan Education Society and its Furgusson College in 1885. The New English School (1880), the Nutan Marathi Vidyalaya (1883) and the MES Society's High School (1875) were started. Soon after, a high school for Indian girls was established in 1884. A new generation of educated Indians started the freedom movement under the leadership of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He started two newspapers, the Mahratta in English (January 1, 1881) and the Kesri in Marathi (January 4, 1881). Through these newspapers, Tilak aroused interest in national education, national language, swadeshi and swarajyai - the four fold aims for independence. "Swaraj is my birthright" was the slogan given by Tilak to the rest of India.
Gopal Krishna Gokhale is another builder of modern India who established the Servants of India Society and represented Indian interests in the imperial legislative council. Mahatma Gandhi considered him his guru. He was a liberal leader and was elected president of the Indian National Congress. Gopal Ganesh Agarkar was a social reformer and pleaded for social reforms like widow remarriage and education for women. Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve is yet another gem of modern India, who throughout his life fought for the upliftment of women, started a college for them and established the first Indian University for women, named SNDT Women's University. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1958. Senior Wrangler R. P. Paranjape is another luminary from Pune who sacrificed higher salaries and worked as the principal of Fergusson College for over twenty years. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule started education for women and struggled hard for the upliftment of the depressed classes. Shrimati Anandibai Joshi was the first lady to complete medical education in the USA. Thus, we find the origin of various movements - social, religious, educational, political, economic and literary-, in Pune city.
The nineteenth century:
Impetus to education
As a result of the growing awareness, a number of institutions were started in Pune. The S. P. College (1916) and the Nowrosjee Wadia College (1932) were started to cater to the needs of different localities in Pune. Professional colleges were started - the College of Engineering in 1854, Agriculture College in 1908, Law College in 1924, followed by the Sasson Hospital and Medical College. Numerous schools and high schools were started for the spread of education. Educational institutions from Pune attract students from all over India and hence Pune city is called a centre of learning - rich in experience and excellence, with a tradition of devoted teachers. The University of Pune was started on February 10, 1949. Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, Bharati Vidyapeeth, Deccan College, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics gained the status of Deemed University in the 1990s.
Independence and after:
An Industrial Powerhouse
Pune city has made progress all round after Independence. It has earned a reputation as an industrial city during the last fifty years. Kirloskar Industries have a significant presence in Pune. The Garwares developed industries in wall ropes, paints and nylons. Bajaj Auto has emerged a leader in the two wheeler industry all over India. Firodias established their group of automotive industries. Bajaj Tempo,Telco Alfa Laval, Dr. Beck & Co., Philips, Crompton Greaves and numerous industries have been established along the Mumbai-Pune Road. The Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture represents the interests of industrial Pune that earns foreign exchange for the country. Bajaj Tempo, Telco, Alfa Laval, Dr. Beck & Co., Philips, Crompton Greaves and numerous industries have been established. The Pune Stock Exchange has mobilised the share market and caters to the needs of investors. All the major banks in India have their branches in Pune.
The Pune Municipal Corporation:
The Pune city municipality was established in 1857. Elected representatives of citizens managed the affairs of the city, which proved to be a cradle for democratic values. N. C. Kelkar, Hari Narayan Apte and such other scholars presided over the municipality. It was converted into the Pune Municipal Corporation in 1950. It had a budget of over Rs 441 crores during 1999-2000 and extends a wide range of services to the people. It has built public gardens, swimming tanks, sports complexes, jogging tracks, the Bal Gandharva Rangamandir theatre and felicitates eminent Puneites from all walks of life every year.. It has also developed the Saras Baug area and the Katraj Snake Park and Zoo, both places of tourist attraction. With the expansion and establishment of the twin township, the Pimpri Chinchawad Municipal Corporaion was established. It serves a population of over seven lakhs.
A city of knowledge:
Pune is a city of intellectuals, research workers and of modern rishis who devote their whole life to the purpose of learning and research. Testimony to this statement is the world renowned Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute which completed the monumental task of compiling a critical edition of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics laid the foundation for economic research under the leadership of D. R. Gadgil and V. M. Dandekar. The Deccan College has earned a name in the world for its investigations in archaeology, linguistics and anthropology. The Bharat Itihasa Samshodak Mandal has carried out special research in Maratha history.
The same is the case of science and technology. A number of institutions of national importance have been established in Pune after Independence - the National Chemical Laboratory, National Institute of Virology, the Inter University Center for Astronomy and Astrophisics (IUCAA) led by Dr. Jayant Narlikar, the Agarkar Research Institute, Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation. The Indian Meteorological Department, the Hindustan Antibiotics Limited, Bio-Informatics Centre and the National Facility for Animal and Tissue Culture. The Vaikunth Mehta Institute is conducting research in co-operative economics, while the Vasantdada Sugar Institute is a guiding centre for sugar cultivators.
Pune city has also a network of R&D institutions in defence such as the R&D Engineers, Dighi, the College of Military Engineering, Dapodi, the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla and the Institute of Armament Technology. Pune is a military station with headquarters of the Southern Command, Ammunition Factory at Khadki and Bombay Sappers on Alandi Road, all based here. All these institutions have attracted scientists of all India importance to Pune. Over a hundred research institutions have been recognised by the Pune University for post-graduate research.