We’re still learning the ropes of our new adopted home, but we took off some time last week before Younger Daughter started school today to explore some of the sights of the Pune area. Thankfully, Elder Daughter was armed with her camera, because I’m pitiful at taking pictures.
On Wednesday we visited Parvati Darshan, a temple complex on a hill in the middle of the city. Structures at the complex date to the mid 1700s, and were constructed by the Peshwas, the royal rulers of the Maratha Empire, formerly centered in this area.
There was a small cultural museum at the base of the hill, displaying Peshwa dynasty artifacts, including weapons, portraits of the ruling line, coins, and everyday items. The climb to the 2,100 foot summit was a short uphill hike ascending wide ramps and stairs, with stonework to either side.
The Vishnu temple at the top is spectacular:
And the view of the surrounding city is also well worth the ascent, although I don’t have any snaps of that to hand.
With the quick climb behind us, our driver Rupesh suggested additional exercise – this time a hike up to Singhagad, one of the massive fortifications ringing the city. These forts also date back to the 1600s and 1700s. They changed hands many times and were the sites of historic battles, sieges, and massacres as the Maratha forces vied with the Mughals for control of the region.
Singahad Fort’s summit is over 4,300 feet – about 2,625 feet above the surrounding country, an imposing presence with a commanding view. To be entirely fair, we didn’t hike from the base. There was a twisty switchback road about 1.75 car-widths wide that took us most of the way. One side of the road was the cliff, the other a haphazardly defined margin of scrubby bushes, with a deadfall just beyond them. Since this was a two-way road with occasional bus traffic, it made the day all that more exciting. The last several hundred feet though was on foot, up another series of ramps and stairs, winding around the top of the hill.
The climb does not dissuade path-side snack sellers, who ply their trade at every landing and vista on the way up. The white city in the distance is Pune.
Around every breathless bend was another spectacular shot:
We went out touring again on Saturday. First we went to the Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park. We went early, just as it opened. The morning was cool and breezy, and the zoo was quiet and shady, compared to the bustle of the streets. The larger animal exhibits are well spread out, and we enjoyed strolling along the zoo’s lanes to find them.
Having been warned, we avoided the thought of ruffling the tigers, guar, wolves, and hoofed stock. Snake hackling was also right out.
You’ll have to take our word for it though that we saw elephants, macaques, and cobras, too – but all were camera-shy.
After a pleasant morning strolling about, we went to another historical venue. This was a memorial to Shinde Chhatri, a heroic general of the Marathas, who served the Peshwas from 1760 to 1780. The building has been recently restored, inside and out.
The caretaker explained to us (as best he could) that the line of notables descended from the general and his family (the portraits lining the walls) persists to this day, and remains active in governance and politics.
Needless to say, I’ll be reading more about India’s pre-Colonial history, especially that of the Maratha Empire.