Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Pune Trivia – 3

Posted in Pune by Amit Paranjape on April 29, 2009

Continuing in the series on Pune Trivia (please also check: Pune History Trivia – 1 and Pune History Trivia – 2)  , here is the 3rd article. I invite readers to update more specific information & comments around these items.


1. Amongst the major forts in Pune district, Torna is the tallest at around 4700 ft. Rajgad comes in at #2 at around 4500 ft, Purandar is #3 at around 4400 ft and Sinhagad is #4 at around 4300 ft.


2. ‘Vetal Tekdi’ the tallest point on the hill behind ILS Law College, is also the tallest point in Pune city; at a height of around 800 M. (Pune Station Height is 550 M).


3. The main building of the National Defense Academy (NDA) in Khadakwasala, Pune is named ‘Sudan’ Block. The donation made by the King of Sudan in 1941 (to honor Indian Soldiers who fought in North Africa in WW II) was used for the construction of this building.


4. The Synagogue opposite B.J. Medical College Ground (also referred to as ‘Lal Deul’) near Pune Camp is one of the largest Synagogues in Asia. It was built by David Sassoon in 1867.


5. Probably the most ancient route from the Arabian Sea to the Deccan Plateau was through the ‘Nane Ghat’ just north of Junnar in the Pune district. The present day motorable ‘Ale-Malshej Ghat’ is built just a few kilometers near the ‘Nane Ghat’. Recently quite a few historic artifacts (dating all the way back to the Greek/Roman period…) have been discovered near Junnar by archaeologists.


6. The Aga Khan Palace was built by Aga Khan III, in 1892. It was an infrastructure development project specifically designed to generate employment for the famine struck neighbouring areas. Mahatma Gandhi was put under house arrest here in the 1940s. Kasturba Gandhi passed-away at this palace, and her Samadhi was built here.


7. Apparently (someone please confirm…) the large towers arrays complex that you see lying vacant for years, on Nagar Road, just past Kalyani Nagar are Short Wave Radio Towers used for international communications, prior to the advent of communication satellites! Talking about satellite communications, one of India’s first major satellite communication ground station was built in Arvi (near Junnar) in 1971. Until recently when under-sea optical fibers took over, this center was the primary gateway for India’s international telecom traffic.


8. The ‘GMRT’ Giant Meter Wave Radio Telescope is also located near Junnar and is the world’s largest array of meter wave radio telescopes. It was completed in 1995.


9. One of the oldest photos of Pune can be found in the book ‘Krishna-Dhaval Pune’ is that of Parvati Lake in 1857. Can you suggest any other older photos?


10. The Mobos Hotel was one of the more popular hotels Pune in the 1950s (and earlier). Later on it was converted into a government building, housing multiple offices. Years of neglect has resulted in its present dilapidated state. The Mobos Hotel has to its credit Pune’s first drive-in restaurant and discotheque (both in the 1960s). Any idea when this hotel was built?


11. Sadhu Vaswani Mission in Pune was established by Sadhu Vaswani in 1949-50. He moved to Pune from Hyderabad (Sindh, Pakistan) after the partition. The Sindh Society (near Aundh) was also established shortly thereafter – which at that point of time was way outside Pune City.


12. Probably the oldest library in Pune dates back to 1818, the year the British defeated the Peshwe Empire. This library – ‘The United Services Library’ is located near Pune camp.


13. The oldest hospital in Pune is Sassoon Hospital. It was established with the support of David Sassoon in 1867. The other old Pune hospital, KEM was established in1912.


14. The Erandwane Gaothan (original settlement) is located on the banks of the Mutha River, just off Karve Road and Mhatre Bridge (very near the new Persistent Systems Campus).


15. Here is some information I gathered about famous old schools in Pune that were established in the 19th century.


Bishops – established 1864

St. Mary’s School – established 1866

St. Vincent School Pune – established 1867

New English School – established 1880

Nu Ma Vi – established 1883

Huzur Paga – established 1884


15. The Ranade Institute on Fergusson College Road was established by Gopal Krishna Gokhale (founder of Servants of India Society) in 1910. It was named ‘Ranade’ institute in honor of Gokhale’s guru, Justice Ranade.


14 Responses

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  1. narayan said, on April 29, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    re: “The oldest hospital in Pune is Sassoon Hospital. It was established with the support of David Sassoon in 1867. The other old Pune hospital, KEM was established in1912.”

    as someone that grew up in bombay, i’m familiar with the sassoon docks area.

    if that name piques your curiosity, take a look at:

    for a different version of the same story, take a look at:

    i wonder how many people in pune know that one of its institutions is built on the drug trade between india and china.

    during one of my visits to shanghai, i was surprised to see a “sassoon room” in one of the oldest hotels in the city (search for “sassoon” in on the side of the hotel was a plaque commemorating one of first international conventions on the trade in narcotic drugs. that is what led me to do a little research on the subject.

  2. Sam said, on April 30, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Nice compilation Amit.

    Did not know Vetal tekadi is the highest points in pune! Been there so many times.

    Nane-ghat is also such an historically important location. It has potential of becoming a tourist place if govt/archeology dept care to think in a different perspective.


  3. Pooja Ahuja said, on October 19, 2009 at 1:29 am

    amazing compilation of all the information about pune.

  4. […]  Continue reading more Pune History Trivia: Pune Trivia – 3 […]

  5. Gaurav said, on February 17, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Some interesting facts I found from a 19th century travel book on google books and related searches

    – Holkar bridge was built by Madhav Rao Peshwa and so named because Holkar’s troops used to be stationed there.

    – The population of Pune when the book was written (released 1894) was 160,000

    – St. Mary’s church was built in 1825. I wonder if it is the oldest in Pune.

    – The book mentions Albert Sassoon’s beautiful house named “Garden Reach” at 300 yds from COEP. Is it still around? Or did the college’s expansion swallow it?

    – Khadakwasla lake was also called Lake Fife

  6. Gaurav said, on February 18, 2011 at 12:21 am

    Came across a book written in 1836! Has quite a few pages dedicated to Pune. Link

    Interesting details from it

    – The book mentions the “finest portion” of the city as an area called Goosaweepoor – I presume Gosavipur. Built by Gosavis who he describes as beggar-brahmins. I wonder what area this was!

    – The book mentions a Sanskrit college… I presume that’s the Poona College?

    – At the bottom of Parvati stairs, there used to be a brick-walled square where annually, brahmins gathered from all over the country and were given alms by the Peshwa.

    – There was a major Dussehra celebration, marked by sacrifice of sheep! Can you imagine dasra being associated with sacrifice now?

  7. Amit Paranjape said, on February 18, 2011 at 12:26 am

    Gaurav – Thanks for the links and your comments.

    I think the Sanskrit College was the one that was started in Vishrambag Wada, in the 1820s.

    The Parvati ‘Dakshina’ ceremony was a big event. I have briefly discusssed about it in my recent blogpost about Parvati: .. More details about this are also available in Charles Malet (British Resident in Pune 1785-1795) Letters, and ‘Pune in the Bygone Days’ by D.B. Parasnis.

  8. Gaurav said, on February 18, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Instead of writing book-by-book I’ll post the rest of the stuff as just one long comment

    – A book from 1891 by the Archbishop of Bombay mentions the Bombay-Pune train journey taking 5 hours. Heh, 120 years later, the journey is not too shorter.

    – The same book describes a trip to Mahabaleshwar. He mentions in passing one solitary “enterprising Chinaman” growing strawberries there, but dismisses them as being way inferior to English strawberries.

    – According to a magazine article from 1852,the Jamsetji bund was first built in 1845 but towards the end of its construction, cholera broke out. So work on it wasn’t finished and it got washed away during the monsoons. Was rebuilt in 1847, got washed away again. The final attempt in 1850 was finally successful and it held.

    – GMRT and IUCAA seem to be continuing an old tradition of astrophysics being important for the city. An 1892 magazine article mentions that a “spectroheliograph” (invented in 1890) would be installed at the observatory in Pune following the request of a Prof Naegamvala. And one would “also” be installed later in Chicago!

    – Freemasons (made famous by Da Vinci Code) are still active in Pune. The Masonic lodge was one of the first non-local places built in the city soon after Brits took over. In 1818! Let the conspiracy theories begin. 😛

    – An 1825 book describes great religious harmony in Pune – a Portuguese chapel in the city centre and big celebrations of Muharram. Also mentions that Muslims took part respectfully in Hindu holidays.

    – A book from 1850 mentions the fabulous cave temple of Bhamburda. That would be, I assume, Chaturshringi?

    – The same book also mentions that Jamsetjee’s bund was washed away on previous attempts and the latest attempt will hopefully stick.

    – The same book mentions what I thought was an interesting tisbit – it describes a hawker trying to sell him a vaagh-nakh! Also provides an illustration of that weapon.

    – Ramoshis were the “gurkha” of that time, with watchman jobs available exclusively for them.

    – Maybe something known to others but was news to me – when Raghunath Rao was exiled in 1776, he shifted to Malabar Hill in Bombay!

    – Sangam Bridge is mentioned in an 1857 book as “Wellington Bridge” not Wellesley Bridge. As we know, his name was Wellesley and he was the Duke of Wellington, so it’s the same guy being honored. But I found the use of the other name interesting.

    – The same author says when the water was low at the Sangam, he saw several stones near the temple with two feet engraved on them. Each of these was out in remembrance of women who did sati there (outlawed since 1829, so almost 30 years). So the next time you are at the temple at Sangam and see stones with two feet, you know what they signify.

    – Several books mention a street near the river which was designated by the Peshwas for executing culprits by crushing them under elephant’s feet (the most famous being, of course, Vithoji Holkar). Anyone know where that street is now?

    – Several books from the 1850s mention a massive Jain temple that was desribed multiple times as “Chinese-looking”. It was said to be at the end of town, which in present times must be smack damn city-center. Any idea if this temple still stands and what it’s called? I don’t remember a hugeJain temple in the “gao” area, just one in Swargate.

    – Several books also mention a spectacular masjid near the water tank at the bottom of Parvati. I don’t remember a masjid anywhere there. Is my memory failing me? Been almost 7 years since I visited Parvati.

    – The 1857 book describes near Parvati a small lake with an island – obviously Saras Bag. It only describes the tiny island as having one or two palm trees, nothing else. Shows how “new” the temple there is. The book also mentions the lake as an “extensive sheet of water”, suggesting that saras bag area had a big lake which has since dried up.

    – The same book has a couple of pages on Ganeshotsav, describing it as a grand festival lasting several days. He mentions processions of the visarjan involving many people and even elephants, at the end of which th e idols are immersed at Sangam Bridge. So the Ganeshotsav was always a big celebration in Pune. Tilak only used it as a means of activism.

    – It mentions coconut day (narali purnima, aka rakshabandha) as the day that the monsoon is supposed to end, and sailors consider it safe to go in the sea again.

    – This I found very interesting. You know Chinchwad’s Morya Gosavi? The author of the 1850s book went to Chinchwad just to see the then-Chintamani. He notes though that the divine line ended several years back. He didn’t get to meet the guy who was considered as the Chintamani dev then, so he left. He describes the temple at Chinchwad as being very clean as opposed to temples in Pune which he found messy and dirty.

  9. Amit Paranjape said, on February 18, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Gaurav, Thanks for the detailed additions. Will add my comments on a few of these sometime later.

  10. Amit Paranjape said, on February 18, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Gaurav – few comments/additions to your points..

    The Mumbai-Pune train ride took close to 6 hours until the early 1920s (first hand validation from my grandfather as well). The electrification of the line was completed around 1930. Deccan Queen was the first new electric train. Another major work done at this time was the construction of the #26 tunnel near Khandala – this rendered the ‘reversing station’ obselete and saved considerable time.

    Was surprised to read one reference in one of Charles Malet (English Resident to Peshwas) letters – that Nana Phadnavis and Sawai Mahdavrao had taken a short trip to Mahabaleshwar from Wai. So it was a known trip destination, before the British era as well.

    Have written briefly about the Parvati lake in my related blog post. The lake was quite big – stretching from Hirabag (Tilak Road) to Sarasbag. Was burried in the early part of 20th century, as the city expanded, and as the stagnant water started creating problems.

    Ganeshotsav was big in the Peshwe era – but then went back to people’s homes post 1818. Please refer my blog post for some more info:

    The cave temple in Bhamburda is most probably Pataleshwar Caves (Jangli Maharaj Mandir). This was the original Bhamburda village area.

  11. Gaurav said, on February 18, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    Thanks Amit. Fascinating additions. I also came across a random Gazetter’s report from the 1800s that mnetioned my home-neighborhood Kothrud. I used to think its only claim to fame in history was being Mastani’s residence and the location of a leisurely garden. And I knew that guavas from Kothrud were once considered among the best. But beyond that, didn’t know much.

    Found an interesting tidbit. In 1820s, the Bombay government announced that it would subsidize silk cultivation. A dude from Itali, Signor Mutti took up that offer and was awarded a large tract of land in Kothrud in 1830 by the Collector of Pune. There, he grew mulberry trees and cultivated silkworm and was very successful. Later a handful of other Englishmen and Scotsmen also started silk farming in Kothrud. Around the 1850s, Kothrud produced considerable quantities of silk.

    I wonder when the silk industry disappeared from Kothrud. All references from the mid-20th century again go back to talking about guavas. And later on (pre-1980s), all Kothrud references are about Kirloskar Cummins and Sangam Press. So I was very fascinated to learn about this short-lived silk era of Kothrud.

  12. Amit Paranjape said, on February 19, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Gaurav – Yes, the Gazette is a great source of information. Amazing levels of details compiled by the British in the 19th century. The silk cultivation in Kothrud is a fascinating story. I have in fact written about this in my (unpublished for a long time…need to finish it!) Pune History Trivia – 4 post. Along similar lines, there is also a reference to a test coffee cultivation in Mundhwa. One more point regarding Kothrud – don’t forget the big Pathwardhanbag (just the area exists garden). This was the garden and the official camping site of Sardar Patwardhan in Pune.

  13. Kiran Modak said, on November 19, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I have heard somewhere that the Pune Cantonment is the largest in the world, do we have an idea how many military establishments call Pune home, would be very interesting to know if its true.

    Thanks, Great work by the way really enjoyed all three posts about Pune

  14. Amit Paranjape said, on November 19, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Kiran – Thanks for the feedback. Regarding your query – not sure.

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