The JJC’s Guide to Pune & Environs

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Pune is  the second largest city in the state of Maharashtra, India after the state capital city of Mumbai. It was once the center of power of the Maratha Empire established by Shivaji Maharaj. If you’re visiting for the very first time, here are some places you can check out in and around the city.

Aga Khan Palace

According to Wikipedia, the Aga Khan Palace was built by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III in Pune, India. Built in 1892, it is one of the biggest landmarks in Indian history.

The palace was an act of charity by the Sultan who wanted to help the poor in the neighboring areas of Pune, who were drastically hit by famine.

The palace is closely linked to the Indian freedom movement as it served as a prison for Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi, his secretary Mahadev Desai and Sarojini Naidu. It is also the place where Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai died.

Getting access into the site requires a fee of 100 rupees for foreigners and 5 rupees for locals (at the time of this writing)

Shaniwar Wada

Shaniwar Wada is an 18th century fortification in the city of Pune built in 1746. The fort itself was largely destroyed in 1828 by an unexplained fire but there is a legend behind the iron doors. The fort is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young Prince brutally assassinated by his uncle. Locals say that whenever there is a full moon, they can still hear his final cries of “kaka mala vachwa” (uncle, save me) ringing through the abandoned fort.

Lonavala

Lonavala (Lonavla) is a hill station municipal council close to Pune. It is known for its natural beauty and cool climate.  During monsoon season, it boasts of several waterfalls. It takes about 2.5 hrs to drive to the hill station from Pune.

The trip to Lonavala is usually combined with a visit to Khandala, which locals say is a nice place to visit but I didn’t get to visit this time.

Lonavala is also famous for selling Chikki, a traditional ready-to-eat Indian sweet generally made from groundnuts and jiggery. I got a few of these and they actually tasted nice.

Lavasa

Lavasa is a private planned city being built near Pune. Billed as India’s first hill station since Independence, it is stylistically based on the Italian town Portofino, with a street and several buildings bearing the name of that town.

The development of the city is still ongoing but is being stalled for many reasons, one of which is the damage to the environment. I do hope they find a way to preserve it as much as possible.

Lavasa is about 2 hours away from Pune.

The Local Markets

Don’t forget to check out the local markets too.

Have you ever been to Pune, what places would you recommend for a first timer?

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