Pune Barbara Kingstone March 19, 2011 Asia, India Pune is one of the youngest cities of India. Lovingly called ‘the Queen of the Deccan’ because of the beauty and natural resources that abound here, it lies at the concourse of the Mula and Mutha rivers, on the leeward side of the Western Ghats. Pune is the eighth largest city of India and is colloquially known for its world class educational institutions and research organizations that attract the youth of the nation. Despite its youthful outset, Pune began its development under Chhatrapati Shivaji in the 17thcentury who encouraged the agriculture and commerce in this peaceful land, till the later Peshwas joined the Indian freedom struggle. The Anglo-Maratha wars that followed brought an end to the Maratha rule but saw the birth of political leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Jyotirao Phule and Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was imprisoned at the Yerwada jail and held under house arrest at the Aga Khan Palace just before the independence. But post independence Pune rapidly developed, transforming itself into a world class city as it revisited its cultural roots with a renewed patronage in Marathi art and humanism. Now known as Maharashtra’s culture capital, it brings together the traditional art and culture in tandem with a modern liberal outlook that keeps this city reinventing itself. Because of its temperate weather, it is best visited after the monsoon between the months of August and March. You could then catch the month long Pune festival that will see you in the midst of a whirlwind of activities – you could immerse yourself in the classical music and dance recitals, or the various theatre performances at the Ganesh Kala Krida Rangamanch and Sudarshan Rangmanch or indulge your love for world cinema in the film festivals, or even drive for an adrenaline rush at the automobile rallies and traditional sport tournaments. If you happen to be in Pune in December then you would witness Sawai Gandharva Music Festival that invites connoisseurs of Hindustani and Carnatic music from all over the world for this eagerly awaited three day extravaganza. Having imbibed the heritage that it has to offer you could delight yourself in the colonial architecture that dots the city. A must-see is the basalt rock cut Pataleshwar cave temple dedicated to the Lord Shiva. You could also visit the Aga Khan palace, now known as the Gandhi National Memorial that has the memoirs and photographs of Gandhi’s most influential moments on display. You could pay tribute to Chhatrapati Shivaji as you explore the acres of the Lal Mahal or the Sinhagad fort where one can see the famous Pune Gates, military stables and a Kali Mandir. The military, educational and research institutions that are part of the city’s core infrastructure, also attracts the youth from all over the world – and where there are hard working youth there Is a harder partying circuit. With Pune’s proximity to Goa and Mumbai, it has become the leading hub for Trance and House music with its popularity soaring further with the emergence of annual youth festivals like Verve. The discos, pubs, bars and lounges attract a multicultural crowd that wears out their dance shoes all night and cool off with the sunrise at the many star eateries that dot Pune’s visage. As the excitement of wild nights depletes, one could find solace and space for meditation at the various spiritual and yoga ashrams that this city houses. A devotee of Osho could find peace in his teachings and meditative sessions at Osho International Meditation Resort in the Koregaon Park area which is known as the Esalen of the East. It is a tourist destination in itself as it attracts a devoted following of over 200,000 people every year that includes politicians, media personalities and even the Dalai Lama, all seeking to reunite the desires of the body, mind and soul in a beautiful environment. If something intense is more up your alley, you could practice intensive yoga and yogic teachings under the illustrious Yoga Master B. K. S. Iyengar at his yogic school and resort improving on the Pranayama and yoga sutras. Pune provides a holistic experience rare in a world class city. With its happy marriage of extremes, it provides you with a uniquely wide range of experiences that push comprehensive boundaries of thought, culture and liberality bringing you a youthfulness of mind and soul that is inimitable.