Pune has come a long way! From being a tiny agricultural settlement called 'Punnaka' in the 8th century to becoming the land of Peshwas (prime ministers) of the Maratha empire for 150 years.
Today, Pune is the eighth largest metropolis in India by GDP, and has earned the nickname "Oxford of the East" due to many educational institutions in the city that attract international students from around the world.
Our Pune bike tour takes you through the timeline of Pune’s ancient history as
we start riding on those hidden lanes that silently spill the secrets of Pune’s early life in the 17th century
then bring you slowly in that era when Pune and the rest of the Peshwa territories came under the control of the British East India Company in the 18th century and
finally letting you in, to end the ride on a high note on modern roads of Pune that roar of its present day growth story having turned it from a mid-size city to a large metropolis.
The city has grown! A perfect blend of green landscapes, history, traditions and city lights set in a soul-soothing atmosphere make Pune one of the most sought-after rejuvenating destinations in Maharashtra.
Old Pune: Capital of the Maratha Empire
Our biking expedition begins at the Shaniwarwada Fort, one of the many age-old relics and forts of Pune and standing testimony of the city’s glorious past when it used to be the seat of the Maratha Empire.
We then ride into the Kasba Peth area, one of the oldest residential areas of Pune, said to have been established sometime in the 5th century. We find ourselves riding on relatively narrow roads sandwiched between old residential complexes, variety of shops, local manufacturers and the bamboo market. We are greeted by smiling faces of small vegetable and fish vendors even though they’re busy laying out their produce for sale in the wee hours of the day.
Once in Kasba Peth, we visit the popular Kasba Ganpati (Elephant God) temple and the Lal Mahal (Red Palace) that used to be the house of Chhatrapati Shivaji, a legendary Indian war king of his time worshipped by many even today. The Lal Mahal was built (in 1630) by Shivaji’s father Shahaji Bhosale for his wife and son. The structure that we see though is a reconstruction of the original because the actual Lal Mahal was ruined towards the end of the 17th century with wartime invasions.
We ride past the famous and over 100-year-old Shreemant Dagadusheth Halwai Ganapati Temple of Pune. The life-size Lord Ganesha idol residing in this temple is of precious gold and insured for a sum of INR 10 million. The construction of this temple (completed in 1893) is so simple that all the proceedings in the temple along with the beautiful Ganesh idol can be seen even from outside as we rider past it in the morning.
From here, our bike journey takes us to one of the most fascinating spots of old Pune, the Mandai Market. This Anglo-Indian architectural 8-sided building is home to 500+ vendors selling farm produce generation after generation since the 1880s. This a great opportunity to strike up conversations with these vendors and get to know their journeys. One cannot miss but notice their family-like bonding with each other that is formed because of decades spent side-by-side inside this heritage structure.
You will also be fascinated to ride on a particular short stretch where a temple, mosque, synagogue and basilica are standing adjacent to each other. This part of raw Pune strikes a complete contrast with other side of chic Pune, which is a burgeoning IT hub.
Medieval Pune: The British Rule
Our heritage bike ride continues as we now get to witness the second angle of Pune as we enter the Pune Cantonment area. We ride past some significant military establishments such as The Headquarters of Southern Command of the Indian Armed Forces.
We ride past the statue of the Late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. SHFJ Manekshaw was the first of only two Indian military officers to hold the rank of field marshal. His distinguished military career spanned four decades and five wars, including World War II.
From here, we enter the heart of Pune and get to bike freely on some of the otherwise busiest streets of this sprawling city. However, at this hour we have the privilege of listening to its silence and feel the cool breeze in our face while soaking in the joy of riding on well-paved and organized lanes surrounded by modern residential and commercial constructions.
We end our journey by riding past the popular Osho International Meditation Resort and sit down to enjoy a healthy and sumptuous breakfast at one of our handpicked restaurants in Koregaon Park.