Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Time Travel in Tulsibaug: Ancient Shree Ram Temple, Pune

Pune is not only about blooming IT companies, growing urban concrete and flashy glass structures – but a lot more about a distinct culture and unique traditions that it lovingly keeps in its heart. As a cherished treasure. Something I realized during my recent visit to the ancient Shree Ram temple in Tulsibaug…

The verandah to the ancient Shree Ram Temple, Tulsibaug, Pune, Maharashtra
Come, let's visit Tulsibaug.

Built by Jivajipant Khasgiwale in 18th century, Tulsibaug, with its array of shops splattered all around and a few heritage temples, is both a commercial hub as well a cultural hub - with a 'vintage' feel. At that time when it was so named, the place used to be a flourishing garden filled with the fragrance of basil. Today, however, it's a contrast... a stony mosaic, of nondescript buildings, habitual shops and half-insulated-half-naked copper wires dangling loosely – such that you could as well pass this off as any other gully from a city like say, Mathura. Not just that, the uncanny resemblance also stems from the high quotient of antiquity that whirls in its environs.

Amid the chaos of shops and buzzing people, I am struck by the tantalizing aroma of freshly cooked traditional Maharashtrian delicacy Pohe wafting in the air one minute followed by the sight of its highly acclaimed envoy Lord Ganpati greeting me from the window of a pandal (residential tent) the other.

Tulsibaug sarvajanik ganesh utsav mandal trust, Pune
Tulsibaug Ganpati greets the visitors in one of the lanes.

A few more miles and a small gate, in blue frame appears with a clear signpost tacked above it – it says, Shree Ram temple, Tulsibaug.

Entrance gateway to ancient Shree Ram Temple, Tulsibaug, Pune, Maharashtra
Entrance to Shree Ram temple, Tulsibaug.

Inside the gate is a narrow verandah wrapped in dilapidated structures, revealing broken wooden doors and windows both thrown open as well as closed. The verandah passes through a two storied 'Nagarkhana', which was built by Shrimant Madhavrao Peshwa after he won the battle of Kharde. The Nagarkhana is a musical complex housing a traditional musical instrument called Chaughada which comes alive with its beats on festive occasions, a tradition carried on since the times of its inception.

Musical Naagarkhana at the Shree Ram Temple, Tulsibaug, Pune, Maharashtra
The Nagarkhana breathes in music on festive occasions.

Below the nagarkhana is another modestly arched doorway which opens into the spacious compound of the temple.

Beautiful paintings on the walls of ancient Shree Ram Temple, Tulsibaug, Pune, Maharashtra
Tales from the Ramayana come alive through these paintings on the walls.

As soon as we step in, the 150 feet high conical shikara (spire) of the temple stands out for its grandiosity, beauty and the intricately carved figurines of saints and deities all over it.

Restoration work of Shree Ram Temple, Tulsibaug, Pune, Maharashtra
Behold the majestic and intricately carved conical spire of the temple

The blackish tinge on the brick structure of the spire gives it – the temple is aged. A dive in history and indeed! Though the shikhara was added only in the late nineteenth century but the original structure of the temple is an ancient one dating back to the 17th century. Constructed by Shrimant Naro Appaji Tulshibaugwale a nobleman in the Peshwa court under the orders of Balaji Baji Rao, the temple is today one of the few that have managed to retain its element from the era of the Pehwas. It was good to see restoration work in progress when we visited the place. 

The spacious sabhamandap of Shree Ram Temple, Tulsibaug, Pune, Maharashtra
The temple, being restored, yet retains its charm from the era of the Pehwas.

The temple has a wooden sabhamandap (congregation hall), essentially an open space supported by withered columns and carved arches with an attractive teak ceiling decorated in ornate designs and patterns. The sabhamandap evoked a sense of peace and calm with no people around. There were a few things though – like a charpoy, bare with nails, which lay abandoned in the center and a few chalkboards reading significant dates in the Hindu calendar, which clung to the wall.

Arches in sabhamandap of Shree Ram Temple, Tulsibaug, Pune, Maharashtra
A sneak peak of the sanctum in the far distance
Wooden columns in the sabhamandap of Shree Ram Temple, Tulsibaug, Pune, Maharashtra
Sabhamandap: Footsteps echo as we walk, except that - there is no noise, total silence prevails.

The garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum is a stone enclosure housing deities of Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman in the center while other deities like Lord Vishnu and Garuda sit beside them. Lord Hanuman sits exactly opposite them, not in the sanctum but in the sabhamandap with folded hands and a gaze constantly fixed at His Shree Ram.

The ornate teak ceiling

There is ample space of circumambulation provided around the mandap area where one gets a glimpse of other smaller temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vithal-Godess Rakhumai, Lord Ganesha, Godess Parvati, Lord Dattareya but due to the restoration work that was on, we had to skip it.

Restoration work: Stones, slabs and rods lying all around the temple precincts.

If we were to literally go by the name, Tulsibaug is no 'Tulsibaug' anymore – the basil plants are nowhere to be seen and there is no garden. On the face of it - it's hard, stony but it's just a matter of time and you realize the something that is deep and buried within it...

The incospicuos doorway to Shree Ram Temple, Tulsibaug, Pune, Maharashtra
Till the end of this life, work will keep you forever busy;
Make some time such, shower love to your Master.
'English translation of the signpost outside the temple'

Tulsibaug, for me, with its tapered lanes, bustling market and heritage temples; will always remain a fragrant memory... the place where cultural roots continue to burgeon in the garden of history and traditions.

Tips and other information for Travellers:

- Tulsibaug is located right in the middle of the city, just 10 minutes walk from the famous Dagdusheth Ganpati temple, so you can club them together and visit Tulsibaug just after paying reverence at Dagdusheth.

- Since Tulsibaug is spread in a vast area, keep around 30 - 45 minutes in hand to explore the place.

- A little off from Tulsibaug is Mahatma Phule Mandai, the biggest vegetable market in Pune.

Previous Posts from Pune:

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  1. Interesting , Pune is one city that is on cusp of becoming a big sprawling metropolis any day now. So good to see such wonderful gems still are nestled in the heart of the city. The artwork on the walls adds to the charm of the temple and kind of carries our traditions from Ajanta Ellora frescos in a more contemporary style....

  2. I was thinking the same - it has the Mathura or a small city feel. Reminds of Ambala. I love visiting such places which still preserve the old world charm.

  3. Fascinating to read of how these two aspects - the commercial and the cultural - stand side-by-side. Not that this doesn't happen elsewhere its just that it seems particularly marked here. Fascinating as always, thank you for sharing.

  4. Many go to Tulsibaug now a days mainly for shopping, as you get a good variety at reasonable rates.

  5. Noted for next visit! Somehow did not see this place, Arti!

  6. Commend your patient effort to travel to this narrow crowded place to unearth & document this ancient & charming temple !

  7. The more we know about Pune, more we get astonished. I loved this post so much, read it twice. :). Although it looks like a small temple from outside, the Shikhar and the Sabhamandap is so large. I am surprised to see the peace there in the big city like Pune. :) Enjoying the trip.

  8. These old temples have an aura around them--thanks for showing me this one.

    And a very Happy B-day Arti.

  9. Pune is an amAzing city full of plenty of maharashtrian heritage. We should quickly see/document it before real estate destroys it. Excellent pictures and very good article... Reminds me of my student days in this then charming City.

  10. The way led to the temple simply fascinating... passing number of charming doorways. I think you have been to the temple on a holiday time – where the complex look deserted to wander freely and photo friendly. Your narrative and photos captured the place alive! The temple looks wonderful in woods

  11. What a fun read here. The images scream "India" as our trip to the country last year gave us a glimpse into local life. The last quote sums it up nicely. We'll be working and playing so take a few moments to express thanks for our work and play.

    Thanks for the inspired share!


  12. Beautiful, thanks for taking us on this wonderful tour of this temple.

  13. This place's absolutely adventurous and worth exploring. Can't wait to make it there perhaps this year. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

    1. Wow!! Are you coming to India? Yes, I am keeping my fingers crossed and I hope we do get time to meet each other :)

  14. Tulsi baug is one the most popular place for shopping, here you can get all the things, from household to other uses. I have visited many times this place, because i m from pune and i can say that you have listed right information about tulsi baug, rather i can say you have come up with all the details.

    1. Your reply means a lot to me Harish since you have lived there in Pune :)

  15. @ALL Thanks so much for your inspiring comments. This Temple is one of my favorites from all my travels and if anyone of you is in Pune, do visit this one.

  16. This is interesting Arti. Lesser known local temples need as much glory as the popular, crowded ones. Thanks for the tour!

  17. Lovely pics of the temple.
    I remember piercing my ears from a jeweller's shop in Tulsi Baug in my college days here, at Bharti Vidyapeeth, Katraj.

  18. Old temples exude an aura which are inexplicable. The fragrance of incense sticks, ghee and burnt wicks produce a different ambience...thanks for this virtual trip Arti... :-)

  19. Interesting! There are a couple of lovely old trees on either side of the Ram temple there. The shops at Tulshibaug stock stuff that's available nowhere else in the city. People from far and wide have to go there if they need any of those things.

  20. Lovely pics & info. Super visit from my home thanks to you :)

  21. those are lovely pics thank you for taking us on a ride :)


  22. Awesome post Arti,
    Great to read about Tulsibaug, Beautiful photos.

  23. Thanks for sharing the post, I love history and more so the wooden roof had me bowled...loved it...great post and great mini discovery

  24. It definitely has the old world charm to the red buildings and the ,murals are super!
    Every time I 'take a yatra with you', there's something new to be found...Wonderful Arti :)

  25. Commend your patient effort to travel to this narrow crowded place to unearth & document this ancient & charming temple !

  26. What a great virtual tour, Arti. This looks like such a fascinating temple to visit. I love all the symbolism and architectural details.

  27. This is an amazing and fascinating tour, Arti. Thank you so much for sharing.

  28. Your pictures spoke much more than your words. Pune is one of the cities on my to-visit list. This post makes me want to make it faster.

  29. For me, those paintings are priceless - such a beauty and history they are!
    Even the conical spire touched me.

    I have never been to Pune for long; but if I go, I might give this a visit. Thank you!


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