Quilts and Other Stuff from Frances

Pune Tour–Part 2


The next morning, while Michael worked, I headed out for another super day of sightseeing with Rashid Ali of Chalo Heritage & Nature Walks.  I spent time with Rashid last year and had one of the best days of sightseeing that I have ever had…..check it out HERE.

Today the plan was to finish the tour that I started last time….apparently I spent too much time enjoying myself and we didn’t get finished with everything!!!  Then we were going to add a few new places as well.

As Rashid picked me up, he told me that this was a holiday in India….the festival of Dahi Handi, with Dahi meaning curd and Handi meaning bowl.  The story behind the festival is this……

When the Indian god Krishna was a little boy, he loved to eat butter (or curd) and he would always find pots of such and empty them out.  His parents would try to hide the pots in out-of-the-way places, but he always found them.  This Festival celebrates that fact by hanging a clay pot high up in the air and forming human pyramids to retrieve the pot.   The one that retrieves it is awarded a cash prize.

Rashid told me that this year might be a bit different because the Indian Supreme Court had just issued a ruling set to protect the revelers.   The height at which the pot could be hung was limited to 20 feet and the minimum age of the person in the pyramid was also being regulated.  Since this was a fairly new change, he felt that it would be interesting to see how many people actually followed the new law.

He had picked me up early so we could beat the traffic but since it was a holiday, there WASN’T any traffic.   The plan was to park his car and take Auto Rickshaws for our journeys but when we arrived at the place where he had planned to park we found that the deck was closed.   Never deterred, Rashid made the call that we would drive to all of our destinations.   The driving was easy but finding places to park was a bit of a chore.  It was funny to watch people say “no you can’t park here but you can park over there” and then after moving over there, someone would say “no you can’t park here but you can park over there!!!!”.  Eventually the car was parked and we began our tour!!!

The first stop was the temple of Shiva’s Wife, (Parvarti) located at the top of Parvarti Hill.  The temple is the oldest heritage structure in Pune and was built during the rule of the Peshwa dynasty. 

The climb up Parvarti Hill (supposedly 103 steps) was punctuated with goats….IMG_8070



…and stately trees, both indigenous and introduced. 

We did a quick tour of the Peshwa museum which contained some interesting items, but they were not well displayed.  The museum was dark and with little explanations so the tour was short, sweet and to the point!!

But, just beyond the museum we started to see the splendid structures of the temple…..


There was a lot of bright colors which greatly appealed to my senses!!!

We passed into the courtyard featuring the “Shri Kartika Swami Temple”, having to leave our shoes at the door step.   This temple wasn’t large…


but the multi-colored dome was entrancing…..IMG_8078

Rashid has training as a biologist and provided an informative guide to the trees in the temple area.   I found this one to be intriguing as the branches grew downward rather than up to the sky……


It is called a False Ashoka  or Buddha tree and is native to India.

Rashid talked about the Tamarind tree which is not native to this country, but he said that, in environmental circles, it had received “it’s green card” because it has worked it’s way into Indian tradition, culture and cooking.   I thought that was a great description!!

He also talked about the Neem plant (tree) that is used for medicine, insecticides and pesticides.  It is also used for  tooth-brushing.   You pull off a twig, bite it apart, use the twigs to clean your teeth and then throw it away.  Interestingly I had seen a lady do that on our trip this morning and had wondered what she was doing…..now I know!!!

The best thing about the Neem plant was looking down on the leaves….IMG_8101

….and the wonderful whirled pattern!!

The next temple courtyard allowed us to walk up on the wall surrounding the temple, although the following warning was given….


The view from the terrace was terrific, although the haze over the city reduced the view some……IMG_8097

Rashid came prepared with a city map to allow me to orient myself….


The view of the temple was superb…..


….especially as it allowed all of the high-line wires to be out of the photo!!

We left the temple area, returned to the car, finally found another parking place and entered the “Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum”.    According to the entrance sign, Dr. Kelkar had a lifelong obsession for collecting artifacts and art from all around India.    Since this collection takes up MANY galleries, I can just imagine what his house looked like!!

It is an interesting museum and here are a few of my favorite things…..IMG_8116

This tall lampstand was intriguing as I looked at it closer.   Each of the reservoirs circling the base held oil and each of the petal shaped appendages held a wick….


Wouldn’t it be beautiful when fully lit?

These wooden boxes held “kumkum”……


Kumkuma is oxidized turmeric that is used in social and religious ceremonies.  The turmeric is dried and powdered with a bit of lime, which turns the rich yellow powder into a red color.  It is often used for the “third eye” that Hindu’s often wear and, when placed in the part of a woman’s hair, can indicate that she is married.

There was a replica of a classic Indian house, complete with Rangoli.  This design of the two feet…..


is representative of the goddess Laxmi (or Lakshmi) who is the goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity.  The feet are always pointed into the house as they want her to come in and make them wealthy.

If you are like me, you will never figure out what these are……IMG_8124

They are hair dryers!!!   I am guessing that they are used to “brush” and separate the hair so that it could dry.   Given the intense thickness of most Indian women’s hair, I cant imagine how long that would take!!

And then there were these super fine toothed combs…..IMG_8126

…that were used to remove tiny livestock from hair!!

There were several areas devoted to sculpture and I was captivated by this group of women…..


I asked why they each had a hand over their head.  Rashid asked the museum docent and she replied that they were looking in the distance for their husbands to return!!

We entered an area that held kitchen utensils.  I loved these Chapati presses….IMG_8138

….such wonderful designs!

This kiln was extremely functional as it had three different cooking areas.   The fire could be placed in the open area and it would heat all three burners…..IMG_8144

I liked this horse pitcher…..


….but even more when I peeked around the back and saw the rider forming the handle…..


Moving into an area that held weapons, we found this protective armor made out of Fish scales…..


I have to wonder if it could stop a sword or knife??

This powder horn was an interpretive rendition of an animal….


However, it was a bit freaky to see that the stopper was a person’s head….


Entering the fiber room brought some exquisite designs….



This exhibit displayed a rather strange set of dolls where the torsos, legs and heads can be interchanged……


I loved this hanging acrobat lamp…..


My interest increased as we entered the instrument area.   There were a number of flutes (Shehanai) and several “Sitar-like” instruments in the shape of animals.   This peacock was wonderful…..’’


….as was this cleverly shaped instrument…..


I was fascinated by this “Triple Tambura”…..


Rashid told me that the Tambura is an accompanying instrument much like a bass and that it produces a steady drone.  We figured that each of the three sides had a different tuning so that different tones could be heard at the same time.

Have a look at this door…..


…..and then look at the detail in it…..IMG_8191

I left the museum, marveling at the treasures there and wishing that our souvenir collection was as wonderful!!!

We returned to the street, stopping to purchase some raw peanuts……


….and passing a store that sold modern “make-your-own” dolls…..


Rashid asked if I was ready for tea and cookies and, since I STILL remembered the cookies from last year, I said a hearty yes.   He led me down one corridor to a seating area, but then stopped short and said “I don’t think that they want us sitting here”!   The reason was obvious……


We visited another local temple…..


….and then had a walk around the shops associated with the temple….these specializing in kitchen and religious items. ie…lots of flowers…..


….and cooking pots…..


This young man spent a lot of time telling us the difference between the copper and the stainless pots.

Next we passed the wedding paraphernalia street where you can buy everything that you need for a good Indian wedding……


One of the traditions is that bride and groom tie their clothes together and then walk/dance around a fire made from the wood of 9 sacred trees.   They have made this easy by selling small packets containing sticks of all of the needed wood…..IMG_8218

Our final destination was to a large food market that centers around an octagon with “tentacles” radiating from the center.  Each stall has a display platform and a lockable storage area. 

Most of the vendors sat on their platform and sold their wares……IMG_8224

I loved seeing the shopkeepers sitting, with their legs crossed,  as if they were ruling over their kingdom…..


It was also fun to realize that they were using a basic scale and iron weights…..IMG_8231

Unfortunately it was siesta time so many of the stalls were closed and we passed a number of keepers sleeping on their platform.

Rashid then led me to a vendor who sold disposable plates, but these were different because they were made out of leaves and bark (truly recyclable)…..


I particularly liked the ones that were molded with compartments!!

There were also some that were simply leaves that had been stitched together or pinned together…..


As we exited the market, we passed the “Paan” area.  Paan is a preparation that combines Betel leaf with various items that are chewed for its stimulant and psychoactive effect.  The Betel leaves were beautiful as they were displayed….


As we left, Rashid suggested that we get something small to eat.  I let him order for me and he selected this “pizza-like” bread that was amazing…..DSC08728

My drink was a lemon/lime soda.  It was brought in a tall glass with a small amount of pure juice in the bottom.  The soda water was added and then I was handed a sugar water solution that I could add to get the perfect mix of sweet and sour.

As we left the restaurant, I could see that the holiday celebrations were starting to heat up…..


….and we passed this group preparing to hang the curd pot…..IMG_8250

As we drove back to the guesthouse, Rashid gave Michael and I the best compliment….he said that we would be the “perfect candidates for Holi”, the Hindu celebration where dry paint is thrown on everyone and everything!!!    I am thinking that he thinks we are a bit crazy!!!

Dinner that night was with Sutirth and Michael and I requested that he take us back to the Tandoori restaurant that we had visited with him last year.    We enjoyed our dinner and then walked to a Kulfi vendor just down the street.   Kulfi is much like ice cream and is packaged in long tubes…..


The vendor (who was also the owner of all of the Kulfi stands around) cut out our selections, weighed them on a leaf, and then put it onto a plate for us to enjoy….DSC08740

It was the perfect ending to a great meal and a very fun day…..


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