History, tradition, crowds! That sums up this market in Pune, India. From being a barter trade market, to a temple area adjoined with shops, to becoming a bustling economic zone and a tourist spot …Tulsi Baug market has evolved generously over the years.
Apart from the crowded streets lined with everything households need, the area evokes old charm and rings bells of the Peshwai buildings and wadas. Carved with timber ceilings and lattice railings, low arches and high airy balconies they dot the surrounding areas that were once home to the ministers and officials. Peshwas ruled and designed Pune territories under the rule of majestic warrior Sivaji Maharaj.
Bajirao road, Laxmi road and Shanipur road are the trio of entry points to this centrally located market area. Today each road caters to specific sale of items – vegetables and fruits, kitchen needs, puja items and traditional clothes.
At the heart of the area stands the Ram-Sita temple, built around 1756 by the then ruling Peshwa. Its 150 m golden conical shikhar or spire can be prominently seen from the adjacent streets. History and architecture students stand in awe to admire the simple grandeur of wooden pillar work and lime stucco work ( the temple is now under renovation and re structure).The surrounding temple area or wada, tucked interior and away from the bustling street market exudes a calm, soothing atmosphere. Once abundant with Tulsi (Basil) plants in the gardens, it is now home to shops selling traditional items. Two smaller temples and a Nagarkhana (music store room) are part of the temple complex. Brass lamps, artefacts, antique door bells and knobs, traditional kitchen utensils and brass, iron woks and spoons as well as fancy toran or door decorations made of plastic flowers or wool fill every inch of the tiny shops around the temple complex.
Old meets new, nostalgia meets novelty, Art meets History!
Out through the low wooden darwaza, onto the buzzing streets outside one is greeted with congestion, traffic and chaos (especially during the festive days!) The delightful, historic place suddenly becomes a nightmare! Beware of pickpockets and curt behaviour of people!
Bajirao road street market caters to clothing – cheap woollen shawls and socks ( yes, Pune did get cold to 12- 15 degrees.), eco-friendly cloth bags or pishwi in different sizes, traditional parkar- polka or girl’s long skirt/blouse, dhoti, jhabba, topi or traditional men’s attire worn by local rural population from Satara, Sangli regions.
Many shops in adjoining streets cater to puja lamps, cotton wicks, decorated seating stools, wedding clothes, fancy gift bags or potli and festival jewellery.
Sankranti, is a harvest festival celebrated in January, heralding the Sun’s northern movement. Traditionally it is celebrated with exchange of til -gul
and married women dress in quintessential black saree and young girls in black and gold parkar polka, adorning themselves with unique tilache dagine (sesame and sugar jewellery). Young girls and boys under 5 years of age are showered with til halwa and sugar beads. Making of this festive jewellery is a dying art ( tiny poppy or sesame seed is covered in white or green coloured sugar coating).
Tulsi Baug market is THE place for such traditional items.
In a quick turn around to the crossing I spotted the famous Chitale Bandhu store, famous for its Baaker Wadi, Pedha and Srikhand. For the Puneri non-resident Indians living in far away USA and Australia – THIS is the store! They must stop by for the delicacies or pack and carry home.
Long live Pune traditions and culture, the seat of Marathas and Peshwas is held up high with every new young generation that aims to hold on to its past, in this era of modernism.
Tulsi Baug holds a special place in the heart of every Puneri, and we hope the municipal corporation sets adequate funds for treasure and unique history.