Parvati: The centre of attraction
Parvati is one of the favourite relaxation spots for the residents of Pune. The height of Parvati hill is 2100 feet above sea level and 260 feet from the city level. The hill offers an aerial view of the city and the most picturesque scene in the early hours of the day. Parvati hill houses one big and three small temples. Parvati is the daily visiting place for a number of citizens and for many people, going to Parvati (103 steps) forms a part of their daily exercise regimen. Being the highest point in Pune and having conveniently located observation points, the beautiful panaromic view ofÂ Pune city leaves visitors spellbound. Beautiful sunrise and sunset views are like the icing on the cake.
One has to climb 103 steps to reach the hilltop. The steps are an example of fine stone work of the Maratha period. A special black quarry stone has been used for all these steps. It is weather-resistant and except for a few places, the stone has survived for over two hundred and fifty years even after being fully exposed to sun, wind and water. The steps are so wide that an elephant can easily walk with all pomp and gaiety towards the temple. They are not too steep and even old people can climb with ease. It is an enjoyable sight to see children running up and down the hill.
Brief history of Parvati & the temples
The main temple, as it stands today, was built by the third Peshwa, Shrimant Nana Saheb in the year 1749 A.D. The history of the temple is linked with a miracle. It is believed that Kashibai, the mother of the third Peshwa was suffering from a severe ailment in her right foot. One of her advisors informed her about a temple of Goddess to the South of Pune which was famous for its miraculous healing power. Kashibai went to the temple which was located on top of this hill and prayed for her recovery. She vowed that if she was cured of her ailment, she would build a temple there. She soon recovered and her son built a temple on the hill. This was the famous Parvati temple.
Another belief is associated with the temple of Parvati. Chhatrapati Shri Shahu Maharaj, the ruling king of the Maratha Empire and the grandson of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, was pious, kind and a man of high moral character. He had special affection for his minister, young Nana Saheb Peshwa and he entrusted the entire business of the empire to him. The young Peshwa won the confidence of the king and was bestowed with his faith and affection.
The correspondence stands evidence to the fact that for the aged king, the young Peshwa was almost like a son. The death of King Shahu Maharaj was a personal loss to Nana Saheb. As a sign of rememberance, he brought the ‘KHADAWA,’ the wooden footwear of the late king and also an icon of Shivalinga with him from Satara to Pune and placed them underneath the Shivalinga of the main temple of Parvati. Though there is no evidence in writing about this episode but three events point out to the truth of this belief. Firstly, Nana Saheb Peshwa called the Shiva of Parvati hill temple by the name “Devadeveshwara” i.e.”Lord of Lords” – suggesting its supreme position in the divinity. Secondly, Nana Saheb Peshwa paid personal attention to the Parvati temple. Thirdly, when he became seriously ill, he preferred to remain near his favourite deity, than to stay at his usual place. Noted historians have also pointed this fact that Nanasaheb Peshwa had special respect and love for Devadeveshwar at Parvati Hill.
It is true that the magnificant temples which stand today on the hill were built by the Peshwas. However, the hill of Parvati was known much earlier even in the days of Chhatrapati Shri Shivaji Maharaj. In a letter of grant (Inam-patra), granted under the seal of King Shivaji Maharaj, to one Brahmin Mahadbhat, son of Mudgalbhat Purandare, there is a clear reference to Parvati village (for ref. see Selections from the Govt. Records, Sanads and letters Ed. by Mawjee & Parasnis PP. 111) .We can, therefore, conclude that Parvati hill was known in the Maratha days with some small temples on it. The temples stand as a reminder of Nana Saheb Peshwa’s love for Chhatrapati Shri Shahu Maharaj.
Parvati hill: The temple enclave and environs
Parvati Hill is situated in the south-east part of the city. Tthe entire place was full of fields, trees and small dwellings during the Peshwa rule. The vast plains at the foothill were often used by feudal lords and dignitaries to put their camps when they visited the city with their armies. There are numerous references of Angres-the Controllers of Coastal area of the Maratha Empire, the Scindias and other Sardars camping luxuriously at the base of Parvati hill.
When Sir Charles Mallet, the British envoy in the court of the last of the Peshwas came to present his credentials to the Maratha power, he camped at the the base of Parvati Hill for more than a week.
After the breakdown of the Panshet water dam and subsequent devastation of parts of the city near the banks of the rivers, the entire base area of Parvati, which originally belonged to the Devdeveshwar Temple trust, was taken away by the government of Maharashtra and was used for building houses. It resulted in complete destruction of lush green fields and gave rise to the growth of slums.
Vetal Chabutra A square plinth of stones in a plot situated at the foot of the hill is known as the Chabutra of Vetal. Some cloth pieces with sindoor can be seen here. Vetal is a deity worshipped by those who desire to acquire evil powers. Uneducated and unaware people used to indulge in such wicked tricks. Today the remains of this relic have almost disappeared into the ruins of stones and are hardly distinguishable; only the temple stands.
Mangir Buwa A little further is a small place surrounded by hutments, known as Mangir Buwa. Mangir Buwa was a saintly person and had an influence over a particular community who worshipped him and used to settle their feuds and disputes in front of him.
The Math Near the steps are visible some crumbled remains of a plinth. It is a dwelling meant for religious purpose and hence called a Math. A person of saintly character lived here where today almost nothing except a few foundation stones remain. The Trust has cleared the place and has a proposal for utilising the place.
Sati monument At the centre of the hill can be seen a small temple-like structure, open on all four sides, with a flat top and squarish stone block inside. Long ago, a Brahmin priest namely Shri Mahadeo Shastri Dixit, was a great devotee of the lord. He knew nothing except the worship of the God and lived a very simple and austere life with his wife on Parvati hill. His wife, Ramadevi, herself a simple and faithful wife, followed her husband in his worship. When Mahadeo Shastri Dixit died, Ramadevi decided to immolate herself on the pyre along with her husband. This practice which is known as ‘sati’ was glorified in the past by the local population. This monument stands in memory of the couple who together left for the heavenly abode
This place is well built to give a panaromic view of the city. It is a pleasent experience to climb upto the Sati monument.
There was a Talim Kholi (room for exercise) where the young rulers along with friends took regular exercise in the early hours of morning. It is interesting to note that meticulous care used to be taken regarding the education physical development of the youngsters in the royal households. During the Peshwa regime, this room was used to house the Peshwa artillery. Till 1879, guns were allowed to remain there. However after 1879, when the revolutionary, Vasudeo Balwant Phadke organised his opposition to the British Power and started the guerilla war, the British government ordered these guns to be removed permanently.
To the right there used to be Ghadyal Khana and Nagar Khana where there used to be a clock and a gong. Lately, a balcony is built from where one can view the entrance of the Parvati Hill.