Located not far from the center of Pune and rising to over 2,000 feet, Parvati Hill offers excellent panoramic views across the city, has a few temples worthy of exploring, and is the perfect peaceful respite from all the urban activity occurring at the foot of the hill and beyond.
Access to the hill is via 103 wide stone steps, allegedly designed to allow elephants to climb all the way to the top. The rate of ascent is actually quite gentle, but it shouldn’t take anyone longer than about 10 minutes to reach the summit. A few years ago there was even an uphill race here for anyone over 75 years of age !
A short distance up the main path there are a number of indistinct tracks on your left which will lead you to the little known rock-cut Parvati Cave. This is a simple excavation, possibly of Buddhist origin, dated somewhere from the 5th to 8th century C.E. It’s well worth a quick visit, one of the earliest sites in Pune city and yet hardly known about or documented.
Upon reaching the summit, the first building you reach is the Devdeveshwar Temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this is the largest temple on the hill, with flights of steps leading to a walkway that takes you around the perimeter wall.
It is said that the linga here was brought from the River Gandaki which flows in Nepal, and beneath it is buried the footwear of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s Grandson).
Three idols were stolen from this temple back in 1932, one of Shiva made from silver, and ones of Parvati and Ganapati that were fashioned from pure gold. These have subsequently been replaced with idols made from brass.
The temple was originally built during the Peshwa rule in Pune. Legend says that the third Peshwa, Shrimant Nanasaheb, built the temple in order to fulfill a vow taken by Kashibai, his Mother.
Kashibai had been suffering with pain in her right foot, and heard about a small shrine on top of Parvati Hill that had miraculous healing powers. She visited this shrine, prayed, and vowed to build a magnificent temple if she was cured. We can probably guess the outcome of this by now. She was subsequently cured and her son, Nanasaheb fulfilled her vow and built the temple you now see today in around 1749.
After visiting the Devdeveshwar Temple, head past the Peshwa Museum (which I failed to visit, maybe next time), and continue on a path to your left which leads to a Vishnu Temple. This was constructed broadly at the same time as the Devdeveshwar Temple, and houses a 4.5 feet high black idol that also came from near the river Gandaki.
This was my second visit to Parvati Hill. Back in 2005 I was taken here by work colleagues on my first ever trip to Pune. From what I recall of that visit I think a lot of work has been done on the hill to clean it up and renovate some of the buildings. On the evidence of what I saw, I think Parvati Hill is now very well maintained.
Retracing your steps from the Vishnu Temple and on the left is the the Kartikeya Temple.
Parvati Hill has witnessed quite a few important historical events over the centuries. Nana Saheb himself died on the hill after the battle of Panipat, and it from here that Bajirao II witnessed the third Anglo-Maratha war in 1817 that was fought near Khadki (now the campus site of the University of Pune).After the Maratha defeat, Bajirao fled from Parvati Hill and went into hiding, before eventually signing a treaty with the British.
The Prince of Wales visited Parvati Hill in 1870, riding an elephant, so I guess the design of those steps came in useful again…
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