Once little more than an army outpost, Pune (also pronounced 'Poona') is a city that epitomises ‘New India’, with its baffling mix of capitalism, spiritualism, ancient and modern. Today, it is a thriving centre of academia and business. Pune is also famous, or notorious, globally for its number-one export: the late guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his ashram, the Osho International Meditation Resort.
Pune was initially given pride of place by Shivaji and the ruling Peshwas, who made it their capital. The British took the city in 1817 and, thanks to its cool and dry climate, soon made it the Bombay Presidency’s monsoon capital. Globalisation knocked on Pune’s doors in the 1990s, following which it went in for an image overhaul. However, some colonial-era charm was retained in a few old buildings and residential areas, bringing about a pleasant coexistence of the old and new, which (despite the pollution and hectic traffic) makes Pune a worthwhile place to explore. In September Ganesh Chaturthi brings on a tide of festivities across the city, and provides a fantastic window for exploring the city’s cultural side. On a more sombre note, the fatal 2010 terrorist attack on the German Bakery, a once favourite haunt for travellers and ashramites alike, remains a painful memory in this peace-loving city.
The city sits at the confluence of the Mutha and Mula rivers. Mahatma Gandhi (MG) Rd, about 1km south of Pune train station, is the main commercial street. Koregaon Park, northeast of the train station, is the destination for backpackers and pilgrims. Here you'll find numerous hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and of course, the Osho Ashram.