Sutradhara’s tales: A “Gao-Kus” organises Pune to form a medieval “Kasba”
Till date, we have been discussing Pune’s time-line through scattered remains. Today, we shall geo-tagging the names found through various archives and public memory to physical locations, to make the first map of Pune in medieval times.
In the last column, we witnessed the Bara Arab building a formidable fortress - Kille Hissar - on the banks of the Mutha during Bahamani rule. Some residential arrangements would have been made for soldiers, officers, commanders, helpers and Muslim residents. But, what was this fortress protecting?
Bara Arab built the Killa-e-Hissar on the elevated portion formed between the then Ambil odha and the Madhala odha (stream passing through Pawale chowk), on the remains of previous settlement. He moved the settlement outside fort walls. Thus, instead of a complex settlement with temples, houses and public places, Pune was divided into a distinct military base and a civilian settlement separated by fort walls. The civilian population was shifted west of the fort and occupied the area form Madhal odha to the Nagjhari stream, on the border of present day Somwar peth.
After the disintegration of the Bahamani dynasty, Nizamshahi rule descended on Pune. It was time of frequent conflicts and constant battles. Many medieval towns and villages of Maharashtra had a “Gao-Kus” -fortification wall along the boundaries built for protection against enemy attacks.
In order to protect the settlement of Pune, it was appropriate that an additional fortification wall - Gao-Kus - be built around the civilian settlement.
There was significant population of potters along the river Mutha, as water and river soil is their main raw material. The area occupied by potters was known as Kumbharli, then. Thus, it was only logical for the gateway to the northeast to be named as :Kumbhar Ves”. It survived till few decades back when it was demolished during road expansions.
The Kumbhar Ves Maruti shrine exists even today. There are references to a small, dam wall and bridge, Dagadi Pul, built near Kumbhar Ves during the Nizamshahi period, which served as singular path to cross the river.
The fertile grounds along the Nagjhari river to the fort were cultivated for flowers and vegetables, predominantly by the Mali caste or “gardeners”. The entire fertile track was known as “Mali” and the term has been frequently referred to in archival records to denote irrigated and cultivable lands.
The gateway opening towards the Nagjhari stream to enter Mangalwar peth was known as Mali Ves, which is lost today. The area has several families belonging to the Mali caste residing in the neighbourhood at present.
The area, which is uncultivable and used for non- agriculture purpose is called Mujeri, and lies next to Mali. It is mainly allotted for building settlements or people who practice livelihoods other than farming.
The fortification wall near the Nagjhari houses a Maruti shrine named Gao-Kus Maruti, even today. It finds mentions in various medieval records.
One can still observe the fortification wall’s heavy rectangular blocks marking the end of Pune’s settlement. If we venture along the Nagjhari stream one finds remains of the ghats, bastions and steps leading to the stream.
The southern gateway marking the boundary of the settlement was “Kedar Ves”, named after the Kedareshwar temple, next to the present day Kasba Ganpati.
The older settlement of Kasars (specifically referred to as Bangadi Kasar) or bangle makers, are from this area. They are distinct from the Tvastha Kasar or the Tambat (coppersmiths) who settled in same area in a later period. The entire area around the Pawale chowk to Kedareshwar is hence, known as Kasarli - the settlement of Bangle makers - in medieval archives.
The western region of Pune is where the Mawal region lies and hence, the gateway was named as “Mawal Ves”.
Thus, the medieval settlement of Pune was effectively protected on all four sides by the town wall and the military garrison near the river in the north.
Purandare Daftar informs us that Pune was reorganised by combining Kasarli, Kumbharli and Pune villages.
NV Joshi, a 19th century Marathi writer erroneously reported in the book Pune Sharache Varnan, that Kasarli, Kumbharli and Punawadi were the three villages brought together. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that any particular part of Pune was known as Punawadi. But, the name has stuck and many books on Pune still carry this wrong information.
Dr Jaymala Diddee rightly observes that Kasarli and Kumbharli, which are closely located along with Pune’s main settlement, are not separate villages, but different areas of the same town.
On the ground, the medieval settlement of Pune consisted of Kasarli, Kumbharli, an older settlement, and parts of Mali and Mujeri.
It is pertinent to note here that during this period, the rural character of Pune’s original settlement has undergone significant change. The previous “Balutedars” of the rural Pune, were recognised as the artisans or Kasab-dars. The artisan settlement in Persian is commonly known as “Kasbah”. Here in Pune, communities practising various professions such potters, bangle makers, gardeners, and farmers, were settled within the town wall to form the Kasba - a medieval, semi-urban settlement. It also included the traders, Brahmins, and Maratha village officials.
This resettlement formed an epicentre which served as the foundation for expansion of urban Pune later.
The “Kasba Pune” is an excellent example to study the town planning of medieval India. Bharat Itihas Samshodhak Mandal’s register, “Pune Nagar Samshodhan Vruta 1-4”, and Dr Avisnash Sowani’s thesis on urban development, bring to us many important archival records to help us identify places in medieval Pune.
In next column we shall study the quintessential “Kasba of Pune” and its movers and shakers in greater detail.