Community settlement plan for medieval Kasba Pune (HT PHOTO)
Community settlement plan for medieval Kasba Pune (HT PHOTO)

Sutradhara’s tales: “Kasba Pune” Gao, with its movers & shakers

Pune functioned as Kasbe Pune - a tehsil-like headquarter, as well as a large village, under Nizamshahi. During this period, we find records of various families in the Pune region who were appointed to administrative positions which were passed on to the generations in a hereditary manner
By Saili K Palande-Datar
PUBLISHED ON MAY 05, 2021 04:26 PM IST

Time travel is not an easy task. But, as we jump across to Pune’s medieval period, from the early medieval and ancient era, the hazy blur starts changing to a clearer picture. The discovery of paper and use of written correspondence for recording court proceedings and grants grew in the medieval period, which updates us about the political and administrative events of medieval Deccan.

The Bahamani rule in Pune continued without a hiccup from 1347 till the 1480s, but the kingdom started disintegrating due to internal conflicts. Malik Ahmad Nizam Shah I, was the son of Nizam-ul-Mulk Malik Hasan Bahri, originally a Hindu Brahmin (originally Timappa) from Bijapur (or Bijanagar). Ahmed Nizam Shah was initially appointed as governor of Beed and Daulatabad and was honoured with title “Nizam-ul-mulk”. As the Bahamani Sultans were made puppet monarchs under hands of Baridshahi prime ministers, Ahmad Nizamshah, who was Junnar governor then, rebelled against the Sultan and successfully defended the attack. He established the new kingdom of Ahmednagar with the early capital at Junnar near Pune; it was subsequently shifted to Daulatabad.

Pune to the south of Junnar, thus, became part of the Nizamshahi kingdom of Ahmednagar in the 1490. This period witnessed the migration of many families from Karnataka province to the Pune region.

The Thakaars, were a Brahmin family who migrated to Pune, and were later responsible for the establishment of the Gram-daivat, or village deity of Pune, the Kasba Ganapati.

Shaligram, Kavalange/Kalange, Kanade, Dhere, Vaidya, Nilange, Bharait and Bharange, were the eight original resident Brahmin families (aath-ghare) of Pune. Pune had some significant Kanadi Brahmin families such as Dharmadhikari, Honap, Nilange and later, the Panses. Before arrival of kokanastha Peshwas, Pune was occupied primarily by deshasta Brahmins such as Purandares and Pethes, who had mansions built in southern Kasba and practised Vedic learning.

Zambres are the oldest known resident family of Pune, spanning a period of 800 years.

Around 1510 CE, Bengal’s famous saint Chaitnaya Mahaprabhu Maharaj visited Pune. His disciple, Govinddas, described Pune as “Purnanagar”, and in his verses says that the citizens of Purnanagar were well versed in the various fields of knowledge. The pathshalas in the town taught Vedic and Bhagawat literature. The views of the scholars were well accepted. Thus, Pune appears to be an important centre for study of religion and an educational hub, even back in 16th century CE.

Pune functioned as Kasbe Pune - a tehsil-like headquarter, as well as a large village, under Nizamshahi. During this period, we find records of various families in the Pune region who were appointed to administrative positions which were passed on to the generations in a hereditary manner.

The Zambre family were the Patils of Kasbe Pune and the remains of their open office called Zambre chawdi, existed near Gujarat High school in Kasba peth, until recently. They served as village head, head of police and justice, and were responsible tax collection.

The Bharat Itihas Samshodhak Mandal’s secretary and historian, C G Karve, reports its existence in the form of a two-storeyed building till 1943.

The Ladkat family were appointed as Patils for the Mali area and till today, they are responsible for upkeep of Nava Kalbhairav temple in Pune.

Rajashris were the Brahmin Kulkarnis of Pune. Traditionally, Kulkarni was a title used by people who maintained the accounts and records of villages, used in collecting taxes. Dharmadhikaris were Upadhyays or the religious heads also responsible for religious teaching and decision making. The Saptashri family provided the priest for the Nageshwar temple.

As Pune functioned as a Nizamshahi Pargana, the Shitoles were appointed as Deshmukhs, responsible for revenue collection, taxation, police and judiciary for the Pune Pargana. The “Deshmukhi vatan” of Pune and the adjoining territory was granted in a hereditary capacity. They were supported by the Deshpande-Honap family who were responsible for record keeping of the Pargana.

Indian villages and towns did not grow as strictly planned townships in historical times, except for a few exceptions. However, there has been an organic method to the madness of its seemingly chaotic growth.

The story of Kasba Pune followed the same logic and the core grew organically in the beginning. It had narrow meandering lanes and narrower by-lanes (alis, gallis and bols), distinctly medieval in their layout. Most of the houses then were made of “bhendyachya vita” (unbaked bricks) and few with rectangular book- shaped baked bricks. Like most medieval towns, it was built for pedestrian or animal drawn traffic. Houses were densely packed and close to each other opening into courtyards in the centre.

A prominent village deity, such as Kasba Ganpati, marked the religious centre of the settlement.

Unlike European settlements, the wards of Kasba were mixed-class areas where rich and poor lived in the same place - stately wadas surrounded by smaller houses and huts of the poorest. This was quite different from modern towns where economic class- based neighbourhoods are the norm. However, these neighbourhoods were caste–based.

Thus people of same caste and often, occupation, whether rich or poor lived close to each other.

In the last column, we saw potters living near Kumbhar Ves and the Mali community cultivating in Mali were near the Nagjhari stream. Bhoyis, or the fishermen, occupied the area next to Kumbhars near the river Mutha and even today, the oldest fish market in Pune functions from the same area. A small Wadar (stone workers) community stayed next to the fisherman area. A significant Muslim population occupied the area around Dhakta Shaeikh Salla dargah and the area within Killa-e-Hissar. As seen in most medieval settlements, the Mahar and Mang communities lived on the outskirts, to the northeast of Kasba; a stark caste divide was observed. The Kasai community lived next to them due to similar occupational interests.

Central Kasba was occupied by Shimpis (tailors), Shoshka Kasars (bangle makers), and Tavastha Kasar/tambats (coppersmith) who lived along streets with respective names. In these kinship/community areas, they built temples and shrines to their community deities (for instance, the Twastha Kasar Mandir, of the Kasar community). Professionals and artisans like Tambats and Shimpis had their workshops and shops at the street levels, while they lived above or behind these. Thus there was hardly any separation between home and workplace.

Thus, the canvas of the Nizamshahi period for Kasba Pune and its inhabitants materialises through a collation of names, faces and spaces, as per the archival records of the 16th century.

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