Pune has been known by a plethora of sobriquets. Popular among them: Queen of the Deccan, cultural capital of Maharashtra, pensioner's paradise and Oxford of the East. Pune is one of the historical cities of India with a glorious past, an innovative present and a promising future. The Pune Municipal Corporation administers the city. Its boundaries extend over four hundred square kilometres and it has a population of close to four million. Thus, Pune city has been developed into a Pune metropolitan area, just equal in area to that of Greater Mumbai. It is located 192 km (by rail) and 160 km (by road) from Mumbai and is 559 metres above the mean sea level. Being surrounded by beautiful hills and the Sinhagad fort, it has a temperate climate. Water, which is plentiful, is supplied to the city from Panshet, Khadakvasla and Varasgaon dams --all located about thirty kilometres from Pune. Pune is among the greenest urban areas in the country with more than 40 per cent of its area under green cover.
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Human civilisations have prospered on the banks of rivers; Pune city too has flowered on the banks of the Mutha river originating from the Sahyadri range of mountains. Eminent archaeologist Dr. H. D. Sankalia and his colleagues from the Deccan College carried out excavations of the Mutha riverbed and banks. These researchers found evidence of human civilisations that existed 100,000 years ago along the Mutha river. Pune finds mention in some of the Puranas.
What's in a name?
Down the centuries, Pune has been ruled by several dynasties. The earliest evidence found (copper plates of 758 A. D. and of 768 A. D.) reveals that the Rashtrakootas ruled this region then. At that time, Pune was referred to as Punaka Vishaya and Punya Vishaya. Copper plates of 960 A. D. and 963 A. D. refer to it as Punaka Wadi and Punaka Desha. Here Vishaya means region. Later on, the city has been mentioned as Kasabe Pune. The Pune Gazetteer explains the term Pune as Punya - a holy place. In Hindu tradition, a confluence (sangama) of two rivers is sacred. Hence, this city, where there is a confluence of two rivers, is Punyanagari. After the Rashtrakootas, Pune was ruled by the Yadava dynasty. After the fall of this dynasty, it came under Muslim dominance till the middle of the seventeenth century.
Some of the remains of this period can still be studied. The first is the Pataleshwar Temple on the Jangli Maharaj Road. It is a temple of Shiva in rock-cut caves with over forty pillars, and a bull (nandi) in front of Shiva, with sixteen pillars. This dates back to the Rashtrakoota age and is close to one thousand years old. The second monument is the set of dargahs --Muslim places of worship. The senior and junior Shaikhsalla on the banks of the Mutha river, near the Shaniwarwada, are constructed on the earlier temples of Puneshwar and Narayaneshwar.
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