Pune (Poona) is the cultural capital of Maharashtra and the educational center of India. Situated at the foothills of the Sahyadri range, the City is known for its cooler climate and warm people. Its proximity to Mumbai (approximately 1.5 hours drive), India’s commercial and entertainment center, has spurred economic and social development. Despite being one of the fastest growing cities in India, Pune still retains its quaint old values and traditions.
Hinduism is the most commonly practiced religion, although Parsis, Jews, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims represent sizeable minorities. The Osho International Meditation Resort is one of the largest spiritual centers in the world with 200,000 visitors annually. Marathi is the official language of Maharashtra. Hindi and English are understood and spoken widely.
Pune is often referred to as “Oxford of the East” with more than a hundred prominent institutes (colleges), universities and research facilities. Its educational base has made Pune an IT hub, with several large-scale technology companies. Automotive companies and the metal industry also contribute to the city’s economic growth. Despite its prosperity, almost 40% of the population lives in poverty.
Pune dates to 937 AD and marks significant historical milestones, having served as a Maratha stronghold and nurturing some of India’s most memorable personalities. Many social reformers, revolutionaries, political leaders, researchers, scientists, educators and athletes lived and worked in Pune.
Today, Pune is very much a modern city. Cinemas, discos, shopping malls, pubs, coffee shops and cafes have opened as young professionals and university students make their presence felt. Contemporary writers, artists, actors, singers and other celebrities have also made Pune their home.
So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked. — Mark Twain, from Following the Equator.
India is a mystical land that offers a wide array of unforgettable experiences. From its natural beauty to its rich history to its distinctive cuisine and warm people, India is truly a land of diversity.
India’s history can be traced back to 2500 BC when the first known civilization settled along the Indus River. Hinduism, the prominent religion, took hold early on and became interwoven into the culture, traditions and everyday life. The Mughal Empire, which spanned the 16th century, brought Islam to the Indian subcontinent. As the Mughals declined, the British took control until Mahatma Gandhi began the policy of non-violent non-cooperation. In August 1947, India became an independent country. Today it is the largest democratic republic with one sixth of the world’s population.
One of India’s most striking characteristics is the juxtaposition of old and new. Centuries of history rub shoulders with modern-day living. Ancient palaces, monuments and temples stand side by side with high rise buildings, swanky bars and chic boutiques. India’s booming economy has ushered in a new era of prosperity and gave rise to mega-companies, financial institutions and Bollywood. Yet, one third of the population still lives under the poverty level.
India has been one of the foremost centers of education since ancient times. A variety of subjects such as philosophy, religion, medicine, literature, drama, arts, astrology, mathematics and sociology have been studied and taught for thousands of years.