advertisement

Pune is around 125km (77 1/2 miles) SE of Mumbai

Pune is Maharashtra's second major city and known to seekers of spiritual enlightenment the world over as the place where the dynamic New Age guru, Bhagwan Rajneesh -- known to his devotees and enemies as Osho -- established his controversial commune back in the 1970s. Today, Osho's vision for an appropriately modern environment where people from around the world can come to unlock the meaning of his discourses on spiritual enlightenment is realized in the form of a "Meditation Resort." Neither an ashram nor a cult headquarters (as many naysayers would have you believe), Osho's landscaped New Age campus (the grounds are exquisite enough to be an attraction in themselves) is a magnet for all sorts of people looking to find a different sort of meaning in their lives. They're not the only visitors to the city, though, since Pune has become a major industrial hub, attracting many foreigners who come to work and strike deals. Above all else, Pune looks and feels like a city that -- like Mumbai -- is on the move, expanding and modernizing at an incredible rate. While the spirit of upward mobility is evident, the city is also brimming with references to its past, particularly to that most venerated Maratha freedom fighter Chhatrapati Shivaji, who fought bitterly here against the Mughals who sought to conquer Maharashtra -- you will, however, need to visit Pune's slightly cluttered old quarter to get a feel for the past; in particular, look out for symbols of Pune's immense love for the elephant-headed god, Ganesh, venerated here with gay abandon during the annual Ganesh Chaturthi. The area is easy enough to explore, even if only to check out the beautifully decaying havelis that line the streets, visit its colorful fruit and vegetable market, and check out the exhibits at one of the country's best-stocked museums. Besides being a university town with plenty of diversions for a younger crowd, Pune's altitude of around 600m (1,968 ft.) means that it stays relatively cool, and doesn't suffer from any of Mumbai's incessant humidity. For now the city also remains comparatively uncongested, although it's increasingly a magnet for people who are not prepared (or able) to put up with overpopulated Mumbai's soaring real estate costs