Inside Pune's Tulshi Baug Market
Bhaatukli or miniature kitchen sets. Photo: Rhea Dalal
I spent many years in Pune a lifetime ago. Among my fondest memories are jaunts to the ‘city’ from the far-off suburb of Yerawada, which in those days was akin to a far-flung village outside the city. That has completely changed now, but that’s another story altogether!
The jaunts to city meant a trip to Lakshmi road, the bustling Mandai (Pune’s equivalent of Crawford Market in Mumbai), a visit to Chitale Bandhu for their iconic bakarwadis, and generally weaving in and out of the busy lanes and by lanes on our bikes. Often we’d be at Vijay Talkies in the vicinity catching some English movie. It is on these jaunts that I first discovered the delightful Tushi Baug.
Tulshi Baug is a magical little complex of temples and shops cheek by jowl in an enclosed precinct. The temple dates back to the Peshwa era and is dedicated to Lord Ram. In the midst of a chaotic and noisy market the temple is like a bubble of calm and serenity. You can sit for a while in the large open pillared hall and catch your breath, contemplate life, or even grab a quick cat nap while the world still bustles about its business. On my recent visit to the temple, the restoration and repair work left me feeling happy, and made me realise that this little jewel in the heart of the city will endure for a few more centuries!
Around the temple building are numerous shops. And these little shops are what draw me back to Tulshi Baug again and again. The shops are small and old, some owned by the same family for a few generations. The shops facing the temple, on the inside of the wada or complex have still retained the old character and some of them look like time has stood still. Not very well lit, old wooden shelves, dark corners piled higgledy piggledy with merchandise, these shops are a window into the past.
Toy querns, anyone? Photo: Rhea Dalal
Amble around the wada slowly and you will find everything from beautiful miniature kitchen sets, to regular everyday kitchenware – the old-fashioned, traditional stuff and the newest ultra-modern cookware – in these shops. Alongside you will find all the paraphernalia required for daily rituals and poojas at home. Some shops also have old antique stuff in brass, bell metal and copper. There are also a couple of silversmiths where you can buy toe rings and other minor jewellery.
The biggest attractions for me here are the miniature kitchen sets or ‘bhaatukli’ as they are called in Marathi. Available in brass, stainless steel and even plastic, my favourites are the brass sets. Bhatukli was often included in the rukhvat (gifts given at Maharashtrian weddings) to add a fun element. The origin of this practice probably goes back to the days of child marriage when such toys would help cheer up the little bride.
You can buy different miniature vessels loose, or you can splurge on an elaborate set complete with its own stand that can be mounted on a wall, just like the real thing. You will also find miniature mortar pestles, grinding stones, and even rotary querns here, and toy-sized tea sets in ceramic too. I also chanced upon absolutely adorable pickle jars barely 4 inches tall!
The lanes outside the Tulshi Baug wada are crammed with shops and stalls selling cosmetics, costume jewellery, garments, toys, embroidery supplies, and lots more. These lanes are always crowded but like me, if you love markets, do check it all out!
5 things to buy at Tulshi Baug
1. Bhaatukli toys
2. Silver toe rings
3. Temple bells for the home mandir
4. Pickle jars – regular or miniature
5. Steel utensils for the kitchen
Insider's tip: Don’t forget to bargain at the shops. Though you won’t get heavy discounts, you will get some discount, which makes the shopping experience more satisfying for sure! You won’t need to have deep pockets to shop at Tushi Baug, even Rs. 500 is enough to ensure you have some goodies to take back with you.
How to reach: Tulshi Baug is in the heart of the city, just off Vishrambaug Wada on Bajirao Road. You can also get there via Laxmi road, one of the main roads of the city. The shops open by 11 am and close late, only around 9 pm giving you plenty of time to shop.