Culture, festivals and Spirituality

Pune is often called the cultural capital of Maharastra. The numerous educational institutes, learning academies, the long history of the city as well as its international flair combine to make an ideal fertile ground for an active cultural life.

One of the most popular events that draws visitors from all over India and the world, is the Sawai Gandharva Music Festival. Every December the best Indian classical musicians (Hindustani and Carnatic) gather to bewitch audiences with their singing and music over three consecutive days.

One can appreciate classical Indian dance at yet another famous event – the Shaniwarwada Dance Festival. It is generally held in January in the backdrop of the historical Shanivarda fort.

Even the film festivals held by the Film and Television Institute of India, which is located in Pune, are very popular.

There are also a whole lot of small activities and events, which are mentioned in the daily newspaper. Even modern music and art is offered to the public.

Diwali and the Ganesh Festival

The Ganesh Festival takes place just before Diwali, the biggest festival in India, which celebrates the victory of light over darkness. Ganesha, also known as Ganapati the elephant god, is by far the most popular god in Pune. One finds temples dedicated to him at every nook and corner and almost every house displays an image of the god of luck and success. Every year in August or September a boisterous ten day festival is celebrated to honour Ganesha. It is jubilation time on every street with statues of Ganesha, loud music and dance. The festival culminates in processions, which carry the Ganesha statues on festively decorated vehicles to the Mutha Mula river where they are immersed – thus returning the form to the formless, which will re-emerge the next year in the form of new images.

Spirituality
India is home to many large and small religions. In all there are about 80.5 % Hindus, 13. 4 % Muslims (mainly Sunnis), 2.3 % Christians, 1.9 % Sikhs, 0.8 % Buddhists, 0.4 % Jains und 0.6 % of other religions like Adivasi, Bahai, Parsis. (Source: Census of India 2001)
Hinduism is the dominant religion on the subcontinent with around 900 million followers, but it does not have an overall controlling organisation. Hinduism has numerous schools of thought, philosophical concepts and an almost unimaginable multiplicity of gods.
Religion pervades all aspects of life in India in different ways, and not only as festivals. Temples and niches for devotion are to be found on every street corner, and a personal altar is always present in an office or shop.
Even trees are worshipped. Images of the god Hanuman with the Shiva linga……
Two of the most renowned saints hail from the nearby villages of Alandi and Dehu: Dnyaneshwar
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dnyaneshwar) from the 13th century and Tukaram (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tukaram), who lived in the 17th century. Both were also great poets and influenced Marathi literature. Even today tens of thousands of believers are drawn every year on a long pilgrimage with relics of both the saints, to a famous Krishna temple. The temple is in a place called Pandrapur around 300 km from Pune.
Pune has innumerable temples and ashrams. There are beautiful temples on top of the Parvati Hill. Even the Chaturshringi Temple offers a lovely view of the city.
At the foot of the Parvati Hill is the Ramakrishna Ashram where a public bhajan program is held every evening (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramakrishna).
With thousands of visitors every year, the Osho International Meditation Resort in Pune is one of the most popular ashrams in India as well as the most controversial. The founder Osho, also known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osho_%28Bhagwan_Shree_Rajneesh%29), was a much talked about figure in the seventies and eighties, even in the West, with thousands of its dancing youth making the pilgrimage to Pune. Today the stream of visitors has receded, especially after the attack on the nearby German Bakery. Occasional visitors do not get permission to see the ashram for security reasons. This was possible earlier, but only after one passed an aids test which could be conducted on the spot.
The Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune has international recognition. It was founded by the legendary Hatha Yoga teacher B. K. S. Iyengar who is now over 90 years old. His books have been translated into 18 languages and are considered as treatises on the Hatha Yoga. The teachers’ training courses conducted in his institute in Model Colony attract hundreds of yoga followers from around the world every year.
The Hari Krishna Mandir (http://www.harikrishnamandirindiraniloy.com/) is in the same street as the Iyengar Yoga Institute and a Bhajan program is held there every evening.
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