My City, My Heritage, My Nashik

Notably known as a garden city, Nashik is most famous as a temple city and the Kashi of South India. The Marathi proverb “Nasik nav tekdvar vasavile” (Nashik is settled on nine peaks), aptly describes the geographical location of Nashik, which is spread over nine peaks of the Deccan plateau. Known as the Ganges of South, the river Godavari originates from Brahmagiri Mountain in Trimbakeshwar, a temple town around 30 kms from Nashik, and flows through the centre of Nashik city. The population of the city was above 15 lakhs according to the 2011 census, with about 85% of the population comprising Hindus.

The town of Nashik lies on both sides of the Godavari. The part of the river on which Nashik is built is shaped like an inverted S with a bend first to the right and then to the left. The city consists of three main divisions: Old Nashik, the sacred settlement of Panchvati, a place of no great size on the left or east bank of the river; middle or Musalman Nashik, formerly called Gulshanabad or the City of Roses, on the right bank and to the south of Panchvati; and modern or Maratha Nashik, also on the right bank, lying north and west of Musalman Nashik and west of Panchvati.

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana, spent a large part of his exile in the Panchvati region of present day Nashik. The Muslim population settled along the right bank of the river under Islamic rule during 13-16th century. The Islamic period added various ‘puras’ such as Kokanipura, Pathapura, Kazipura, Naikwadipura, Multanpura, and Kalapura to the landscape of Nashik. The city during this period was enclosed with ‘darwajas’ or gates such as Kazipura Darwaja, Trimbak Darwaja, Darbar Darwaja, Baghur Darwaja, and Delhi Darwaja (Kulkarni 1981:13). A few remnants of this period are still visible in the city. Apart from Hinduism and Islam, Buddhism became dominant in the Nashik region during 200-600 AD, as indicated by a group of old Buddhist caves known as ‘Pandu Leni’. Later, around 11th-12th century AD, Jainism became prominent, as evident from the presence of the ‘Chambhar Caves.’

In the 17th century, the Peshwas of Pune won control over Nashik. The palace of the Peshwas at the end of the main bazaar road has been converted to a Police Station and Public Library in recent times. Under their reign, many temples were constructed and renovated along both banks of the river. Various mansions or ‘wadas’, ‘peths’ or neighbourhoods, and temples from this period still stand tall as a significant part of the city’s landscape. Later, in the 19th century, the Nashik area came completely under British rule. The city limits expanded under British rule with the addition of the collector’s office, criminal and civil courts, land records and revenue offices, police headquarters, and parade ground. These additions were away from the city centre, but well within the reach from most areas. Following the British planning concept, officer’s bungalows, gardens, hospitals, schools and libraries were also introduced. This led to implementation of the British model of administration in the area. In 1882, a local self-government body was appointed in Nashik. [3]

During the colonial period, the city’s landscape acquired many new features like industrial units, planned and unplanned shops, residential buildings, cooperative housing societies and independent bungalows. Traditionally, the economy of the city has been mainly reliant on religious activities and related trade. Post-Independence, the city started to industrialise following the policy framework devised by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Many public sector industries like Nashik Industrial Co-operative Estate, Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and State Investment Corporation of Maharashtra were established during the 1960s, making the city a prominent spot on the industrial map of the country. Investments, irrigation schemes and electricity, improved the agricultural economy significantly, making the region a leading producer of a variety of grapes and home to several noted wineries like York and Sula. [4]

Owing to its proximity to cities like Mumbai (185 km), Pune (210 km) and Aurangabad (190 km) in Maharashtra and Saputara (72 km) and Surat (250 km) in Gujarat, Nashik also benefits from a thriving tourism industry. In and around the city are a number of hilltop forts like Dhodap and Ramshej, attracting trekkers and history enthusiasts alike. The lush forests on these hills are home to several species of flora and fauna endemic to the region. Nashik hosts the Simhastha Kumbh Mela every 12 years. The city has seen important social movements against systemic oppression like the Kalaram Temple Satyagraha led by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Nashik’s public library Sarvajanik Vachanalaya played an important role in the development of modern Marathi literature. Handlooms and handicrafts like Paithani and metal craft are an integral part of the city’s culture.

While Nashik continues to be a traditional pilgrimage site, in recent times the city with its multi-cultural history has developed into a modern urban centre with global links.