Legends from Pune

Pune has nurtured many famous personalities. They include many who were not born here but finally settled down in the city drawn by its rich heritage, culture and artistic traditions. Many of them later became famous legends throughout the country. 

1. Maharishi Karve (Social Reformer)
Dr. Dhondo Keshav Karve (18th April 1858 – 9th November 1962), popularly known as Maharishi Karve, was a social reformer in India in the field of women’s welfare. In honour of Karve, Queen’s Road in Mumbai was renamed to Maharishi Karve Road.Karve continued the pioneering work of Mahatma Phule and Savitribai Phule in promoting women’s education. The Government of India awarded him its highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, in 1958, the year of his 100th birthday.The appellation Maharshi, which the Indian public often assigned to Karve, means”a great sage”. He was also affectionately called ‘Annā Karve’.

2. Mahatma Jyotibai Phule (Social Reformer and Scholar)
A revolutionary social reformer, Mahatma Jyotibai Phule (11th April 1827 – 28th November 1890) was a pioneer in the fields of women’s education, agriculture, widow upliftment and removal of untouchability, leading various campaigns to reform Indian society of caste prejudice and superstition. After educating his wife, he established the first girls’ school in India in 1848 as well as the Society of Seekers of Truth. He also introduced the celebration of Chhatrapathi Shivaji ‘s birthday as Shiv Jayanti. For his unique achievements he was bestowed the title of ‘Mahatma’ in 1888. Jyotibai Phule had a number of books to his credit and influenced many others reformers and thinkers who followed in his wake.

3. Bal Gangadhar Tilak (Social Reformer and Scholar)
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Renowned freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak (23rd July 1856 – 1st August 1920) is much famous for having said, “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it“. A man of many parts, he also contributed to such a diverse fields as social reform, journalism, teaching and law. Tilak began his teaching career in Pune and was responsible for founding the Deccan Education Society in 1880 which in turn established the city’s Fergusson College. After joining the Indian National Congress in 1890 he edited the Kesari and Mahratta espousing the cause of radicals within the party. He is also famous for having transformed the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi as a public event. He penned many books including Gita Rahasya and The Arctic Home in the Vedas.

4. Gopal Krishna Gokhale (Freedom Fighter)

A contemporary of Bal Gangadhar Tilak in the Indian National Congress, Gopal Krishna Gokhale (9th May 1866 – 19th February 1915) founded the Servants of India Society in 1905 in Pune. He was a moderate and often did not agree with Tilak. He contributed significantly to the Minto-Morley Reforms of 1909. Mahatma Gandhi considered Gokhale as his mentor. The servants of India Society was formed to promote social and human development and continues to run schools to this day. In recognition of Gokhale’s services, a number of institutions in modern India bear his name such as the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics in Pune and the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs in Bangalore.

5. Bhimsen Joshi (Classical Singer)

Awarded the Bharat Ratna in 2008, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi (4th February1922 – 24th January 2011) was widely acknowledged as one of India’s foremost classical Hindustani vocalists. Born in Gadag in Karnataka, he finally settled in Pune. His guru was Sawai Gandharva and he gave his first public performance in 1941, singing in Marathi and Hindi. Over the years, his ragas included Shuddha Kalyan, Miyan ki Todi, Darbari and Ramkali. He also collaborated with equally famous vocalists such as Pandit Jasraj and Balamuralikrishna. Joshi was known for mastery of the fundamentals and his versatility.  He was the recipient of many awards including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, Padma Shree, Padma Vibhushan and National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer. 

6. S.L Kirloskar (Industrialist)

Founder of the Kirloskar Group and the township of Kirloskarwadi, Shantanurao Laxmanrao Kirloskar (28th May 1903 – 24th April 1994) was one of independent India’s foremost industrialists. One of the first Indian graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kirloskar’s enterprise and innovations led to the group, which is headquartered in Pune, becoming India’s largest engineering conglomerate. It is known for its pumps, engines, electric motors, transformers and generators. Kirloskar was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1965. A commemorative stamp was released on the occasion of his 100th birth anniversary.

7. Dhanraj Pillay (Former Captain of Indian Hockey Team)

Dhanraj Pillay (born 16th July 1968) played hockey for India from 1989 to 2004 in the forward position. He also captained the team and was known for his aggressive tactics. He represented India in four Olympics and four World Cups, besides in many other tournaments. He scored the highest number goals at the Bangkok Asian Games. Pillay was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award and the Padma Shri for his contributions.

8. Cyrus Poonawalla (Industrialist)

As the head of the Poonawala Group, Dr. Cyrus Poonawala is one of the richest men in India. His Serum Institute of India manufactures pediatric vaccines. Poonawala was awarded the Padma Shree for his contributions in the field of medicine. He also maintains an interest in horse racing, being joint owner of the family stud farm. He continues to reside in Poona.

9. Chandu Borde (Former Cricketer)
Chandu Borde

Chandrakant Gulabrao “Chandu” Borde (Born 21st July 1934) played for India between 1958 and 1970, captaining the team once on the tour to Australia in 1967. A right-handed batsman, his top score was 177 not out against Pakistan. As a test player he toured England, West Indies, Australia and New Zealand. For his contribution to Indian cricket, Borde was awarded the Arjuna Award, Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and the C K Nayudu Award for Lifetime Achievement. After he retired, Borde served as Chairman of the National Selectors, Indian team manager and pitch curator. He continues to live in Pune.

10. Prabha Atre (Classical Singer)
Prbha Atre

Belonging to the Kirana gharana, Prabha Atre (Born 13th Spetember 1932) is a virtuoso in Khayal, Thumri, Dadra, Ghazal and more. She had her training in the guru-shishya tradition under Sureshbabau Mane and Hirabai Barodekar. Atre has a Ph.D. in music and has authored a number of books on Indian music. She also teaches music and has established the Swarmayee Gurukul in Pune.

11. BKS Iyengar (Yoga Guru)BKS Iyengar

Known as the father of modern yoga and founder of the Iyengar School of Yoga, BKS Iyengar (14th December 1918 – 20th August 2014) has been a resident of Pune for many years. One of the foremost practitioners of Patanjali yoga in the world, he continues to attract yoga enthusiasts from all over the globe. Iyengar was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2002. He is known for his books Light on Yoga and Light on Pranayama.

12. Shanta Shelke (Prominent Writer)

A journalist, professor and writer, Shanta Shelke (19th October 1922 – 6th June 2002) contributed extensively to Marathi literature. Some of her poems were sung by such renowned singers such as Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle and Kishori Amonkar. Shelke had also translated works of literature in other languages into Marathi. She was educated in Pune and later settled down in the city. She contributed extensively to Marathi literature in the form of poems, stories, novels, character sketches, interviews, critiques, introductions, etc. She also helped translate English cinema and wrote for newspaper columns.


Famous as ‘The Oxford of the East’ the city of Pune is also the district headquarters. It has been known as the ‘Cultural Capital of Maharashtra’ with its very visible interest and participation in cultural activities, it gave birth to legends in every field of work. The city of Pune is indebted to all these legends those have made a name for them while residing in the city and made it their home. 

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