Famous Personalities of 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 culture, heritage and artistic traditions. Many of them later became famous throughout the country. Some of these include freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak, classical singer Bhimsen Joshi, yoga guru BKS Iyengar, industrialist Rahul Bajaj and hockey player Dhanraj Pillay. Pune continues to be a fertile ground for industrialists, sportspersons, writers and musicians.

Eminent Personalities of Pune

Eminent Personalities of Pune

Being the Cultural Capital of Maharashtra, Pune has evolved its own ethos which has proved to be attractive to a whole range of personalities down the ages including freedom fighters, social reformers, educationists, industrialists, sportsmen and actors. Pune continues to attract a diverse range of people from all over India who call the city their home. Some of Pune’s most eminent personalities are:

Mahatma Jyotibai Phule, social reformer and scholar

jyotibai phuleA revolutionary social reformer, Mahatma Jyotibai Phule (1827-1890) did pioneering work 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. Jyotibai Phule 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 other reformers and thinkers who followed in his wake.

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Bal Gangadhar Tilak, freedom fighter, educationist and social reformer

tilakRenowned freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) is famous for having said, “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it.” A man of many parts, he also contributed to such 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 renowned 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 formed the troika of radicals with Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai, known together as Lal-Bal-Pal. He is also famous for having transformed the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi as a public event. The penned many books including Gita Rahasya and The Arctic Home in the Vedas.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale, freedom fighter and social reformer

gokhaleA contemporary of Bal Gangadhar Tilak in the Indian National Congress, Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1866-1915) 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.

Bhimsen Joshi, classical singer

bhimsen joshiAwarded the Bharat Ratna in 2008, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi (1922-2011) was widely acknowledged as one of India’s foremost classical Hindustani vocalists. Born in Gadag in Karnataka, he finally settled in Pune after many years spent in Mumbai and north India. 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.

S L Kirloskar, industrialist

s l kirloskarFounder of the Kirloskar Group and the township of Kirloskarwadi, Shantanurao Laxmanrao Kirloskar (1903-1994) 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.

Dhanraj Pillay, hockey player

dhanraj pillayDhanraj Pillay (b.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. Currently manager of the Indian team, he was born in Pune and continues to call the city home.

Cyrus Poonawala, industrialist

At the head of the Poonawala Group, Dr. Cyrus Poonawala is one of the richest men in India. He's 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.

Chandu Borde, cricketer

Chandrakant Gulabrao “Chandu” Borde (b.1934) played for India chandu bordebetween 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.

Rahul Bajaj, industrialist

rahul bajajFamous industrialist Rahul Bajaj (b. 1938), chairman of the Bajaj Group, is a resident of Pune. While the Group’s companies have their offices all over the country, Bajaj Auto, the world’s fourth largest two-wheeler and three-wheeler manufacturer, has its headquarters at Pimpri-Chinchwad in Pune. Known for his forthright views, Bajaj has held many important positions in Indian industry including being president of the Confederation of Indian Industry. For his many contributions, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2001.

Prabha Atre, classical singer

Belonging to the Kirana gharana, Prabha Atre (b. 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.

BKS Iyengar, yoga guru

bks iyengarKnown as the father of modern yoga and founder of the Iyengar school of yoga, BKS Iyengar (b.1918) 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.

Pu La Deshpande, writer

A renowned Marathi writer, Purushottam Laxman Deshpande (1919-2000) had published works in all genres of literature including novels, plays, travelogues and humourous essays. He was also a playwright, actor, singer and music composer. To his credit, Deshpande was the first to interview Jawaharlal Nehru for TV. He had studied at Fegusson College and finally settled in Pune.

Shanta Shelke, writer

A journalist, professor and writer, Shanta Shelke (1922-2002) 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.

Sharad Talwalkar, actor

A popular Marathi film actor, Sharad Talwalkar (1918-2001) was known for his comic roles. He made his debut in 1952 with the film Akher Zamla and finally acted in more than 180 films as well as in many plays. He had settled down in Pune where he died in 2001.

Narendra Dabholkar, rationalist

Known for his work in eradicating superstition, Narendra Dabholkar (1945-2013) founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samithi in 1989. It undertook various campaigns to expose so-called godmen, educated people about astrology and supported the introduction of a law that would check the exploitation of people in the name of superstitions. He was murdered for his activism on August 20, 2013 in Pune.

P A Inamdar, educationist

A prominent educationist and philanthropist, P A Inamdar (b.1945) has done pioneering work in the field of education for minorities in India, establishing a number of schools and colleges. For his work, he has been appointed a member of the Planning Commission's working group on higher education for the twelfth five-year plan period by the Government of India. Inamdar is currently president of the Maharashtra Cosmopolitan Education Society as well as a member on the boards of a number of educational institutions in the country. He resides in Pune.

Anu Agha, industrialist 

The ex-chairperson of Thermax Ltd., Anu Agha (b.1942) turned around the company and became one of India’s foremost businesswomen. She had taken over its management after the sudden death of her husband, Rohinton Agha. In 2007 she was in the Forbes list of richest Indians. After she handed over the baton to her daughter, Agha was nominated to Rajya Sabha and is involved with an NGO, Teach for India. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2010 for social work. Born in Mumbai, she now lives in Pune.
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