In the Peths of Pune across whole old Pune, you will still find some old raised platforms mainly built around large trees like Banyan (Vad or Wisdom Tree as it is called) or Peepal tree. Usually with a small shrine under it. Surrounding space was meant for sitting for people.
These paars are generally meant for pass time spaces for elderly or retired people. After finishing their morning chores people would gather on these paars for a chat and gossip on any subject from politics to recent happening news from tabloids. Share news of somebody's demise,or marriage or a general social chat.
Many a times they could be in the center of the road, splitting it, or by the side of it .
Some times it would have a news paper reading facility, donated by some charitable trusts/Mandals. Shani paar has a fairly big shrine of Hanuman and Shani Dev (feared planet saturn's deified form) where you will find people queuing up to offer prayers mainly on Saturdays, but otherwise also a bustling shrine.
If the paar was built around a Banyan (Vad) tree, then the tree itself would become an object of worship atleast on one day of the year. This day of 'Vata Pournima' is celebrated to pray for the husband's longevity by women. A cotton thread would be wound around the Banyan tree trunk, and some mangoes and bangles would be offered to the tree. It is not uncommon to see the tree wrapped in numerous cotton threads for many days after the festival.
Nagnath paar also has a small shrine, but has a tragic history. It is said that one person called Balwant Nagnath was trampled down by elephant, as a death punishment given by Nana Phadnavis for his treacherous deeds.
You will find many pars in Narayan Peth, Kasaba Peth, Shaniwar Peth, etc. These paars are seen with people reading, chatting, chanting their prayers and hawkers resting for a while under shade of the large tree. Some paars are found in educational campuses also,where children will sit in their recesses, or waiting for parents coming to pick them up. Or students, enjoying a snack in a "Lecture Off "period. One popular paar is in Film and Television Institute (FTII) on Law College Road. It is called the Wisdom Tree. This appears in nostalgic memoirs of many ex students who went on to become big names in the film industry.
You will find equivalent of these in other parts of India like, nukkads, addas , Kattas, roaks, the name can be different ,but the purpose is same, gathering, relaxing, chit chatting, or in villages, serving as a platform for head of Panchayats, addressing the village crowd on social,and local issues.
In today's fast moving life and crowded places, space and leisure are both coveted and rare to come by.
Disclaimer: Photographs are not taken by me and are only for representational purposes. Original copyrights lie with the owners.