Off the press – Pune Mirror


By: Pushkar Sohoni

█ BY THE WAYSIDE

A printing press on FC Road is a socio-political landmark of the 19th century

On the stretch of Fergusson College Road (GK Gokhale Road) from Cafe Goodluck to BMCC Road (Gopal Ganesh Agarkar Road) is the site of one of the most important printing presses in the history of the city, if not the nation. Across from the Wadeshwar restaurant is a building built in dressed black basalt, with an arcade along the front facade. One of the few remaining properties on that road to have a large garden in front of it, the Aryabhushan Press building is an architectural reminder of the educational, political, and social reforms and reformers of the 19th century.

Vishnushastri Chiplunkar (1850–1882) was known for founding several institutions and for his literary contributions. He was a school teacher for several years, until his political writings forced his transfer to Ratnagiri, soon after which he resigned and moved back to Pune. Apart from writing in and editing several periodicals and newspapers, such as the Sanskrit Kavipancaka, Shalapatraka, and the highly influential Nibandhamala in 1881, he was also involved with the establishment of two major Marathi newspapers along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, the Kesari and the Mahratta. He was one of the founders of the New English School in 1880, along with Tilak and MB Namjoshi. One of the teachers in this new school soon after it opened was Gopal Krishna Gokhale, after whom Fergusson College Road is officially named.

Chiplunkar established two printing presses in 1878, Aryabhushan Press and Chitrashala Press, both in Pune, but with different operations. The Aryabhushan Press was primarily for printing newspapers and books, while the Chitrashala Press gave a boost to the production of fine arts in the form of chromolithographs and postcards, which are now collectors’ items and command high prices. The Kesari and the Mahratta were initially printed at Aryabhushan Press, which was located in Morobadada Wada in Budhwar Peth. Vishnushastri Chiplunkar died in 1882, at the young age of 32. The Graphic in London, in their obituary for him, called him a “pioneer of progress”.

Two years after his death, his colleagues, including BG Tilak, MB Namjoshi, VS Apte, and GG Agarkar, founded the Deccan Education Society and Fergusson College was established in 1885. GK Gokhale was a member of the Deccan Education Society, and began teaching at Fergusson College. Close to Fergusson College, in 1905, Gokhale founded the Servants of India Society. The Aryabhushan Press moved to its current location in the vicinity of the Society and the College sometime in the first two decades of the 20th century. Gokhale died in 1915.

A fire broke out in Aryabhushan Press in 1926, and one of the casualties was a manuscript of a biography of GK Gokhale authored by NR Phatak. A new building was built and inaugurated at the hands of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy in 1928, on the 15th death anniversary of Gokhale. This building, as the marble tablet on it proclaims, was declared to be for “the Printing Press and Publishing House of the Servants of India Society”. Called Aryabhushan Bhavan, this handsome building housed Aryanbhushan Press for several decades later, and was converted to the offices of the Maharashtra Sahakari Mudranalaya only in 1975. The northern end of the building now houses Indian Overseas Bank.

Pushkar Sohoni teaches at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune. His fields of research include historic preservation, Islamic architecture and Indo-Persian cultural history.

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