Nashik: From Kumbh city to Smart city

by Shilpa Dahake

Notably known as temple city, Nashik is also famous as garden city or Kashi of South India. Here Sinhastha Kumbh Mela is organized after every 12 years. The Marathi proverb “Nasik nav tekdvar vasavile” (Nashik is settled on nine peaks), aptly describes the geographical location of Nashik on nine peaks of the Deccan plateau. The river Godavari flows through the centre of the city. Also known as Ganges of South, River Godavari originates from Brahmagiri Mountain in Trimbakeshwar (a temple town around 30 km from Nashik) and flows from the centre of the Nashik city. The river is religiously significant. The population of the city was above 15 lakhs in 2011 census with about 85% of the population comprising of Hindus.

There are a number of ghats on both the banks of the river from Gharpure to Dasak. There are several old temples which were built during the Peshwa rule. Even in the new settlements one can find temple in every colony and every street. There are public as well as several private temples are also there. The identity of the city in recent times, completely shifted from being a traditional pilgrimage centre to a modern city with global links, though its religious importance has not diminished.

Sedimented Histories of Nashik

Photos by Shilpa Dhahake

The town of Nasik lies on both sides of the Godavari. The part of the river on which Nasik is built is in shape like an inverted S with a bend first to the right and then to the left. The city contains three main divisions: Old Nasik, the sacred settlement of Panchvati, a place of no great size on the left or east bank of the river; middle or Musalman Nasik, formerly called Gulshanabad or the City of Roses, on the right bank and to the south of Panchvati; and modern or Maratha Nasik, also on the right bank, lying north and west of Musalman Nasik and west of Panchvati. The most important of these three divisions is middle Nasik across the river and to the south of Panchvati. Though to distinguish it from the western suburbs which were added by the Marathas it is known as Musalman Nasik, middle Nasik is an old Hindu settlement. (1883:462)

This excerpt from Vol. XVI of Gazetteer of Bombay Presidency of Nashik summarizes Pre-British period of Nashik. The settlement initially started along the left bank of the river. This area is known as Panchavati, it is believed to be chosen Lord Rama for his stay during exile. According to Puranas, during exile Ram-Lakshman-Sita resided in Panchavati – Tapovan area (currently also known as Panchavati and Tapovan) for some time. In the Vol. XVI of Gazetteer of Bombay Presidency of Nashik, this period is described as:

According to Brahman tradition the sage Agastya, who introduced Aryan civilisation from the north into the Deccan, when visited at his hermitage near Nasik, presented Ram the hero of the Ramayan, with a bow and other wonder-working weapons, and advised him to pass the rest of his exile at Panchavati on the Godavari opposite Nasik. Janasthan or Nasik is described in the Ramayan as a forest country rich in fruit and flower trees, full of wild beasts and birds, and inhabited by tribes of Rakshasas. (1883:181)

As informed by many locals, there are number temples and a cave on the left bank of the river which is believed to be inhabited by them. The families staying in this area are predominantly Hindu and are engaged in ritualistic and religious activities. Buddhism became dominant in the Nashik region during 200 -600 AD, as expressed by a group of old Buddhist caves known as ‘Pandu Lena’. Later, around 11th-12th century AD Jainism became prominent, as evident from the presence ‘Chambhar Caves’ (Kulkarni 1981)

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.

In the 17th century, Peshwas of Pune won control over Nashik. The palace of Peshwas at the end of the main bazaar road is converted to Police Station and Public Library in recent times. Under their reign, many temples were constructed and renovated along both the banks of the river. Various mansions or ‘wadas’, the ‘peths’ and temples from this period are still standing tall as a significant part urban landscape of the city.

Later in 19th after prolonged fights, the Nashik area came completely under British rule. A British army officer describes Nasik city as a “pleasing spot, a considerable town with two palaces, several beautiful temples on the river bank and some handsome and spacious buildings and rich neighbourhoods of gardens and vineyards” (Gazetteer of Bombay Presidency 1883: 537). The city limit 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, but well within the reach. 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, the local self-government was appointed by the British rule in Nashik (Kulkarni 1981).

The Nashik was a fairly insignificant town till 1947. The population drastically multiplied in the first half of this century, owing to its development as the district headquarters. The economy of the city was mainly relying on the religious activities and related trade. The migrants in majority settled on the right bank of the river Godavari. This new settlement adopted the British planning principles. The migration introduced religious and cultural diversity in the city. The growth of population led to expansion of the city boundaries. The table 1 shows chronological expansion of the city.

Table 1: Chronological population and spatial growth

Year Population Area
1881 24,100 13sqkm
1931 45,744 20sqkm
1951 97,042 47sqkm
1971 1,76,021 56.32sqkm
2011 1,486,053 259sqkm

The city landscape acquired many new features like industrial units, planned and unplanned shops, residential buildings, both cooperative housing societies and independent bungalows, during this period. The city started to expand in all directions. The retail activity both private and municipal increased by 5 times and started to spread outside the core area (Kulkarni 1981). By the 1960s, the city started to industrialize after independence 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 1960s, making the city a significant member on the industrial map of the country. After independence, investments, irrigation schemes and electricity, improved the share of agricultural economy significantly, making it a leading producer of a variety of grapes.

Between Tradition and Modernity

“Nashik provides a blend of tradition and modernism as it strives to be one of the leading cities in India to live, work and play. It provides city living at its best, with convenient and affordable public transport, safe and sustainable civic services and a responsive local government. Nashik chooses to preserve its cultural heritage while creating a sustainable future.

Nashik prides itself in being a safe city to walk and cycle. Here, we motivate and inspire everyone – from visitors to the local community to go out and enjoy the great outdoors which are paired best with visits to the local wineries and vineyards.” (Vision statement from Nashik Smart City proposal)

After the adoption of neoliberal economic reforms, the industrial sector increased drastically from 394 in 1971 to 7896 small-scale and 174 large-scale industries in 1997. Eventually the city became an important industrial site along the Delhi-Mumbai corridor. The city is also part of the Golden triangle Mumbai-Pune-Nashik and thus, is of great industrial importance. It has a very strategic location, close 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. The first Development Plan was sanctioned in the year 1993 and in the subsequent period, trend of urbanization, needs of urban populations, mode of living, modes of transportation, industrialization, need of social and physical infrastructure, trend of migration, etc., have undergone many changes. Thus, the Nashik Municipal Corporation is working on the second Development Plan.

In recent times on the basis of Nasik’s four-fold economic configuration –‘pilgrimage economy, industrial economy, defense sector economy and a strong agricultural economy’, the authorities are showcasing it as a ‘Best investment destination of Maharashtra’. The Nashik city is advertised as a city with:

Well-developed physical infrastructure, adequate and reliable water supply, strategic location at one vertex of the golden triangle of Mumbai, Pune and Nasik, comparatively lower environmental pollution, efficient and well-developed intra and intercity commuting facilities, excellent connectivity with other regional growth centres, developed industrial estates such as Ozar, Sinnar, Satpur and Ambad in the immediate vicinity, modern Software Technology Park at Ambad, salubrious year-round climate, a safe and secure social environment thanks to the presence of a major defense base here, excellent air and rail connectivity with other major cities, large pool of skilled, English-speaking professionals and well developed educational and healthcare sector with a large number of reputed institutions having a presence here. (TOI 2014) (Emphasis added)


Photo by Ayona Datta

According to The Economic Times (2015), the city of Nashik is the second most favourable city to make investments, among the tier II Indian cities. Now, the city is focusing on competing in the race of becoming a Smart City, this project is described by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a ‘mass movement towards Surajya’ (Government of India).

Simultaneous occurrence of Kumbh Mela and Smart City project, converted Nashik city into an ‘incubator for smart city start-up ideas’. This led to ‘culmination of religion and technology’ in Nashik. One major example of this is, ‘Kumbhthon’ a technical hackathon, to identify and address the challenges of Kumbh Mela 2015 in Nashik, with the broader aim to address the issues of urban areas in the countries of the developing world. On the other hand, the Nashik Smart City proposal conceptualized old city area, which houses large number of temples and heritage structure, for retrofitting. Around 250 acres of area is identified along the river in the periphery of city for greenfield development.

Religious tourism, industrialization and agriculture sector, these three are major contributors of the economy to the Nashik city. Owing to these factors the city is expanding in all the directions. Following the footsteps of Mumbai and Pune, the authorities are focusing on making Nashik an investment friendly destination for private developers. In the race of becoming a ‘world-class’ city various ‘spaces of accumulation’ have sprung all across the landscape of the city.

Details of our Nashik Workshop can be found here


Gazetteer of the Bombay presidency. (1883). Nashik district Volume No.16. Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Book Depot.

Government of India. (n.d.). Web page of Smart Cities project.

Kulkarni, K. M. (1981). Urban Structure and Interaction: A Study of Nasik City-Region. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company.

The Economic Times (2015). Top 10 Indian tier II cities to invest in. Retrieved on November 5, 2015 from

TOI. (2014). Investor’s Spotlight Nashik Has Promising Property Investment Prospects. Retrieved on August 25, 2015 from


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