Ever since the movie Bajirao Mastani came out, I was interested to visit the palace of the Peshwas of the Maratha empire- Shaniwar Wada. Peshwa Bajirao the first, prime minister to Chattrapati Shahu commenced the building of his home. The term “Wada”, meaning residential home and Shaniwar literally meaning Saturday. I finally got the chance to visit Shaniwar Wada over the weekend, while staying in Pune for almost a month
Originally, Shaniwar Wada was apparently a seven storied capital building of the Peshwas built of stone until the first floor and rest completed by brick. The reason behind the same is very interesting. According to wikipedia source: “It was supposed to be made entirely of stone but after the completion of the base floor or the first story, the people of Satara (the national capital) complained to the Shahu(King) saying that a stone monument can
be sanctioned and built only by the Shahu(King) himself and not the Peshwas. Following this, an officialletter was written to the Peshwas stating that the remaining building had to be made of brick and not stone.” Ninety years later , an attack by the british artillery demolished the top six stories made of brick and only the stone base remained which was immune to the attacks by the british artillery. It is said, that close to a thousand people resided within the walls of the Shaniwar Wada. On February 27, 1828, a great fire started inside the palace complex that raged for seven days. Only the heavy granite ramparts, strong teak gateways and deep foundations and ruins of the buildings within the fort survived.
Read about Vetal Hill (Tekdi) in Pune.
On my recent visit to the historical fortification, located in Pune , I was underwhelmed to see its condition. After paying a nominal fee, I entered through the big gates made of iron with spikes protruding out of it which was impressive. But as soon as I entered, I was greeted by the view which was slightly depressing. It has been converted into a complete tourist attraction. There was a crowd and most of them were couples.
Benches were fixed to the ground in regular intervals for people to sit. Undeterred, I decided to move on. Metal plaques, providing brief description and also the family tree of the Peshwas were put up for providing information to the public. The attack by British and the destruction of the fire had completely rendered the structure unimaginable to its past heritage.
A raised platform few steps from the ground contained a square enclosed space that had an artificial sprinkler in the centre. Similar spaces adorned the entire platform. Apparently, in the evenings there is a light and sound show that threw light on the whole matter. The boundary wall is still strong and it gives the feel of a fortified palace. The steps to climb the wall were very steep and by the end of it I was gasping for breath and had to sit down to take a moment. The contrasting view of the street life beyond the wall and the ruins was an interesting picture. Mostly, being used to visiting historical buildings that are a bit secluded the palace is right in the midst of the city.
I did see the wooden doors and the ceilings of the standing structures and wooden beams that appeared to be that was on top of the entry gate. The entire boundary wall is connected and I took a whole round of it but did not see much of anything interesting. Garbage littered in the grass in once corner. On the other corner there was a deep rectangular water storage well (empty of course). Once atop the boundary wall, the view improved slightly and due to the cool weather condition it was a nice outing.
But for a student of history such as I, it lacked the yearning for the historian within me. So I resigned
myself to view it as a tourist. Once, I removed the curtain of the historian from my eyes, I saw a historical legacy, destroyed and now standing silently, lamenting the bygone era. Even as a tourist, I could not conjure up the enthusiasm that should be there when one is actually visiting a relic of the
past. Being one of the most famous places, it sure was just a tick of my list.
This is guest post written by Arpita Ghosh – Avid Traveller, HR professional and she has Masters in History (Hons). She writes under the blog – https://mywordsmytruthweb.wordpress.com