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Friday, June 4, 2010

Edition 20: Shaniwarwada

City Blog Desk
Although Shaniwarwada bears no sign of royal history, there was a time when the place was non-official capital of India. Peshwas built the palace here. The place is a spectator of many incidents in the history of Maharashtra. The love story of Bajirao I and Mastani unfolded itself here. It was here that Narayan Peshwa was killed by his uncle Raghunath Peshwa on Dec. 13, 1772. For the fact, not Peshwa Raghunath killed himself Narayanrao. Gardis, the security guards attacked the young king. At the time, Narayanrao was just 16 years old. Today, the palace has no signs of greatness as a single wall is standing there which served tas the outer coat for the security of the palace. The original mansion which was inhabited by Peshwa fell victim to a fire in fire in 1828. The Maratha Empire was abolished in 1818. When Pune accepted the British rule, it was the beginning of the British Raj.

The Shaniwarwada was originally built as a residing place for the Pehwas. Bajirao I laid the foundation of the palace on Jauary 10, 1730. The actual construction was completed in 1732. The word Shaniar means Saturday in Marathi. The cost of the palace was Rs 16,110 at that time. At one time, the palace was occupied by over thousand people.

Even though the construction is mainly recognised by its imposing gates in the front, there are four other gates in the structure also. One is known as Narayan Darwaja, since it was from here that the dead body of Narayanrao Peshwa was taken out for crematio after he was murdered. The main gate is known as Dilli Darwaja because it is faced towards north, in the direction of Delhi. It was a sign of the ambitions of Peshwa to spread their kingdom. According to one legend, Bajirao chose the place for constructing his palace after he saw one rabbit chasing a hound.

It was with a small amount of mud taken from Lal Mahal, with which Bajirao Peshwa 1 laid the foundation stone of this palace. Teaks brought from the Junnar jungles, lime from the Jejuri lime belts and stones from Chinchwad were used to make this 13-storeyed monument. With the course of time, several new things were also added to the palace. Fortification walls, court halls and gates were some such things. Shaniwar Wada reflects the Moghul and Maratha architectural design. Presently, much of its parts are ruined after a devastating fire broke out in the monument complex. The things that still can be seen are 5 gates, fortification walls and 9 bastions. Dilli Darwaja (around 21 feet high) is the name of its main gate, whereas, Alibahadur Darwaja ( Mastani), Ganesh Darwaja, Khidki Darwaja and Narayan Darwaja are the names of the other gates of Shaniwar Wada in Pune.

Pictures from Mahabharata and Ramayana are engraved on the palace walls. Here a fountain can also be seen. Pune Municipal Corporation now maintains this ancient structure.
The things that can be seen inside the castle complex include statue of 1st Bajijrao, Rang Mahal, Ganesh Mahal, Hasti Dant Mahal, Aarsa Mahal, Diwan Khana and nagarkhana. From 8 A.M to 5 P.M people are allowed to enter here.

When the name Bajirao comes, that of Mastani also crops up. Mastani lived for some time with Baji Rao at his palace of Shaniwar. The palace's north-east corner held Mastani Mahal and had its own external doorway called Mastani darwaza. Because of his family's intolerance of Mastani, Baji Rao later built a separate residence for Mastani at Kothrud in 1734,some distance away from Shaniwar Wada. Court records (Bakhars) during Bajirao's regime specifically never included any reference to her.

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