“Kaka! Mala Vachva!!”
“Kaka! Mala Vachva!!”
“Uncle, save me”, the pleadings of a young Peshwa, it is believed still echoes in the ruins of Shaniwar Wada, Pune, India.
We love mountains and forts and weekend getaways. When we were visiting Pune in the Maharashtra state of India we decided to take the kids to Shaniwar Wada, a palace which has a rich and tragic history.
The making and fall of Shaniwar Wada
The foundation of this building was laid on a Saturday by Peshwa Bajirao on the banks of River Mutha, in the city of Pune, Maharashtra. Saturday in Marathi (Language Spoken in the Maharashtra state of India) is called “Shaniwar” and “Wada” is a settlement and that is how this Palace cum fort came to be called “Shaniwar Wada”.
Built-in 1730, spread over 625 acres this palace was made at a cost of Rs. 16,210. It was the place of residence of the Peshwas (Prime Minister in the Maratha Empire) until 1818, when the latter lost its control to East India Company.
It is a heavily fortified building complex with nine bastions and five gateways.
Around 1828, the entire palace was destroyed by an unexplained fire. The conflagration which raged for 7 days, spread rapidly through the wooden structure.
What was once a majestic seven-storied structure is mostly in ruins now.
The heavy ramparts, majestic entrance gates and the ruins of the foundation stand as an evidence of the bygone golden years.
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Bajirao-I was anointed as the Peshwa (Prime Minister) of the Maratha empire at the age of 20. Over the next 20 years, he fought 41 battles without loosing in even one. He was successful in converting Shivaji’s idea of Swarajya (freedom) to Samrajya (empire).
Shaniwar Wada – a witness to the Bajirao Mastani love story
Kashibai was the first wife of Bajirao while Mastani was his second wife. Though second marriage by a Peshwa wasn’t looked down upon in those days, Mastani, being the daughter of King of Bundelkhand Chhtrasal and his Muslim wife wasn’t accepted by the family of Bajirao.
Mastani lived at Mastani Mahal in Shaniwar Wada for some time after their marriage. Though the Mastani Mahal is no more, one can still see a door named after her on the left side of the fort. The Mastani Darwaja (Mastani’s Gate) or Aliibahadur Darwaja, was used by Mastani for entering and exiting the Palace.
Bajirao’s love for his half-Muslim wife Mastani and neglect of Kashibai upset his mother, Radhabai. Bajirao was torn between his love for Mastani and his obligations towards his mother.
The tragic end
Bajirao was 40 years old when he succumbed to death due to heat stroke. Mastani couldn’t bear the news of his death and killed herself by consuming poison (there are many different versions of their deaths, this being the most popular one). Mastani’s son Shamsher Bahadur, a boy of six years was thereafter raised by Kashibai.
Intrigued by the love story of a Maratha warrior and a Muslim princess, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, produced and directed “Bajirao Mastani” with a budget of ₹1.45 billion, which makes this movie one of the most expensive Hindi films.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s rendition of the tragic love story between Maratha king Bajirao and Muslim princess Mastani showcased in the magnum opus ‘Bajirao Mastani’.
From Daunting to Haunting
Post the death of his two older brothers in 1772, 17-year old Narayan Rao, grandson of the above mentioned Bajirao, took over as the 5th Peshwa. He was the youngest Peshwa ruler ever.
This succession, however, was opposed by his own uncle, Raghunathrao, second son of Bajirao and Kashibai. Unable to come to a mutual understanding and peaceful settlement, Narayanrao finally ordered a house-arrest for Raghunathrao.
Enter the Assassins
According to popular belief, Raghunathrao had sought the help Gardis (who were trained assassins) to capture Narayanrao. His message read “Narayanrao la dhara”. Dhara means to “hold”. This letter was intercepted by Anandibai, wife of Raghunathrao. Enraged over her husband’s arrest by Narayanrao, she changed the word “dhara” to read “maara” which means to “kill”.
The Brutal Death
The misperception led the Gardis to chase Narayanrao and finally kill him. As he ran from the Gardis, the young Peshwa, called out to his uncle for rescue.
“Kaka! Mala Vachva!!”
“Uncle, save me!!”
Gruesome Detail Alert: It is said that Narayanrao’s body was hacked into so many pieces that they had to carry the pieces in a pot.
Rumour has it that the agonizing sound of Narayanrao crying for help still echoes on a full moon night in the remains of Shaniwar Wada.
What to know before you go to Shaniwar Wada
We had no knowledge of this place being rumored to be haunted.
My two Kids along with their cousin had fun going up and down the stairs and walking on the broad rampart.
I secretly wonder if the kids would have so carelessly wandered around the Shaniwar Wada if they knew it was believed to be haunted 😉
The Massive Gates
In Shaniwar Wada, there are five ‘Darwaje’ which means ‘gates’. The Dilli Darwaza is the main gate of the complex and faces north towards Delhi. There are arrow-loops and machicolation chutes on the bastions which flank the gatehouse. Boiling oil could be poured out of the machicolation chutes on the approaching enemy.
The area is maintained by the Municipal Corporation of Pune. The Lawns are beautifully maintained.
The palace in its hay days had exquisite fountains and aesthetic gardens. Worthy of mention was the sixteen-petals lotus-shaped fountain called the Hazaari Kaaranja (fountain of a thousand jets).
Unfortunately, more than tourists there were lovers and couples sitting in nooks and corners.
Parking is an issue
Right in the heart of Pune, in the center of a bustling market, this fort takes you back in the time of the Peshwas.
Since it is in the middle of the marketplace, parking is a big issue. The Wada has a very limited parking space. We chose to travel in Auto – one of the cheapest ways to travel in Pune.
Though this place does not feature as one of the most popular places to visit, if you happen to be in Pune and love history (we definitely do) or everything spooky, this Wada can be in your list.
The plinth and the surrounding walls tell the visitors the story of the past glory of Shaniwar Wada.
There is a small shop ‘Warsaa’ in the campus which sells traditional handmade goods, books, and souvenirs.
The ticket counter is housed in the inner hallway. There is a cannon kept on the other side in the hallway.
There is no signage to inform any history of the cannon.
Where: Shaniwar Peth, Pune, Maharashtra 411030 Timing: 9 Am to 5:30 PM Entry Fees: Children under 14 years - Free Indians above 14 years - Rs.15 Foreigners - Rs.200 Time needed to see this place: 30 to 45 mins
Light and sound show at Shaniwar Wada:
The Pune Municipal Corporation has set up a light and sound show in an open air auditorium in the palace grounds of Shaniwar Wada.
The show takes place right in the center of the Wada under the umbrella of twinkling stars. The story of Bajirao and Shaniwar Wada is projected through light and sound over water fountains. The light, narration, music, and the ambiance all add to give an enriching experience.
No refund is given if the show is canceled due to rains.
Timing: 7:15 pm to 8:10 pm (Marathi Show) 8:15 pm to 9:10 pm (English Show) Tickets available for Rs. 50/- Ticket booking 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm (No Advance Booking)
Have you been to any place spooky? How was your experience?