Who says that movies do not teach you anything!!
I have been to Pune a number of times but never have I thought of visiting the historical places there. Pune has a lot of historical significance as it was the seat of Peshwa power and is closely linked to the history of Shivaji. However it was only after watching the movie “Bajirao Mastani” that I was intrigued enough to visit Shaniwarwada. My friends, who have been living there for quite some time, told me that there was nothing to see over there. Still I went. If nothing at all then at least I will feel an essence of the history.
Peshwa BajiRao was the Prime Minister of the Maratha king Chhatrapati Shahu. He built the Shaniwarwada around 1730. It was a seven storey magnificant structure and at one point of time a thousand people used to live in the complex.The fortified walls consist of bastions, ramparts and 5 gates. The main gate is called Delhi darwaza because it faces towards Delhi.
It is true that once you enter the complex you will be surprised by the nothingness. I had imagined that a palace or fort in ruins will still have remnants of the walls and rooms and majestic halls. Interestingly, at first sight, there was nothing at eye level. Once you walk further you realise that all that is left now is the foundation. Huge blocks of stones that had been the foundation, few stone steps, a stone fountain, few stone plinths that supported pillars.
There are no structures left because the whole palace was built of wood. Everything was gutted in a fire in 1828, a fire that blazed on for days. All that are left are the stones. There are small plaques that try to describe what the structures were.
You have to use your imagination and create a visual image of the palace as it must have been. Look at the main steps and imagine caved wooden pillars supporting the immense structure. Courtyards and steps leading up to the darbar, the dance hall, the reception hall, the mirror hall.
There is a massive lotus shaped fountain that has survived the brunt of times. It was called Hazari Karanje or the fountain of a thousand jets. It was designed as a 16 petal lotus with a jet on each petal. It was the most intricate fountain of its time.
An now the story behind it being known as the most haunted place in Pune.
Bajirao (of Mastani story) had two sons, Nanasaheb and Raghunath Rao. Nanasaheb had three sons Vishwasrao. Circumstances led to 17 year old Vishwasrao becoming the 5th Peshwa, something that his uncle Raghunath Rao did not like. As usual conflicts and difences led to the young Peshwa imprisoning his uncle. His aunt Anandibai hired Gardi assassins to release her husband and also kill the Peshwa. When the assassins struck the frightened young Peshwa ran to his uncle for help yelling “Uncle! Save me!”. His uncle watched as his nephew was hacked to death. His body was chopped into pieces and thrown in the river. It is this young soul who is rumoured to haunt the Shaniwarwada. Nearby residents claim to be able to hear his desperate cries at night.
Whatever be the story, whether true or false, I found the palace to be a great experience. The walls of the fort are still standing. You can see the slots where the canons were kept and the slits through which one could fire arrows or muskets on the enemy.
The rampart walls are thick, the stairs steep, and you can imagine soldiers doing their rounds day and night.
The only wooden structure that has survived is the portion of the main gate. Maybe because it was away from the main blaze. The heavy teak wood has stood the test of time.
Go there once to get a feel of history. And if you have the time then do watch the light and sound show.