Story Title: Pune's Forts

By Husein Chunawala
Word Count: 495

Rajgad Fort

Though most of the structures have been decayed and are lost, India's legacy of ancient forts is considerable. The word “fort” is originally a Persian word, and the equivalent word in Marathi is “gad”, while some prefer to use 'killa'. There are many forts in and around Pune with interesting histories attached to them.

Sinhagad Fort: The Sinhagad fort is one of Pune's most visited locations. It is a fortress located roughly 30 kilometers southwest of the city of Pune. Earlier the Sinhagad fort was known as Kondhana. The fort has been the site of many important battles. The caves and the carvings inside the fort indicate that it was probably built as many as two thousand years ago. It was captured by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq in 1328 AD.

One of the most famous battles for Sinhagad was fought to recapture the fort by Tanaji Malusare, one of Shivaji's generals, in March 1670. The story goes that a steep cliff leading to the fort was climbed with the help of a monitor lizard. Thereafter, in the fierce battle that took place between Tanaji's troops and the Mughal army that held the fort at that time, Tanaji lost his life, but his army captured Kondana.

Rajgad Fort: Rajgad fort is a fort in Pune district, which translates into 'royal fort'. The fort is about 4,000 feet above sea level. Formally known as Murumdev, it was the capital of the Maratha Empire during the rule of Chhatrapati Shivaji for almost 26 years, after which he moved his capital to the Raigad Fort.

Treasure found at an adjacent fort was used to build the Rajgad fort. This fort was the location of the birth of Shivaji’s second son Rajaram, and the death of Shivaji’s first wife, Saibai. This fort remained with Shivaji when he signed the Treaty of Purandar in 1665 with the Mughal forces.

Purandhar Fort: The Purandhar fort actually consists of two forts, 1) Purandhar fort and 2) Vajragad fort. The latter is the smaller of the two and is on the eastern side of the main fort. The village Purandhar takes its name from the fort. Purandhar fort is also known for the birth place of Sambhaji, Shivaji's older son. Under the Peshwas, Purandhar was a stronghold to which they retreated whenever Pune, their capital, was under attack. During British rule it was often used as a prison.

Shaniwarwada: Perhaps the most important of Pune's forts, the Shaniwarwada is a royal palace in the city of Pune. Built in 1746, it was the seat of the Peshwa rulers of the Maratha Empire until 1818 when the Peshwas surrendered to the British. The fort itself was largely destroyed in 1828 by fire, but the surviving structures are now maintained as a tourist site. More about Shaniwarwada is another story.

Another fort near Pune is Fort Jadhavgadh, which has been converted into a hotel. As forts go it is quite small, but is certainly worth a visit.


Story Title: Aga Khan Palace

By Akshay Sharma
Word Count: 521

Aga Khan Palace

The Aga Khan Palace is one of the most important historical monuments in the city of Pune, both for its architecture and its historical value.

The palace was built in 1892 by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III. It is said that when the Aga Khan came to know of the plight of the people of Pune and the adjoining areas due to the famine of 1887, he decided to help by ordering the construction of this palace which led to a large number of people getting paid work.

The Aga Khan Palace houses the Gandhi National Museum. In 1942, Mahatma Gandhi along with his wife Kasturba, his secretary Mahadev Desai and Sarojini Naidu was imprisoned here. In fact, it was here that both Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai passed away and their 'samadhis' (memorials) are located in a corner of the campus. The ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were also placed alongside them. Mahadev Desai died very soon after he arrived here in 1942 due to a heart attack.

The rooms in which Gandhiji and his associates stayed have been converted into a museum containing statues, busts, photographs, paintings etc. along with articles used by Gandhiji. The area open to visitors consists of the lawns which surround the main building, the samadhis of Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai and some rooms in the main building where Gandhiji and his associates had stayed.

In first of these rooms, there are paintings and pictures related to Gandhiji and a beautiful statue of Gandhiji with Kasturba. The next room is where Madeleine Slade, known as Mirabehn, who was one of the most important disciples of Gandhiji, had stayed. This room also has a lot of photographs and paintings and a sculpture of Gandhiji helping a child get up from the ground. This room also has busts of some very important leaders from the Indian freedom movement, namely, Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

Then there is the room which hosted "Nightingale of India" Sarojini Naidu who was with Gandhiji when he was brought here. Sarojini Naidu was released from here by the British because of her ill health. The next room is the one where Mahadev Desai used to stay.

Then there is the room in which Mahatma Gandhi stayed with his wife Kasturba. This room is not accessible to the general public and is viewed through the glass windows and panes in the door of the room. Kasturba Gandhi passed away here in 1944. The rest of the building is not open to the general public. In addition, there is also a library named after Sarojini Naidu that is part of the complex.

The palace was donated to the people of India by Aga Khan IV in the year 1969. It has now become a major tourist attraction and is also a national monument. Visitors have to buy a ticket to get in. While the Shaniwarwada is the most prominent site in Pune, the Aga Khan Palace symbolizes the major role that Pune played in the freedom struggle and also adds a new dimension to the architecture of the Pune city.


Story Title: Shaniwar Wada

By Husein Chunawala
Word Count: 498

Shaniwar Wada

The Shaniwar Wada is a royal palace of Pune and is also a fort. It was built by Peshwa Bajirao the First, the Prime Minister of Chhatrapati Shahu, in 1746. It was the seat of the Peshwas. Shaniwar Wada literally means 'Saturday House' and was inaugurated on a Saturday, since that was found to be the most auspicious day of the week. These days the palace is considered to be one of Pune's main attractions. The Shaniwar Wada is located in Kasba Peth, in the heart of the city.

The architecture of Shaniwar Wada was influenced by design from the Moghuls as well as Maratha craftsmanship. The main door of the Shaniwar Wada was 21 feet tall. The fort contained 275 towers from which archers could fire their arrows. As many as 1,000 people once lived in the Shaniwar Wada.

The Shaniwar Wada was destroyed in a fire in the year 1828. The fire raged for seven days. Now all that remains are the walls that fortified this palace and with their heavy doors, studded with spikes for extra protection.

The Shaniwar Wada has 5 gates:

The Dilli Darwaja is the main gate facing South and this gate has massive doors. Chhatrapati Shahu is said to have told Peshwa Bajirao that the door should be made from the chests of soldiers, not from mere mud.

Mastani Darwaja, also called the Alibahadur Darwaja, faces North, and this gate was used by Peshwa Bajirao's wife Mastani while leaving the palace.

Khidki Darwaja (Window Gate) faces East. It was named the Window Gate because the gate has an armored window in the middle. This window was used to prevent the enemy elephants from pushing it open.

Ganesh Darwaja, this gate faces South - East and named after the Ganesh Rang Mahal. This gate was used only by ladies to visit the Kasba Ganapati temple.

Jambhul Darwaja, also called the Narayan Darwaja, faces South.

The Shaniwar Wada complex had an impressive lotus-shaped fountain called the Hazari Karanje (Fountain of a thousand jets). It was constructed for the pleasure of the infant Peshwa Sawai Madhavrao. It was designed as a sixteen petal lotus; each petal had sixteen jets with an eighty foot arch. It was the most complicated and intricate fountain of its time in the country. The fountain also has a sad story attached to it. One of the children of the Peshwa died due to injury after he fell into the fountain.

Captain More who visited the Shaniwarwada in 1791 described it as “Very magnificent. A hundred dancers can dance here at a time. In one corner is a marble Ganpati statue and the palace is flanked by a fountain and a flower garden.”

Shaniwar Wada has become one of the most prominent tourist sites in Pune. It has assumed a status of being a symbol of Pune, and its history. Son et lumiere (sound & light) and other entertainment shows are held regularly at the gates of the palace.