Summer vacations are the best time to explore what the world has in store for you. In the vacations, I got a chance to visit Shaniwarwada, which is located in the heart of Pune, Maharashtra, a palace with a rich and tragic histor .In the centre of the busy markets and streets, this fort takes one back to the time of the Peshwas. It was the seat of Peshwa rulers earlier but in the vacations, it became my favourite place to prance. From its beautiful gardens to the light and sound show which is shown every day in the evening, I loved every single thing about Shaniwarwada. It is not only picturesque, but it is also a reflection of the proud Maratha Empire. A place which was once a melting point of culture and politics, now attracts loads of tourists from different parts of the world. The light and sound show takes place under the umbrella of twinkling stars. The tale of Bajirao and Shaniwarwada is projected through light and sound over water fountains. The narration, music and the ambiance, all add to give an enriching and wonderful experience. This 286-year-old monument stands as a symbol of the rise and fall of Maratha Empire. The construction of Shaniwarwada began when Peshwa Balaji Rao laid foundation to it. That day happened to be a Saturday and that is how the fort got its name ’Shaniwarwada’, ‘Shaniwar’ meaning Saturday and ‘wada’ meaning residence in Marathi. I was unaware of this not-so-famous Wonder Of Incredible India before ‘Bajirao Mastani’- the movie showcasing the epic historical romance of Maratha Peshwa Bajirao-1 and his second wife Mastani. The only thing I knew about this beautiful place before actually visiting it was that Princess Mastani was housed in it with Bajirao’s first wife ‘Kashibai’ and his extended family. When I actually visited that place our guide told us about a major fire that broke within the fort in the 1820s . What caused this fire is still unknown but almost the entire fort was destroyed in it. The fire burnt for several days and after it was extinguished, only the huge walls and gates remained. But when one actually goes there he can still sense the elegance of that place. I also learned various things about the Maratha Empire and the place itself. For almost 70 years, Shaniwarwada remained home to the Peshwas until the Maratha army was defeated by the British East-India Company. After the British took over the region, the fort became a residence of British officers for a decade until 1828 when the fire broke within the fort. Shaniwarwada has 5 gates which can be seen by people who are visiting there. One of the five gates is the Dilli Darwaza which is the main gate of the fort and it is named so because it faces north, towards Delhi. It is also called so due to Bajirao’s ambitions of conquering Delhi. It is strongly built and each pane of the gate has spikes on it. Mastani, being the muslim second-wife of Bajirao-1 was not accepted by the family of Bajirao. Mastani lived in the Mastani Mahal which is named after her and though it is no more, one can see the second gate ‘Mastani Darwaza’ which is also faces north and was used by Mastani to enter and exit the palace. Another gate of the fort is the ‘Khidki Darwaza’, facing east. It is named for an armored window it contains. The fourth gate is the ‘Ganesh Darwaza’ which faces south-east. It was named for the Ganesh Rang Mahal, which could only be used by the ladies to visit the nearby Ganpati temple. The fifth gate is the ‘Narayan Darwaza’ or the ‘Jambhul Darwaza’, facing south. This gate was used by concubines to enter and leave the fort. It obtained its name ‘The Narayan Darwaza’ after Narayanrao Peshwa’s corpse was removed from the fort for cremation through this gate. The guide also told us about the Meghadambari. It is said that Shaniwarwada was seven storeys high. On the top floor was the residence of the Peshwa which was called Meghadambari. It is said that the spire of a temple which was 17 km away, could be seen from there. One thing worth mentioning is the ‘Hazaari kaaranja’- the sixteen-petals lotus-shaped fountain which was situated amidst the beautiful gardens of Shaniwarwada. I also wanted to see the famous ‘Aaina Mahal’ there but there was nothing left except for the walls and the gates of the palace. I was really disappointed but when I actually walked there, surrounded by all the greenery, I got a feeling which was simply ineffable. The elegance, antiquity and beauty of the place simply brought a feeling of euphoria to me. Shaniwarwada is often not high on the list of must-visit monuments in India and the fire can be blamed for it, but if one wants a place to wander and a peaceful place then Shaniwarwada is the perfect place. The greenery all around, the pleasant winds and the peacocks there surely make one’s mind peaceful. We were also told about the history behind the construction of this magnificent fort. It is said that once the elder Bajirao saw a rabbit chasing a dog in this place and taking inspiration from this Shaniwarwada was built, a place which would never see defeat. Even by looking at the construction, one understands how the structure was built giving highest priority to security. The buildings of Shaniwarwada contained paintings and drawings of scenes from epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. These days, Shaniwarwada has also become an attractive destination for public speeches and functions. Shaniwarwada is the perfect place for nature-wanderers , photographers and selfie experts as the entire fort is full of greenery. Shaniwarwada , what was once a seven-storied majestic structures is almost in ruins now. Once a lively palace of the Peshwas, now just a tale of tragic love, treachery and greed. But still, the Shaniwarwada remains in our hearts, a place which will never see defeat.
——Writer, Apoorva Rajput, Ahlcon International School, a Participant of the International Essay Competition held in July-2018.