Once the seat of the Peshwas (the prime ministers) of the Maratha Empire, Shaniwar Wada in Pune, Maharashtra, is a historical fortification built-in 1730. Located on the banks of the Mula Mutha river, the fort is a center of attraction in the city of Pune. If you are visiting Mumbai or Pune during your India trip, try and include this fort in your itinerary if possible. If you love history or architecture; or both, you will be in for a treat for sure upon visiting Shaniwar Wada.
The ceremonial foundation took place on 10th January 1730 and the construction was completed in 1732. As the foundation date fell on a Saturday, the fortress got its name Shaniwar Wada (Shaniwar means Saturday and Wada means residence). The cost of the building was around Rs. 16,110, a large amount at the time.
The original plan was to have seven stone stories in the structure. But, after completing the first story, the people of Satara (the capital of the Maratha Kingdom) complained to the King saying only Shahu (king), and not the Peshwas, can sanction and build any stone building. Hence, the king sanctioned the same via an official message. So, the walls are partly made of stone and partly of brick. When the British artillery attacked the fort in 1818, all six brick stories made of brick were collapsed, leaving just the stone base.
Shaniwar Wada was the residence and office space for many rulers such as Baji Rao I, Bhau Saheb, Balaji Baji Rao, Madhav Rao, Narayan Rao, Raghunath Rao, and Sawai Madhav Rao. Even after its completion in 1732, Peshwas made changes in the building according to the requirements such as the fortification walls with gates and ramparts, the arrangement of water to Wada from the nearby lake, etc.
Gates of Shaniwar Wada
Shaniwar Wada has five entrance gates;
- Delhi Darwaza: The main entrance gate called Delhi Darwaza faces north towards Delhi. The size of the doors was huge so that elephants could enter via them comfortably. To prevent enemy elephants from entering the Wada, the doors were built with 72 sharp steel spikes arranged in a 9×8 grid, at an approximate height of the forehead of a battle elephant. In the right pane, there is a small door for daily entrance and exit, too small to admit enemy army.
- Mastani Darwaza: The gate got its name from Mastani, the second wife of Baji Rao Peshwa, who used the gate daily.
- Khidki Darwaza: The gate is also known as Dindi Darwaza. It is called Khidki Darwaza because it has a window on its door.
- Ganesh Darwaza: The gate is called so as the entrance faces the Ganesh temple.
- Narayan Darwaza: The gate was previously known as Jambhul Darwaza. But after the dead body of Peshwa Narayan Rao was taken out through this gate, it got named after him.
Buildings of Shaniwar Wada
The hall above Delhi Darwaza is a large one and the entire Wada can be seen from here. The ramparts of the wall are still in a good state and you can stroll on this wall.
The main buildings of Shaniwar Wada are:
- Palace of the Peshwa
- Arasa Mahal
- Dance Hall
- Mastani Mahal
- Ganesh Mahal
The last floor had been allocated to the Peshwa. Arasa Mahal is a mirrored palace built for Sawai Madhav Rao, the posthumous son of Peshwa Narayan Rao. Ganesh Mahal is named as such because of the Ganesh temple inside it. This was the place where Narayan Rao Peshwa was in when Gardi guards came to kill him.
The lotus-shaped fountain with 1000 jets called Hajari Karanje was built for Sawai Madhav Rao when he was an infant. It has 16 petals and each petal has 16 jets with an 80-foot-high arch. This was the most intricate fountain at the time.
Shaniwar Wada Haunted Story
Shaniwar Wada is also known for its tragic story. The story is about the murder of the former Peshwa Narayan Rao. The story goes that his uncle Raghunath Rao sent orders to the captain of Gardi guards, saying ‘catch Narayan Rao’. But, Anandibai changed it to ‘Kill Narayan Rao’. Upon seeing the guards, he ran towards Raghunath Rao’s quarters screaming, ‘Uncle, save me!’ But Sumer Singh didn’t listen to his cries, he slashed Narayan Rao into pieces in front of Raghunath Rao. A legend has it that the ghost of Narayan Rao still cries for help in the fort saying, ‘Uncle, save me!’ on full moon nights.
Shaniwar Wada Timings: 09.30 AM – 5.00 PM (Closed on Sundays)
Entry fee: For Indians: Rs. 25, for foreign nationals: Rs. 300
Special attraction: Light and sound show at 7.30 PM in Marathi, at 8.30 pm in Hindi.
Have you ever visited this historical mansion of the Peshwas? If yes, please share your experience in the comments. If you are the one who is eagerly waiting to visit this fortification, book cheap flights from Seattle to Pune through Indian Eagle.