Amit Paranjape’s Blog

The Disappointing State Of Shaniwar Wada

Posted in Pune by Amit Paranjape on February 15, 2010

Shaniwar Wada (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

The historic Shaniwar Wada fort is not just Pune’s pride; it is the pride of Maharashtra and India. It was the citadel of power of the great Maratha Empire of the 18th Century. At its zenith, the Maratha Empire controlled an area over half of present day India and rivaled the size of the Mughal Empire that preceded it. The Peshwe were amongst the last major powers to surrender to British in 1818. Small and modest in comparison to the Mughal Forts like the Lal Kila in Delhi, the Shaniwar Wada had its own charm, and was witness to some very important history of the Indian sub-continent in the 18th century.  

For more information on Shaniwar Wada, please click here.  

A massive fire in 1828 destroyed most of the buildings inside the fort. Only the foundations, the periphery walls, and the main entrance survived. The exact cause of this fire is not known. Post this fire, the British had no interest in rebuilding this symbol of Maratha Power. The fort deteriorated over the coming decades. Post independence, Shaniwar Wada saw some restoration work and development.  

I recently visited Shaniwar Wada after nearly 25 years. Being a big enthusiast of Pune History, I was eagerly looking forward to seeing the sites of the historic buildings, and the beautiful water fountains.  

I was extremely disappointed. The condition of the fort is disturbing. Apparently, some restoration work is going on, but that’s no excuse for the current state! And the person at the ticket window (they charge Rs 5 entrance fee; Rs 100 for foreign visitors) confirmed that this state has been there for a while.  

Nearly half of the sign-boards inside the fort, that describe various buildings and structures, are missing. Partial restoration work/construction can be seen at multiple sites, and construction material is dumped haphazardly at various places. Pieces of trash can be seen lying everywhere. Lawns are not maintained properly. The periphery outside the main walls of the fort has a small iron fence, creating a 10-20 feet buffer zone between the fort and the streets. This fence is broken at a few points. The grass here gives an impression that no one has tended to it in years! And it has become a mini-garbage dump.  

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.  

Most public gardens in Pune are maintained so much better than this historic monument. And they don’t even charge an entry fee. Question is who is responsible for maintaining this fort? Is it the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)? I understand that the ASI does a nice job in maintaining historical monuments like the Lal Kila, Ajantha, etc.  (This is what I have heard from friends who have recently visited there… I haven’t been there in a long time).  

Then what is the problem with Shaniwar Wada? Funding? Priority? What Else?  

What can be done to get the attention of the right authorities? Is a ‘Public-Private Partnership Model’ an option? What can Punekars do the restore the pride and glory of this great monument? Looking for your suggestions and inputs.

16 Responses

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  1. Vasu Ramanujam said, on February 16, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Amit,

    Sorry to read about the sad state of affairs at Shaniwarwada. I wanted to relate a recent experience of mine.

    Some of us went to the Aga Khan Palace recently. The Aga Khan Palace is in bad shape too. When we enuired about volunteering to work towards restoration, we were told that the Trust does not believe in getting help from the public. We also came to know that a corporate house in Pune offered good money to restore the AKP to it’s past glory, but that was turned down too, on the grounds that the corporate house would need to put up it’s logo and hence gain commercially from it!

    We are helpless.

    Vasu

  2. Harshad Oak said, on February 16, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Our politicians have chosen to keep the wada in the state that it is. For known reasons, they don’t want to come across as admirers of the Peshwas. So there’s not much hope of the govt. restoring or promoting the shaniwarwada. In a twisted way, the fact that they are not pulling down the wada is an achievement of sorts.

    The Peshwas are like the ‘elephant in the room’ when it comes to the history of Maharashtra.

    We can push ASI through signature campaigns for proper upkeep of the monument. However restoring the monument seems like a tough ask for a peoples’ movement. So unless the wada catches the fancy of a Gandhi or similar, the task seems difficult.

  3. chait83 said, on February 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I guess around 4 years back Archaeological survey of India had figured out how to replace the bricks at shaniwarwada. After that I guess there was no news about what they are doing.

    Also keeping authorities aside, the people of the city are themselves very apathetic towards the monument. I guess shaniwarwada must be only such monument where the hawkers sit right next to the wall. That region at least for 500 metres radius should be sealed off. There should be some pride in the hearts of the people, only then the authorities would be in under pressure to act responsibly.

  4. Sanjay Paranjape said, on February 16, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    @HarshadOak: I didn’t know the Peshwas were the ‘elephant in the room’ in the context of Mahrashtra’s history.. can you provide some background?

  5. Sean said, on February 17, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Speaking as an outsider (I’m from the US and have lived in Pune since last June), I’m relieved, in a weird way, to see this discussion. Having read a lot about the Shaniwarwada, I expected it to be better maintained. On my first visit, I found it compelling, but the grounds were littered, signs were missing or unclear, and I had a hard time connecting it to the place I had read about.

    I had a similar experience, though, visiting the Janjira fort at Murud. It was so clearly an astonishing place, yet it appears quickly to be crumbling into the sea. The trash left behind by visitors made it even harder to imagine the majesty of the place.

    Visiting sites like these (and the AKP, too) made me wonder if Indians (or Maharashtrians) just didn’t care about the state of their historical monuments. Your post and the comments make it clear that this is not the case. But then bureaucracy is almost as formidable an opponent as apathy.

    Great blog, by the way.

  6. Harshad Oak said, on February 17, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Checked up the phrase “elephant in the room” – I have used the expression to mean “an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed” and not as “an obvious problem no one wants to discuss” Ref wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_in_the_room

    Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peshwa says –

    The Peshwa (Hindi:पेशवा, plural Peshwe, Marathi:पेशवे) were Brahmin Prime Ministers to the Maratha Chattrapatis (Kings), who began commanding Maratha armies and later became the hereditary rulers of the Maratha empire of central India from 1749 to 1818. During their rein, the Maratha empire reached its zenith ruling most of the Indian Subcontinent.

    Considering they ruled for a duration even longer than our current independent governments, there’s barely any mention of them in Maha history as told today. In that sense they have a elephantine role in history that is being ignored.

  7. Amit Paranjape said, on February 17, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Sean, Thanks for your comments.

  8. harshad said, on February 17, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    I agree with Harshad Oak.
    The current politicians will make sure Peshwas remain as unknown to world. For example check with any of your non-Maharashtrian friends and he will say he knows Shivaji and after that Tilak🙂 but the history still says Pune was amongst the last to get captured by british in 1818.

    Unfortunately we know Peshwa only for Mastani or for the play Ghashiram Kotwal.

    (Edited for typos, clarity and conciseness).

  9. Amit Paranjape said, on February 17, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Partially agree with you.

    Peshwes definitely were a critical part of Maharashtra/India history, in the 18th century.

    However, I find that even the great forts of Shivaji (e.g. Sinhagad) are not well maintained as well. So this issue with maintaining historic monuments seems to be a more broader problem.

  10. harshad said, on February 17, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    agreed.
    Strangly if you go to some famous sites in delhi and agra and also in rajsthan, they are very well maintained.

    also some sites near bangalore like belur and halebid are nicely maintained / restored. Must visit places these 2.

    so this problem seems maharashtra specific. (barring ajantha, verul)

    FM can allocate some funds for this in this budget!🙂 anyways maharashtra govt is deep in debt (close to Greece) so only centre can help!

  11. Yogesh said, on February 19, 2010 at 12:29 am

    Good that you brought this up, Amit!
    Appreciate it.

    I agree with Harshad, this problem is Maharashtra-specific. Maharashtra govt doesn’t recognize tourism as an industry yet. Monuments aren’t maintained decent.

    I saw great examples in Karnataka (Bangalore, Mysore, Hampi) & Delhi and have heard about Rajasthan, Kerala – all the places are extremely well maintained – at all the places Govt drives the pride & people follow which enables keeping up the sanctity of the place.

    Shocked to know that authorities declined private help!

    Until people feel connected to the such sites, it ain’t gonna improve!

    Pressurizing the govt, political parties to maintain or outsource to private entities – could be a difficult way out but can be thought of.

    Building up a foundation for this cause is the BEST idea floated here – displays the intensity of the issue to the govt & people alike & provides a platform.

  12. Mandar Vaze said, on March 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    +1 MH govt doesn’t care about tourism industry. How many times have you seen an Ad for Maharashtra tourism on TV ? Now count the similar Ads for kerala, north east india, (even malaysia for that matter) .
    A while ago – 6-8 months ago or may be more – I do remember watching maharashtra tousrism ad on one of the popular TV channel, and I remember that as if I have seen 8th wonder of the world. 🙂

  13. Chaitanya said, on November 22, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Hey amit, we are working on a project on shaniwarwada in college with the help of INTACH (The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage). our main aim is to bring about awareness about the historical monument and create a sense of pride among the people of pune. i hope this project will be successful at least a little bit. I recently visited the wada the state of it is bad. as we were walking on the taat (the wall) i just looked down from a point and was shocked. people have thrown los of garbage bottles, ciggarette packs wrappers and it is just so dissapointing. The PMC must take some action against this or our beautiful monument will be destroyed. There is also need of strict security.

  14. Amit Paranjape said, on November 22, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Chaitanya – That is a great initiative. Can you share some more details?

  15. Ashish said, on January 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    hey amit,
    i am eager to know more about shaniwarwada history,
    can you brief me or any sites please.
    can any one share whole pic of shaniwarwada.?

  16. Amit Paranjape said, on February 22, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Checkout the book by D.B. Parasnis (English – written back in 1921). It is available online for free, since I guess it was published over 70 years back.


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