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.

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Pune Trivia – 3

Posted in Pune by Amit Paranjape on April 29, 2009

Continuing in the series on Pune Trivia (please also check: Pune History Trivia – 1 and Pune History Trivia – 2)  , here is the 3rd article. I invite readers to update more specific information & comments around these items.

 

1. Amongst the major forts in Pune district, Torna is the tallest at around 4700 ft. Rajgad comes in at #2 at around 4500 ft, Purandar is #3 at around 4400 ft and Sinhagad is #4 at around 4300 ft.

 

2. ‘Vetal Tekdi’ the tallest point on the hill behind ILS Law College, is also the tallest point in Pune city; at a height of around 800 M. (Pune Station Height is 550 M).

 

3. The main building of the National Defense Academy (NDA) in Khadakwasala, Pune is named ‘Sudan’ Block. The donation made by the King of Sudan in 1941 (to honor Indian Soldiers who fought in North Africa in WW II) was used for the construction of this building.

  

4. The Synagogue opposite B.J. Medical College Ground (also referred to as ‘Lal Deul’) near Pune Camp is one of the largest Synagogues in Asia. It was built by David Sassoon in 1867.

 

5. Probably the most ancient route from the Arabian Sea to the Deccan Plateau was through the ‘Nane Ghat’ just north of Junnar in the Pune district. The present day motorable ‘Ale-Malshej Ghat’ is built just a few kilometers near the ‘Nane Ghat’. Recently quite a few historic artifacts (dating all the way back to the Greek/Roman period…) have been discovered near Junnar by archaeologists.

 

6. The Aga Khan Palace was built by Aga Khan III, in 1892. It was an infrastructure development project specifically designed to generate employment for the famine struck neighbouring areas. Mahatma Gandhi was put under house arrest here in the 1940s. Kasturba Gandhi passed-away at this palace, and her Samadhi was built here.

  

7. Apparently (someone please confirm…) the large towers arrays complex that you see lying vacant for years, on Nagar Road, just past Kalyani Nagar are Short Wave Radio Towers used for international communications, prior to the advent of communication satellites! Talking about satellite communications, one of India’s first major satellite communication ground station was built in Arvi (near Junnar) in 1971. Until recently when under-sea optical fibers took over, this center was the primary gateway for India’s international telecom traffic.

 

8. The ‘GMRT’ Giant Meter Wave Radio Telescope is also located near Junnar and is the world’s largest array of meter wave radio telescopes. It was completed in 1995.

  

9. One of the oldest photos of Pune can be found in the book ‘Krishna-Dhaval Pune’ is that of Parvati Lake in 1857. Can you suggest any other older photos?

 

10. The Mobos Hotel was one of the more popular hotels Pune in the 1950s (and earlier). Later on it was converted into a government building, housing multiple offices. Years of neglect has resulted in its present dilapidated state. The Mobos Hotel has to its credit Pune’s first drive-in restaurant and discotheque (both in the 1960s). Any idea when this hotel was built?

 

11. Sadhu Vaswani Mission in Pune was established by Sadhu Vaswani in 1949-50. He moved to Pune from Hyderabad (Sindh, Pakistan) after the partition. The Sindh Society (near Aundh) was also established shortly thereafter – which at that point of time was way outside Pune City.

 

12. Probably the oldest library in Pune dates back to 1818, the year the British defeated the Peshwe Empire. This library – ‘The United Services Library’ is located near Pune camp.

 

13. The oldest hospital in Pune is Sassoon Hospital. It was established with the support of David Sassoon in 1867. The other old Pune hospital, KEM was established in1912.

 

14. The Erandwane Gaothan (original settlement) is located on the banks of the Mutha River, just off Karve Road and Mhatre Bridge (very near the new Persistent Systems Campus).

 

15. Here is some information I gathered about famous old schools in Pune that were established in the 19th century.

 

Bishops – established 1864

St. Mary’s School – established 1866

St. Vincent School Pune – established 1867

New English School – established 1880

Nu Ma Vi – established 1883

Huzur Paga – established 1884

 

15. The Ranade Institute on Fergusson College Road was established by Gopal Krishna Gokhale (founder of Servants of India Society) in 1910. It was named ‘Ranade’ institute in honor of Gokhale’s guru, Justice Ranade.

Hotel Review – Fort Jadhavgadh Heritage Hotel

Posted in Hotels & Restaurants, Pune by Amit Paranjape on November 4, 2008

 

Fort Jadhavgadh – A fantastic confluence of history and modern luxury

 

Finally, after years of admiring those beautiful heritage hotels of Rajasthan, we have something similar in Maharashtra as well. Punekars would understand the analogy here…What would you call an interesting amalgamation of ‘Shaniwar Wada’, ‘Raja Kelkar Museum’ and a luxurious five star hotel? Fort Jadhavgadh Heritage Hotel is such a fantastic confluence of Maratha history and modern luxury. And it is only an hour’s drive from Pune! I heard about this place for the first time a couple of weeks back from a friend, and the brief description definitely got me interested to learn more. At the first opportunity, we decided to drive down there.

 

Jadhavgadh is not a grand fort perched up on top of steep mountains. People who go there expecting a Sinhagad or Raigad type of a setting will be disappointed. Also remember that this was not built as a grand palace, but more as a fortified residence of a powerful Maratha Sardar. It is a relatively small fort (A ‘Gadhi’ in Marathi…) built in the early part of the 18th century, on top of a small hill. As you approach it, you will notice the impressive stone fortifications, typical of forts of that time. The ramparts still look quite impressive. The restoration work is simply fabulous. From the walls, to the wooden doors, to the stairways, to the main entrance – small minute details have been taken into account in this terrific refurbishment project. Looking at it, one really wishes that someday, the Shaniwar Wada could be restored to this standard!

 

There is an entrance charge of Rs. 500 per person that is adjustable against your restaurant bill. As you enter through the main entrance, you are greeted by traditionally dressed ‘Mavles’ (Maratha soldiers from the Shivaji/Peshwe era…). You also might encounter another interesting surprise or two…I will leave that for you to find it for yourself…

 

The entrance is like a typical fort entrances of those times. The impressive wooden main door leads into a small passage that takes right angle turns. This was standard design practice to slowdown the advance of an attacking army. The main entrance also has the manager office, quite aptly named, the ‘Killedar’ (Chief of the fort). Some carefully preserved artifacts line the main stairway, which leads to the main courtyard. This courtyard is where you get the first glimpse of 21st century luxury in the midst of this 18th century structure. Modern hotel rooms are located along the periphery, and one side of this quadrangular area has the coffee shop and the conference rooms. The next layer of fortifications can be seen in the middle courtyard. A small stairway leads to the top of this fortified structure, and to the topmost point inside this fort. This level has a swimming pool and an open air barbeque restaurant. The view from up here is pretty nice.

 

We had a good leisurely lunch at the Coffee Shop ‘Chajja’ sitting in the balcony that is located directly above the fort’s main entrance. There was a pleasant breeze that made sitting outside a better option. We ordered from the Ala Carte menu. On weekends, they also have a buffet. The menu is fairly limited, but does have the common North Indian dishes and basic sandwiches and breakfast items. They also have a few traditional Maharashtrian dishes. We ordered some Tandoori dishes and a ‘Methi Dal’. All of them were pretty decent. The only disappointment was the Maharashtrian ‘Flower Batata Rassa’. Its taste was distinctively Punjabi with no hint of any Maharashtrian flavor. Something for them to improve on…since one definitely expects good Maharashtrian food at such a historic Maratha place! The prices are on the higher side (lunch for two would run into Rs.1000 -1500), but then I guess that’s the price to pay for getting this type of service in these surroundings!

 

We briefly looked at the hotel rooms and they looked quite good. It is great to observe how they have created all the modern day luxuries and five star comforts inside this historic fort. In the evenings, the barbeque restaurant on the rooftop is an added attraction. Jadhavgadh heritage hotel is targeting the luxury retreat traveler, as well as the business traveler – specifically for off-site seminars and meetings.

 

Overall, the hotel is excellent, especially given that it is the first luxury heritage hotel in Maharashtra. There is room for some small improvements in certain areas.

 

The best part of this heritage hotel complex though is not the hotel itself. It is the amazing Maratha artifacts museum that showcases a small percentage of the collection of Mr. Kamat (owner of the Jadhavgadh Hotel and the Orchid Group). Various objects from the 18th, 19th and early 20th century have been carefully preserved, restored and demonstrated behind glass panes, in an air-conditioned environment. Objects include Nut-Crackers, Kitchen Equipment, Tobacco Pipes, Jewellery Boxes, Mirrors, etc. This place really reminds you of a smaller version of the Raja Kelkar museum. This museum is located in the old stable, just outside the fort. The stable building has been beautifully restored to look like an impressive ‘Wada’. For this, various original wood building pieces such as columns, balconies and other pieces have been obtained from other old and decrepit Wadas elsewhere in Maharashtra. They have been carefully restored and assembled here. This building probably provides the best view anywhere in Maharashtra of how the grand Wadas of Maratha Sardars once looked! It literally takes you to that period.

 

Overall, Jadhavgadh was a great experience for us, and we do plan to visit this place regularly. To reach there from Pune, first head towards Hadapsar, and then turn towards Fursungi onto the Saswad Road. This is the traditional ‘Palkhi’ route. After about 30 min, you start climbing the Dive Ghat. The Jadhavgadh heritage hotel is located just after the end of this Ghat. Prominent road signs will guide you towards the fort.

 

Link to Fort Jadhavgadh website, click here.

Location on Sadakmap: Click here, to checkout the location on sadakmap.com

Contact Number: +91 2115 238 475

 

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