January 14, 1761 – the fateful day that forever will live in the infamy of Pune, Maharashtra and India history. This was the day that coined a new word in the Marathi lexicon: ‘Panipat’ (literally means ‘a disaster’ in Marathi).
This was the day when Sadashivrao Bhau’s armies were defeated in a bloody battle against Ahmedshah Abdalli on the plains of Panipat, 100km north of Delhi, in one of the biggest battles witnessed in India in the 18th century. The causalities and destruction on both sides were very high; even the victor couldn’t consolidate his position significantly.
This was the day where a culmination of many strategic and tactical mistakes finally caught up with the Marathas. This was the day when the Maratha Empire took a big step down from its absolute peak. This was the day from whose shock Nanasaheb Peshwe never recovered – and eventually died later in the same year.
[The fact that the Maratha Empire was able to rise back to a respectable level again owes a lot to the great Madhavrao Peshwe, who inherited a shocked and weakened post-Panipat empire at a young age of 16. In a short span of 12 years, before he fell to tuberculosis, he brought about a huge turnaround. British historian Grant Duff summarizes this quite well: “…the plains of Panipat were not more fatal to the Maratha Empire than the early end of this excellent prince”]
This was the day where many great instances of individual bravery and heroism were witnessed. This was the day that quite possibly changed the course of Indian history. The British who had just won their first major victory in India at Plassey in 1757 got an opening.
Today, we solemnly commemorate the 250th anniversary of 3rd battle of Panipat. This is the time to remember the heroism; and also to learn from the mistakes. Today we remember Sadashivrao Bhau, Vishwasrao, Dattaji Shinde, Ibrahim Gardi and countless other brave soldiers who fell in that fateful battle, 250 years ago. All over Maharashtra and India, many functions have been organized to remember this day, including some at Panipat.
Numerous books and research works have been published on this topic. To get an overview, I would recommend the reader start with this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Panipat_(1761)
——Update on Feb 7, 2011—–
Vishwas Patil has written one of the most popular books about the Battle of Panipat. Originally written in Marathi nearly 20 years back, it has had many new editions/reprints and has been translated into other languages as well. Here is a nice indepth interview of Vishwas Patil (4 parts):
——-Update on Jan 13, 2013——
One of the best books to read on this topic is ‘Solstice at Panipat’ by Dr. Uday Kulkarni. Highly recommended. You can check out the book’s facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/SOLSTICE.AT.PANIPAT?fref=ts
Good review of ‘Solstice at Panipat’ by Manimughda S Sharma: ‘Panipat 3 resurrected’ http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/parthian-shot/entry/panipat-3-resurrected
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.