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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Shanivar Wada , Pune : A Photo Feature

Shaniwar Wada lies in the heart of old Pune, in a locality known as Shaniwar Peth . In the medeival times it was earlier called Murshidabad

Note: In close proximity are Ravivar Peth (previously Malkapur), Narayan Peth and Budhwar Peth (previously Mohiabad) .
           'wada' in marathi = citadel

The citadel was constructed in 1732 by Peshwa Bajirao I , the prime minister of the erstwhile maratha king Ch.Shahu. It came around to serve as the Peshwa's official residence (and later as the headquarters of the maratha kingdom post the death of Ch.Shahu).

Note: Shanivar wada is built in proximity to the land where once Shivajis childhood palace Lal Mahal existed (as also a Arab citadel. But we are not sure whether the Arab citadel existed in the same location as the wada).

There is an interesting story behind how the Peshwa chose this site for his residence. Apparently, while on an hunting expedition, Peshwe Bajirao saw an rabbit chase a fox and felt that there was something very special about the land and thus decided to construct his house at that very site.

The land for the same was purchased from many people (its erstwhile owners) including the Zambres,Rangabhat Chitrav, Dhekane and the Kolis.

Its construction work was overseen by one Shivram Limaye Khasgiwale.

Since its foundation stone was laid on ‘Shaniwar’ or a ‘Saturday’(and coincidently, so was its innauguration), the citadel came to be known as Shanivar wada.
There were additions made to its basic structure during the time of the subsequent Peshwas (Nanasaheb Peshwa fortified Shanivar wada).

In 1817, the British Union Jack made way for the Maratha saffron as the Peshwas power waned in the country (During this time the Pune collector-probably the first was one Henry Robertson).
In 1827 (8) it was gutted down in an major fire (allegedly started by the British. They were also accused of making no attempts to douse the fire as Shanivarwada burned for three long days). The premises were then used by the British as a Mamledar Kacheri and later as a mental asylum and a prison.Later the Prince of Wales declared it a heritage site and had some trees planted at the site. Post independence the ruins were converted into a tourist spot by the government of Maharashtra and the Archaelogical department.

Shanivawar wada is constructed on a six acre land (built up 500 ft x 470 ft) in the heart of old Pune city.

The fort walls are 33 ft high and 11 ft in width (a parapet attached to the walls takes one around the palace and its 9 bastions) and 16 ft above foundation.


It has five main gates. The main being ‘Dilli darwaza’ (Delhi Gate, constructed after the death of Chatrapati Shahu) towards the north, which serves as the main gate. It has strong gigantic teak doors with steel frames, fortified by long spikes, to prevent elephants from breaking open the doors . There are machicolation chutes (vents) provided to pour down hot liquids on a raiding army.The main door has a smaller man-sized door (wicket gate or Dindi darwaza) for daily entries and exits and also small enough to prevent a large army from barging in.Fifty odd sentries were said to guard the Dilli darwaza.Just above the Dilli gate is the Nagarkhana (which survived the fire).

The northern walls also has the ‘Mastani darwaza’ (Mastani Gate), later renamed Alibahaddur (Mastanis grandson) darwaza, which was said to have been used by Mastani, Peshwa Bajirao’s concubine, to come and go out of Shaniwar wada.

Then there is the ‘Khidki darwaza’ (Window Gate) in the east and ‘Ganesh darwaza’(Ganesh gate) in the south east, facing the Ganesh Rang Mahal , and used by the ladies of the house to visit the Kasba Ganpati temple. The Khidki Darwaza was also called Kavathi darwaza , because of its presence near a Kavathi(wood apple) tree. It was guarded by 15 sentries. The Ganesh Darwaza was guarded by around 25 sentries and the Mastani darwaza by 10 guards. In all there were said to be 275 sentries, 500 horsemen, 1000 servants on duty in Shanivar wada (when the Peshwa power was in its prime).


The fifth gate was the Jambhul darwaza (or the berry Gate, also known as Natakshala darwaza), used for letting in concubines and dancing ladies. It was later renamed as Narayan darwaza, after the gate was used to take away Peshwa Narayanraos corpse for cremation.

After entering through the Dilli darwaza and turning left, one can see the ruins of what was once the Mastani Mahal (next to it is the Mastani darwaza), which was habitated by Mastani.Next to it was the Goshala (where the cattle was housed).

Pic: Chiman baug

Moving further one encounters the ruins of Ganesh Rang Mahal (constructed by Peshwa Balaji Bajirao) which hosted religious ceremonies , various functions and provided audience for the people. It had a huge hall.As per the written records, the second floor had a Ganesh idol. The halls were said to have huge curtains and there was a presence of beautifull fountains.Facing the Ganesh Ranga Mahal was a garden called Chimanbaug.However all that remains of Ganesh Ranga Mahal are ruins of a verandah where the Peshwas rested.

Then there was Thoralya Rayancha diwankhana which was used as a courtroom by Peshwa Bajirao I. There was also a Naachaachaa diwankhana or the dance (courtesan) floor. Then there was a Juna Aarsaa Mahal or the Old Mirror hall. The other rooms being a dancing hall,Aarse Mahal or hall of mirrors (It was constructed by Nana Phadanvis for his Peshwa, Sawai Madhavrao. It had survived the fire),Dadasaheb(Raghobadada) diwankhana(hall),Thorale rayancha diwankhana(Bajirao I hall),Madhavrao wada (south west next to Chimaji appas wada), Narayanraavaancha mahal (Narayanraos hall),Kushaba Haibatsingh mahal (Kushaba was the son of Haibatsingh an illegitimate son of a Peshwa from a concubine. This house was next to the old Aarsa mahal), Hastidant mahal (ivory hall),Homshala (place for lighting the ritual fire facing Bakuli chowk, which had a Bakul flower plantation),Amrutrao Peshwa (Raghunathraos adopted son) hall(facing an well plastered with lime), Godubai (Bajirao I's aunt, wife of Balaji Vishwanaths elder brother. This was next to Amrutrao hall) chowk,Gadichi jaga (where Peshwas sat for their daily durbar. This was somewhat centrally located),dining hall,Gauri shrine (south),Badami Fountain,Pushkarni fountain,servants quarters (south), offices,treasury (centre),agnikund,store rooms,grainary (north west),record rooms,armoury,library and medicene room,Jawahirkhana or jewellery room, horse stables(north west, next to the grainary. the elephants were also kept in the stables),water tanks,wells etc.

As one enters the main gate, you come across an ancient cannon showcased on the ground floor of the Nagarkhana,( besides smaller cannons at the access of the palace gardens).

The main building is storeyed and alligned with the ramparts of the palace walls. A stone staircase takes you to the main gallery, from where you can see the surroundings of the city from one end and the palace precincts from the other end. Adjoining (spiral)stair cases take you through the various watch towers (they are called buruj and are total nine in number, three on each side, except the dilli darwaza side , which has four buruj) of the wada.


The previously existing living areas inside the fort have since been destroyed and we can only imagine how they looked from the descriptions available.
There were engraved teak arches, doors and railings (The Teak used was from the jungles of Junnar). The residential quarters were made from Suru wood. The floor was said to have been made from polished marble and the building stones, lime quarried from the nearby areas (Chinchwad,Jejuri). The walls were adorned with beautifull paintings depicting stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (by Bhajiraj). There were crystal chandeleirs that hung from the ceilings and the floors were covered by rich Persian rugs besides exquisite fountains and reservoirs. The construction cost of Shaniwarwada was said to be Rupees sixteen thousand one hundred an ten, a princely amount for those days. The buildings are said to have been designed and constructed by many well-known artisans, including Shivaram Krishna, Devaji, Kondaji Sutar, Morarji Patharwat Bhojraja (an inlay-work expert from Jaipu) and Ragho ( painter).
[Information source: Shanivarwada by Ramesh Newase, Peshwe gharaanyaacha itihaas by P Oak, VirtualPune and Wikipedia]


The Shaniwar wada also has the famous ‘Hazari Karanja’ (pronounced Hazaari Kaaranjaa meaning a ‘Thousand fountains’), constructed for the pleasure of the infant Sawai Madhavrao Peshwa. It was designed in the shape of a sixteen petal lotus, each petal having sixteen jets with an eighty foot arch. Facing it was a marble statue of Lord Ganesha surrounded by a scenic flower garden.

There are also remnants of the quarters (behind the residing quarters of Madhavrao peshwa)of Chimaji Appa , the brother of Bajirao I, later occupied by his son Sadashivraobhau and his family. There are said to be underground tunnels that lead to Parvati and Rasta peth, but are since in disuse (said to have been sealed by ASI).

Contemporary Mohameddan reports have described Shanivar wadas appearance as hell from outside but heaven from within, whereas English reports have described the interiors as grand but austere (meeting hall had soft beds draped in white cloth).

The Wada has also witnessed its share of tragedies. The fire notwithstanding (earlier there was a fire in 1791 as well), the Wada has witnessed exile of its last occupant Bajirao II in 1817 and the subsequent replacement of the Keshari zenda(flag) with the British Union Jack. Its also seen the murder of the young Peshwa Narayanrao (in the dancing hall of Ganesh Ranga Mahal) at the behest of his own kins , the accidental death of his son, Peshwa Sawai Madhavrao, who fell to his death from the high palace walls of Ganesh Ranga Mahal, and also the fall of the Bhat Peshwas, from their glory and grandeur.

Text and Photographs : Abhijit Rajadhyaksha


  1. पूर्वी शनिवारवाड्याच्या डाव्या बाजूला एका सुस्थितीत असलेल्या भिंतीवर मस्तानीचे चित्रही कधी काळी होते. एक नंबरी फोटो आहेत सर्व. शनिवारवाड्याची सुरेख सफर घडवलीत अभिजित तुम्ही. मनःपूर्वक धन्यवाद :)

  2. Thanks Sagar ..... on entering Shanivar wada, you still get to see some faint wall paintings ( walls around the ticket counter). I am sure you must have noticed them.
    As far as the Mastani paintings go, we really dont know for sure whether they are actually the real Mastani's paintings (I have heard they are in Menavli). Probably they were painted by imagination much after her death.

  3. Hi Abhijit,
    I have read your many posts; your work is really excellent also writing style is very good. Keep it up.
    -- Somesh

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