Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Myths / Legends of Shaniwarwada Fort

Shaniwarwada Fort in Pune, Maharastra
The Shaniwarwada Fort is a renowned historical tourist destination, and quite well known for its mysterious and scary legends. Most parts of the Fort was destroyed in an unexplained intense fire which erupted on February 27, 1828 inside the palace. The fury of the inferno raged for seven days and nights and destroyed every bit of the exquisite masterpiece except the heavy granite embankment built around the fort, strong teak entrances, and deep foundations and ruins of the buildings withing the fort.
Shaniwarwada Fort walls and internal structures

High walls of Shaniwarwada Fort

According to the legend, the Full Moon nights are haunted in the Shaniwarwada Fort. The young prince Narayanrao Peshwa, then thirteen years old was the heir of the Peswa Dynasty. His cold-blooded, spine-chilling and brutal murder, ordered by his aunt Anandibai still haunts the walls of the fort.

An ancient well in the courtyard of Shaniwarwada Fort

A public well used by male occupants of Shaniwarwada Fort

The young prince Narayanrao, then thirteen years old became the heir of the Peswa Dynasty after the death of his elder brother Madhavrao I in 1772. Narayanrao was made the Peshwa but since he was a minor, his uncle Raghunathrao was made Regent. Soon Raghunathrao was held captive by Narayanrao on charges of conspiracy to overthrow him.
Canon in Shaniwarwada Fort

Canon inside the palace fort of Shaniwarwada

A strong door in Shaniwarwada Fort
Door Lock in Shaniwarwada FortIn an effort to free Raghunathrao, Anandibai (second wife of Raghunathrao and daughter of Raghu Mahadevo Oake of Guhgarh) hired Gardis as mercenaries on August 30, 1773, who captured the Shaniwarwada Fort. Soon they reached the chambers of Narayanrao Peshwa and imprisoned him. Narayanrao tried to appeal to his uncle and yelled “kaka mala vachava!” (uncle save me) again and again. However, Anandibai intervened and did not allow his uncle to help him.

Strong rampants of Shaniwarwada Fort

High walls of the Shaniwarwada Fort

Magnificient view from Shaniwarwada Fort
One of the staircases in Shaniwarwada FortFinally Anandibai was successful in plotting the death of her nephew and Naranyanrao was killed brutally by the mercenaries. His appeal to his uncle was extremely painful and so intense that the natives say that they still hear his painful soul-shaking cries at midnight on every Full Moon night.

The imposing walls of the Shaniwarwada Fort in a rare 1860 photograph

Shaniwarwada Fort in Pune, Maharashtra

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Shaniwarwada Fort in Pune, Maharastra

Statue of Peshwa Baji Rao I in Shaniwarwada Fort
The foundation of Shaniwarwada Fort in Shaniwar Peth (near the Mula-Mutha River, in Kasba Peth) in the city of Pune in Maharastra, was initiated by Peshwa Baji Rao I in year 1729-30. It was finally completed in 1732, and was the center of the Peshwa rulers of the Maratha Empire until 1818. In June 1818, the Peshwas surrendered to the British and lost control over the fort. The Peshwa, Bajirao II, abdicated his throne to Sir John Malcolm of the East India Company and went into political exile at Bithoor, near Kanpur in present-day Uttar Pradesh, India.

Statue of Peshwa Baji Rao I in Shaniwarwada Fort

Shaniwarwada Fort in Pune, Maharastra

Peshwa Baji Rao I, who was the prime minister of Chattrapati Shahu, the king of the Maratha Empire, laid the ceremonial foundation of the Shaniwarwada Fort on Saturday, January 10, 1730. The fort was completed in 1732, at a total cost of Rs. 16,110. Its impressive architecture consists of a blooming garden with fountains, courtyards, offices, inhabited quarters and audience halls. The GrihPravesh (opening ceremony) was performed according to Hindu religious customs, on January 22, 1732.

Magnificient and Glorious interiors of Shaniwarwada Fort

Later several additions were made in the Fort by the Peshwas, including the fortification walls, with bastions and gates; court halls and other buildings; fountains and reservoirs. At present, the fortification wall has five gateways and nine bastion towers, enclosing a garden complex with the foundations of the original buildings.

The Garden inside Shaniwarwada Fort

The Garden inside Shaniwarwada Fort

Shaniwarwada Fort was built by a contractor from Rajasthan known as 'Kumawat Kshatriya'. It is 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 Jaipur) and Ragho (a painter). After completing construction of the fort, these people were given a name 'Naik' by the Peshwa.

A hall in the first floor above dilli darwaja (Delhi Gate) in Shaniwarwada

A hall in the first floor above dilli darwaja (Delhi Gate) in Shaniwar wada

Five gates of Shaniwarwada Fort

Dilli Darwaza (Delhi Gate) faces north towards Delhi and is the primary gate of the fort. Chhatrapati Shahu is said to have reasoned the north-facing fort a gesture of Baji Rao's ambitions against the Mughal Empire, and recommended that the main gate should be made chhaatiiche, maatiche naahi! (chests of brave soldiers, not mere mud – in Marathi).

Dilli Darwaza at Shaniwarwada Fort

Twelve-inch Steel Spikes arranged in a nine by eight grid in Dilli Darwaza

Shaniwar Wada Delhi GateThe Dilli Darwaza is very strongly built and has massive doors, large enough to admit elephants outfitted with howdahs (seating canopies). Each pane of the gate has seventy-two sharp twelve-inch steel spikes arranged in a nine by eight grid, at approximately the height of the forehead of a battle-elephant. Each pane was also fortified with steel cross members, and borders were bolted with steel bolts having sharpened cone heads.

The bastions flanking the gatehouse have arrow-loops and machicolation chutes through which hot substances could be poured onto offending raiders. The right pane has a small man-sized door for usual entries and exits, but it is too small to allow an army to enter rapidly.
An Iron Ring at the door in Shaniwarwada Fort

An Iron Ring at Shaniwarwada Fort

As the ceremonial gate of the fort, military campaigns would set out from and be received back here, with appropriate religious ceremonies.

Bolt on inside of door of main gate of Shaniwarwada Fort
Mastani Darwaja (Mastani's Gate) or Alibahadur Darwaja, was used by Bajirao's mistress Mastani while travelling out of the fort's boundary wall. This gate is also north facing.

Khidki Darwaja (Window Gate), facing east is named for an armoured window it contains.

Ganesh Darwaja (Ganesh Gate), facing south–east is named after the Ganesh Rang Mahal, which used to stand near this door. It could be used by ladies at the fort to visit the nearby Kasba Ganapati temple.

Jambhul Darwaja or Narayan Darwaja (Narayan's Gate), facing south was used by concubines to enter and leave the fort. It obtained its second name after Narayanrao Peshwa's corpse was removed from the fort for cremation through this gate.

Narayan Gate in Shaniwarwada Fort

The important buildings in the palace include the Thorlya Rayancha Diwankhana (The court reception hall of the eldest royal, meaning Baji Rao I), Naachacha Diwankhana (Dance Hall), and Juna Arsa Mahal (Old Mirror Hall).

Carved teak arches in Shaniwarwada Fort

Exquisite pillars with carved teak wood
Exquisite pillars with carved teak woodAll the state halls in the buildings had exquisite doorways with carved teak arches. Ornamental teardrop teak pillars shaped like Suru (cypress tree) trunks supported the ceilings, which were covered with beautiful teak tracery, carved creepers and flowers. Exquisite glass chandeliers hung from the ceilings. The floors were made of highly polished marble, arranged in a mosaic pattern and adorned with rich Persian rugs. The walls contained paintings with scenes from the Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Since the buildings were destroyed in the fire of 1828, only descriptions of the living areas of the fort are available.

Unrestored Fresco on the inner side of the main gate of Shaniwarwada Fort containing scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata

Exquisite Garden in Shaniwarwada Fort

Shaniwarwada Fort Garden

One of the buildings in the Shaniwarwada complex was seven storeys high from. It is said that the spire of the Sant Dnyaneshwar temple at Alandi, 17 km away, could be seen from the uppermost terrace of this building. The fort had an impressive lotus-shaped fountain named Hazari Karanje (fountain of a thousand jets). It was constructed for the pleasure of the infant Peshwa Sawai Madhavrao. It was designed as a sixteen petal lotus; each petal had sixteen jets with an eighty foot arch. It was the most complicated and intricate fountain of its time.

Musical Fountain in Shaniwarwada Fort

Shaniwarwada Fort in Pune, Maharashtra

The Shaniwarwada Fort in Pune, Maharastra is considered haunted and is placed at 7th position in the list of ten most haunted places in India.