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Shaniwar Wada Fort

Shaniwar Wada in Pune is a historical palace-fort that chronicles the glory and grandeur of the Maratha Empire. This old citadel boasts of a history of almost 300 years and was the seat of the Peshwas, who were the Prime Ministers to the Maratha Chatrapatis or Emperors, and the main power in the Maratha Empire. It served as a melting pot of culture and politics, and the main centre of power and strength until the Peshwas lost the Wada to the British in 1818. Today, it stands out as one of the finest examples of architectural legacy and a major tourist attraction in the city of Pune. With its mixture of Hindu Maratha, Mughal, and Persian styles, the beautiful architecture of this stronghold make it exceptional among other citadels in the Deccan.

History of  Shaniwar Wada Fort

Shaniwar Wada was built by Peshwa Baji Rao I, a general under Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj of the Maratha Empire. He laid the foundation of the site in 1730, and the construction was completed in 1732. Initially, it was intended to be a colossal seven-storied palace made of stone. However, after the base floor had been completed, the people of the national capital complained to the king that he was the only one who was authorised to build stone palaces. Consequently, the remaining floors were constructed using bricks. This different in the choice of building materials was fully recognised when the British artillery attacked the palace 90 years after its construction. Except for the ground floor constructed using stones, no other floor managed to withstand the attack, and all the top stories collapsed. (more in the History section)

The Fort as seen today

Shaniwar Wada features the imperial Maratha architectural style. For the construction, teak was sourced from the Junnar jungles, while lime was brought from the Jejuri lime belts, and stones were transported from the Chinchwad quarries.

The fortification wall of the palace had five entry points and nine bastion towers. The palace was designed with intricately carved teak doorways, exquisitely designed teak pillars, and marble floors. Scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata adorned its walls, while glass chandeliers were hanging from the ceilings. Within the palace complex Ganpati Rang Mahal was erected as a separate place for observing religious functions. It housed a massive statue of Lord Ganesha.

A majestic lotus-shaped fountain called Hazari Karanje or the Fountain of a Thousand Jets adorned the palace complex. It is believed to have been the most exquisite fountain of that era, with jets forming 80-feet-high arches. Thorlya Rayancha Diwankhana or the court reception hall of Baji Rao I, Juna Arsa Mahal or the Mirror Hall, and Naachacha Diwankhana or the Dance Hall were some of the other splendid structures that used to exist in the palace. Although the mansion covered nearly the whole city in its heyday, it currently spreads across mere 625 acres. Interestingly, Shaniwar Wada is considered to be one of the most haunted places in Pune. It is believed that the spirit of the murdered Peshwa, Narayan Rao, still roams the palace at night. The light-and-sound show held there in the evenings is also a major attraction for visitors. It is worth to note that the old part of Pune is laid out around Shaniwar Wada in a chaotic yet orderly manner. You can also find some of the oldest markets in Pune, such as Tulshibaug, Laxmi Road, and Ravivar Peth, around this grand edifice.

Dilli Darwaja, Mastani Darwaja, Ganesh Darwaja, Narayan Darwaja and Khidki Darwaja still surround the fort as the major entrances, along with nine bastions across the walls surrounding the fortress. The few surviving cannons and the majestic statue of Peshwa Bajirao I make for the other important visiting spots inside the citadel.

Tourist Information

The fort complex is open for tourists from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., followed by the-light-and-sound event from 6:30 p.m. all days of the week except for public holidays. As the second largest city of the state of Maharashtra after Mumbai, Pune is easily reachable from all parts of the country and from abroad both by air and road or rail connections.