Searching through many locales for a shoot in and around the old city of Pune be it Kumbhar Wada or Shaniwar Wada, we often used to pass these places by without ever realising the significance of these historic sites. Shaniwar Wada still stands in the old city but is forgotten and neglected. Not many forts that I have visited all over the country have such an impressive front gate. The majestic, spiky gate of the fort palace of Shaniwar Wada in Pune still remains as strong as it once was to ward off enemies of the Maratha empire. Built to defend an invading army, the front gate has sharp iron spikes at the right height to prevent an elephant attack, thereby, demonstrating the strength and skill of the builders.
The fort was built facing the north towards Delhi highlighting their ambitions against the Mughal empire. Not much of the imposing structure remains today as over a period of time, the fort palace’s many buildings, walls, ramparts, columns, have disappeared as if they never existed.
This abode of the Peshwas which was once the platform for their battle strategies definitely deserves a visit. You have to enter this place through a pair of magnificent entrance gates. Walking on the walls is a trifle bit risky and if you suffer from giddiness, it is better to avoid it. The interiors of the ramparts and the steps have just a semblance of a wall and one has to imagine the might of the Peshwas whose kingdom stretched from Mysore to Surat and Cuttack.
Witnessing both good and bad days, the fort once consisted of the Rang Mahal, Ganesh Mahal, Hasti Dant Mahal, Diwan Khana and many other beautiful buildings. The intricate wooden ceiling, arched balconies, the huge stone structured garden with its lotus-shaped fountain and a small canon in one part of the palace fort speak of the past glory. This was built as a 13-storied structure by Bajirao I in 1730 as the seat of Peshwas symbolising the rich culture of Pune but was later destroyed in a fire in 1828. Today all that remains are the walls of the fort.
The place, maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, is poorly kept and even the gardens are shabby. There is a small gift shop selling cards, books and souvenirs while this historic place is also the venue for many dharnas, protests and festive events.