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The Forests of History: Shaniwar Wada of Pune

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

I’ve never been to Shaniwar Wada even though it's in Pune, the closest city to Mumbai. As I explored the mines of the internet, I understood that the monument is truly magnificent. Shaniwar Wada is truly a hidden gem, a fortification teeming with architectural wonders and various stories to tell. Like a piece of gold, the fort has exchanged hands, from being inhabited by the Peshwas to then being taken over by the British East India company. However, unlike gold, this fortress is not only something superficial, it has a deeper meaning, a deeper significance.

Its colossal strength is seen in the Dili Dirwaza, the main gate of the complex which faces north, towards Delhi. The gate has seventy-two sharp twelve-inch steel spikes and are at the height of the forehead of a battle-elephant. The Dirwaza also hinders its enemies abilities to focus as it possesses a hypnotic, maze-like quality as a charging army would need to turn sharply right, then sharply left, to pass through the gateway and into the central complex, providing more time for the Peshwars to strategize a counter attack. Looking at pictures of the Dirwaza, I reminisced about the Colosseum, an archaic and faded, but yet strong monument.

Shaniwar Wada’s strength is also seen in its diversity. The floors of Shaniwar Wada’s palace are made of highly polished marble, arranged in a mosaic pattern and adorned with rich Persian rugs while the walls contain glamorous paintings with scenes from the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The monument is also extremely in sync with nature - All the state halls in the buildings teem with doorways that have intricately carved teak arches, with ornamental teardrop teak pillars shaped like Surus (cyprus trees) trunks that support the ceilings. Seeing nature so beautifully complement history in Shaniwar Wada, also got me thinking about the permanence that is seen in history and nature, as they are two permanent ‘beings’ in this world, which inevitably are destroyed, but always seem to bounce back in some shape of form, be it a small sapling or a text, film. There is a sense of awakening that exists in both.

Only researching the monument stimulated this sense of awakening in me. I would like to believe that visiting the monument, once we are allowed to escape into the forests of history again, will provide me with a sense of deep escapism and historical ecstasy.

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