“Swarajya Ha Majha Janmasiddha Hakka Ahe”
These golden words uttered by Lokmanya Tilak sparked a flame inside Punekars back then and it became a forest fire which burned the British. Kesari Wada was the home to this legendary freedom fighter, and also the central hub for politics and a massive change during the British era. Every Punekar has seen this glorious wada, and although it’s just a testimony to our spirit now in the modern day, it’s still an historical monument loved and respected by Punekars.
Kesari Wada was previously known as Gaikwad Wada. Located in Narayan Peth, this wada built by Gaikwad Sarkar is also the birthplace of Pune’s first newspaper- Kesari. Despite the several changes over time, the printing press in the wada still stands and is open for public viewing.
The modern day Kesari Wada also acts as a museum where Lokmanya Tilak’s belongings are displayed along with one of the initial flags of our country. Lokmanya Tilak’s books, clothing, his watch, and a replica of the Mandalay jail where he was locked in are some of the popular attractions of this museum.
The Tilak museum is an important stop in the Pune Darshan Tour and is highly regarded by Maharashtrians everywhere. The wada also houses a library which has been personally compiled by Lokmanya Tilak.
With the years, comes change. The wada has been renovated, but its huge wooden trademark entrance is still there. The doors are carved with the roaring figures of the word ‘Kesari’ which is a Sanskrit translation for lion. The famous hall – Lokmanya Sabhagruha, is still used for hosting several social and cultural programs.
The wada also has a bronze statue of Lokmanya Tilak along with the famous gold plated Ganpati idol. The idol leaves Kesari Wada on Visarjan day. Earlier, the procession used to start right from the main entrance of Kesari Wada. Inside the wada, there are several paintings and depictions of the Ganesh festival which Lokmanya Tilak started in order to bring the Maharashtrian population together. Thus, Kesari Wada is the rightful birthplace of two important things – Ganeshotsav, and Pune’s freedom struggle.
At present, the wada acts as a cultural centre for the city. Around three thousand people can comfortably gather in the vast space inside the wada. The first and the second floor of the wada house the Bank of Maharashtra branch and the Kesari-Maratha Trust office.
The Tilak family still resides in the wada and they innaugarate a lot of cultural activities as well as the Kesari Ganeshotsav. The wada is also the central place for a lot of social work and charity activities, all spearheaded by the Tilak family.
The Kesari Wada is proof that a building, or even a stone structure, can be the birthplace of the most enormous change. We, as Punekars, owe our freedom and our cultural identity to Lokmanya Tilak and Kesari Wada. Lest we forget, this wada is one of the main reasons why people still refer to Pune as the cultural capital of Maharashtra!