A kaleidoscope of art, history, culture, and tradition, Pune has it all! Several important spots of history and culture are spread through the expanse of our city. Shaniwarwada, Sarasbaug, Vishrambaugwada, Tulsibaug, Mandai, etc. are just some of the key places where you can understand the survival and sustenance of Pune throughout the ages.
One such important piece of architecture in the jewelry box of our city is Aga Khan Palace. Although we have visited it several times, heard and studied about it in our history textbooks, much of it has been forgotten as we grew up. Here’s a small but fascinating history piece for the ‘kattar puneri’ within us- six things most of us didn’t know or have forgotten about Aga Khan Palace.
The Founding Stone
This beautiful palace was built by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III in 1892. Even then it was an important landmark in Pune, just like it is today. The Sultan built it as an act of charity; the palace would help the poor in the neighboring areas of Pune who were drastically hit by famine. The Sultan employed 1000 people for the construction of this palace, thus helping out the needy.
The palace comprises of five halls and large verandahs. Although the style and structure of this palace is entirely Islamic, hints of Italian style architecture can be visibly seen, especially in the arches. The gallery displaying Mahatma Gandhi’s belongings and photos can also be found in this palace.
Aga Khan IV donated the Palace to Indian people in 1969 so as to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy. In 1974, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited this palace and allocated INR 20,000 for its yearly maintenance, which was then increased to INR 1,00,000. However, due to the incredible corruption and laziness, very little restoration or maintenance has been carried out.
Aga Khan Palace served as a prison for Mahatma Gandhi, Kasturba Gandhi, and his secretary Mahadev Desai, and Sarojini Naidu during the Quit India Movement. Mahadev Desai and Kasturba Gandhi died during their captivity period and their Samadhis are located in Aga Khan Palace.
Archiving numerous photos and portraits of Mahatma Gandhi, and other famous personalities of the Indian freedom struggle, Aga Khan Palace is the headquarters of the Gandhi Memorial Society. It houses a shop that deals in khadi and other hand loomed textiles. A part of the Mahatma’s ashes still rest in the Palace grounds.
Several activities can be observed year-round at the Palace, especially the ones celebrated by the Gandhi Memorial society. Martyr’s Day (30thJan.), Mahashivratri (Kasturba Gandhi’s death day celebrated as Mother’s Day), Independence Day (15thAugust), Republic Day (26th January), and Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary (2nd October) are all celebrated at the Aga Khan Palace.
Feature image by Soumya Sharthak Mishra via Instagram