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Lal Mahal, Pune Overview

Lal Mahal located near Shaniwar Wada in Pune is a historic landmark of the 16th century. Subject to innumerable attacks and initial revival, the palace has significant stories to tell. It was first restored by Shivaji’s father Shahaji Bhosle for his family to stay in the 1630s. From being a childhood home for Shivaji to taking Shaistekhan head-on, this red coloured structure is an architectural marvel depicting craftsmanship and culture of that time.

With a glorious past, The Lal Mahal highlights the valour of the rulers and leaders of that time. It elucidates the lives and heroic acts of the Maratha Kings - something that the Peshwas were known for. There is nothing much that this place exhibits or explains because of continuous harm to the building. Consequently, it leaves much to imagination like how big it was, how many rooms etc. However, things like a Peshwa on guard - protecting the Mahal and a Maratha soldier surmounting a horse take you back in time.

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History

The Lal Mahal was built by Shahaji Bhosle, Shivaji’s father with an intent to revive Pune from the destruction and misery that had fallen on it. He was a Sardar in the Sultanate of Bijapur. While he was staying in Bangalore with his family, after conquering a number of territories - he was given a few in Pune. He constructed a palace for residing in 1630 AD. After building this magnificent marvel, he sent his wife Jijabai along with his son Shivaji to stay here. This place was his abode until he acquired his first fort, Torna Fort in 1645. Near the end of the 17th century, with repeated attacks, the Mahal was knocked down once again. At this time, Shaniwar Wada was being built. It is said that soil, stones and other construction material from Lal Mahal were taken as a token of good luck.to construct Shaniwar Wada. Some land of the Mahal was given to construct houses and was given to Ranoji Shinde and Ramchandraji. Brahmins till date are fed today. After repeated attacks, it was never rebuilt. What one sees today is just a smaller version of the red coloured building.

There is another story related to this place that highlights Shivaji Maharaj’s tryst with Shaistekhan. It goes back to April 1663 in the holy month of Ramzan when Shivaji along with his 400 soldiers entered the Mughal Camp’s main gate saying they were a group of Deccan soldiers who had come to release the Mughal soldiers who were on shift. Shaistekhan and his family were fast asleep after breaking the fast and there was darkness in the moonlit Lal Mahal (which actually was Shivaji’s). Shivaji made a hole in the kitchen wall and entered with his men into the palace. They killed everyone who was sleeping on the bed. There was an environment of panic confusion, shouts and cries. Shaistekhan’s son was killed in this incident. Furthermore, Khan lost his three fingers to Shivaji’s sword attack when he was trying to escape from the windows of Lal Mahal. Later the Marathas successfully fled out of the Mahal and escaped to Sinhagad where they were staying.

Architecture

As the name suggests “Lal Mahal” (“Lal” meaning red and “Mahal” meaning palace) the monument is red coloured and is an example of architectural brilliance. The walls of this red coloured brick structure have visual representation and carvings that show glimpses of Shivaji’s life right from when he was a child to his mighty conquests. At a place in the Mahal, one can find a depiction of Shivaji ploughing the land with a beautiful golden plough and appreciated by his mother Jijabai and his Guru Dadoji Konddev.

The major chunk of the structure was destroyed owing to the attacks that befell on Pune. What is left now is just a small part of it. However, in the year 1984, the monument went under renovation that was initiated by Pune Municipal Corporation and was complete by 1988. Now, there is also a Jijamata garden in this place that is dedicated to his mother which experiences good footfall at all time - especially the senior citizens and small children.


A small replica of the Raigad Fort can be seen here to have an idea as to what the forts looked like back in the day, their composition etc. With this, one also understands the thought process behind building the structure - like planning strategic attack and defence points, placement and positioning of the soldiers, positions of the outposts, rooms for the king, his family and staff quarters, planning the military arsenal and its access, secret escape routes and everything under guerilla tactics.

Importance

The Lal Mahal is not only associated with battles and acquisitions but was an integral part of Shivaji’s life where he practically spent his entire childhood. Having said that, it depicts the family values, deep roots, the upbringing of the Peshwa. The Mahal pays a tribute to his mother “Jijamata” whose statue is displayed on the entrance of the courtyard. There are four umbrellas on the terrace top of the Mahal which have some symbolic connection with the Peshwa rule.

It is also said that Shivaji got married to his first wife Maharani Saibai here following which she stayed here too. The Maratha account states that Lal Mahal was used for throwing a feast for the Brahmins. This feast followed the “Janeu” (thread ceremony) of Chimaji Appa’s son, Sadoba.

How to Reach

Pune is well connected by rail, air and road. Lal Mahal is near the Ganpati Gate of the Shaniwar Wada (in the Kasbapeth area) which is another important landmark in the Peshwa legacy. Reaching here is not a mammoth task. It’s easily accessible owing to its central location in the city of Pune. From the wide variety of options available for locomotion in the city, one may opt a bus, rickshaw, cab or hire a car - whatever suits his/her convenience and budget.

Tips

  • Remove your shoes before entering the place by depositing them outside at the entrance.
  • One can visit this place at any time of the year.
  • There is a flight of stairs that will lead you to the first floor but as of now, it’s not open to the public because the PMC (Pune Municipal Corporation) intends making a museum there.
  • The Mahal is surrounded by a garden where there is a lot of greenery, if you have time, you can always go there and enjoy the shade of a tree.

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