With imposing architecture, rich history and intriguing legends in tow, the Shaniwar Wada fort is undoubtedly a centerpiece in Pune where sightseeing is concerned. That’s why it was not hard for me to decide where to start my Pune tour when I finally visited the city after years of procrastination. Located within a short ride from the railway station, the fort is a perfect place to start one’s acquaintance with the second largest city in the state of Maharashtra. And there I was, standing in front of the mighty Dilly Darwaza (the Delhi Gate), which was lavishly “adorned” with long intimidating spikes. How “hospitable” they might have looked to those who dared to attack the fort two or three hundred years ago!
As if reading my thoughts on hospitality, the people in charge of the fort warmly welcomed me inside. On the occasion of the World Heritage Day, I even got to explore the place absolutely free of charge, though the entry fee in the Shaniwar Wada is actually nothing to concern one’s mind with – it’s only Rs 5 for Indians and Rs 125 for foreign visitors. But let’s hurry inside!
As you can see, there is not much left of the Shaniwar Wada fort. Only the ramparts, doors and deep foundations managed to survive till present date, but they sure are a worthy reminder of the era bygone.
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A historical note on the Shaniwar Wada fort
Constructed in 1732 by Bajirao I, for many decades the fort was used as the seat of power by Peshwas, the Prime Ministers in the Maratha Empire. Originally the magnificent seven-storied structure was supposed to be built entirely of heavy stones, but after the foundation was constructed, the people demanded the rest of the building to be made of wood and bricks. Back in those days, stone palaces were meant to be built only for the kings and not for the prime ministers. In 1818, the Shaniwar Wada was taken over by the British in the Third Anglo-Maratha War. Ten years after that, the fort was largely destroyed in the outrageous fire that didn’t stop for seven days.
An interesting fact: Shaniwar Wada literally translates from Marathi as “Saturday Residence”, because it was on this day of the week when Baji Rao I laid the ceremonial foundation.
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The foundations of important buildings within the Shaniwar Wada fort
Some of the most important structures within the walls of the Shaniwar Wada wort include The Reception Hall, The Dance Hall, the Old Mirror Hall and the Fountain of a thousand jets. Since they were all destroyed in the massive fire, only descriptions of these places and the surviving foundations can give us an idea of what they must have been like. In different sources, the living areas of the fort are described as exquisite palaces with ornate wooden pillars and arches, imposing chandeliers, marble floors, Persian carpets, and paintings on the walls depicting scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
There are five doors in the Shaniwar Wada fort, which is a real finding for everyone who “has this thing with doors” (here I’m referring to a popular Instagram hashtag #ihavethisthingwithdoors).
Dilli Darwaza (the one with the spikes) is the main gate of the fort. Facing north towards Delhi, this door was supposed to reflect Baji Rao’s destructive intentions towards the Mughal rulers.
Mastani Darwaza was used by Baji Rao’s favorite wife Mastani to leave the fortress and get back.
Khidki Darwaja (The Window Gate) has a small opening that was used to send and receive messages and objects.
Ganesh Darwaza was used to visit the Ganpati temple near the fort.
Narayan Gate got its name after the Narayan Rao‘s body was taken out of the fort through this door, but actually, it was used by the concubines to enter the premises.
The ramparts, top floor, and passages along the walls
The charm of the present day Shaniwar Wada fort lies within the walkway along the whole perimeter of the walls. There you’ll get a nice view over the courtyard and perfectly manicured lawns of the garden. Seeing a flowering Golden Chain tree was a delight. As I said in some previous posts, flowers and ancient stone do go exceedingly well together. The hallway above the Delhi Gate gives an idea of the intricate woodwork in the destroyed palaces. The steep narrow staircases are rather difficult to climb, but they are bound to awaken your sense of adventure.
Shaniwar Wada fort Travel Tips
~ Once in Pune, it’s easy to reach the Shaniwar Wada fort. Take a bus, auto-rickshaw or a cab – both Ola and Uber taxis work well in Pune. The address is: Bajorao Road, Shaniwar Peth, Pune, Maharashtra 411030, India
~ If you prefer a guided tour, check out here by clicking the image below:
~ I visited Pune in April, one of the hottest months in India. And yes, it was hot, but doable. However, if you’re susceptible to heat exhaustion, best time to visit is October to March.
~ The entrance ticket is Rs 5 for Indians and Rs 125 for foreigners. Photography is free of charge.
~ The opening hours are 8.00 am to 6.30 pm on all days of the week.
~ In case you’re planning to visit Pune for more than one day and searching for a nice place to stay, get the best deals by using one of the two search boxes below:
~ Make sure to wear comfortable footwear as exploring the Shaniwar Wada fort involves a good amount of walking.
~ If you visit with small kids, be careful when walking atop the walls – there is no fall protection railing.
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