This very heritage drew d i r e c t o r S a n j ay L e e l a Bhansali to spend crores of rupees on creating an extravaganza based on a romance between Peshwa Bajirao I and Mastani.

However, Shaniwarwada, the `real’ witness to this epic tale lies in a shambles. Once inside, much of the grandeur and stature falls by the wayside and what rears its ugly head is a picture of neglect __ trash and paper litter, weeds on the lawns and courtyards, vandalism of the walls and grafitti.

There’s more. Some structures on the outer periphery have construction debris and there is algae in the stagnant water of Chimanbaug __ a tank in northeast portion of the fort and in the other tanks.

Shaniwarwada, as a grade I protected monument of national focus under the Archaeological Survey of India, should get priority for restoration and maintenance.

While the ASI looks after its maintenance, the fountains and tanks are maintained by the civic body . Currently, the structure is undergoing renovation for lightand-sound show that started in 2002.

M P Shinde, executive engineer of PMC’s electrical department, said the tanks and fountains will be fully functional once the renova tion work is complete. “The proposal includes replacing halogen bulbs with LEDs and installation of laser projector of 6,000 lumens that will be used to display the history of Peshwas,“ he said. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 4.4 crore.

However, the newly installed LED lamp posts are rusting and others have no bulbs as yet. The renovation project that started two months ago is expected to be completed by January 2016.

Despite the presence of six-seven security guards visitors often urinate in public. An ASI official said, “We have installed a portable-bathroom inside, but due to protests from some people it is not being used. The security guards are negligent when it comes to stopping people from creating a nuisance. In case of dustbins, deciding the design of a dustbin could take days.“

Spread over an area of 6.25 acres, Shaniwarwada has nine staircases, four large cour tyards, s eve n fo u n tains, six wells and cister ns. Visitors to Shaniwarwada are disappointed with the dilapidated state of its fountains, cisterns and wells.

The palace keeps within its walls several myths and folklore like the later Peshwas seeing Mastani’s ghost and how her residence inside the fort was destroyed by some out of fear. But visitors to Shaniwarwada can hardly connect with its historical significance.

“Over the years, the structure has deteriorated in quality. In the attempt to restore it, the structure has been tampered with in many places.The original stone work has been replaced by cheap ce ment plaster. The glorious history of Peshwas is missing here,“ said Nelson who has been coming to Wada for 16 years. Instead, the place is now frequented by couples seeking some moments together, he added.

Astrid, a woman tourist from Germany, said the palace needs more information boards in order for people to understand its history. “The condition of the structure could have been better. It needs to be cleaner and maintained better,“ she added.

Madhu, a student, said its difficult to comprehend the history of the wada when there is no information. “I was hoping to get a slice of history here, given the monument’s importance,“ she added.

Banker Vijay Udhan said, “My in-laws, who were visiting from Kolkata, were clueless as there are not enough guides to show visitors around,“ he said. Besides the poor mainte nance, the wada lacks proper parking. Vehicles are parked in a haphazard manner. Residents living close by say there aren’t enough lights at the entrance at night.

Urban conservationist Kiran Kalamdani said there is a lack of political will to restore the iconic structure.“Government officials don’t understand the structure’s historical importance. Late B G Deshmukh, former Union cabinet secretary, took many initiatives to renovate it. But now officials are not prompt enough to maintain the building,“ he added.

“Shaniwarwada is a big part of the city’s identity. We may lose this valuable heritage, if we do not take steps to care for it now,“ he added.

While cinemagoers will watch on-screen the heroic saga of Peshwa Bajirao I and Mastani from December 18, the palace where it all began will still be fighting a lonely battle seeking restoration to its past splendor.
Source : TOI

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