Surrounded by lush gardens, Yerwada’s Aga Khan Palace and Museum occupy an important place in the history of the free movement and the city’s history. The Palace was built in 1892 by Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, as a charitable act to help the poor of the city, who were suffering from famine at the time. Aga Khan is said to have employed 1,000 people to build the structure, influenced by Indo-Saracenic and European architectural styles. The palace grounds later became the final resting place of Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev, Mahatma Gandhi’s private secretary, his Desai. Both died in captivity with Mahatma Gandhi after the Quit His India Movement started. The museum inside the building gives insight into prisoners’ time in the Palace.

Aga Khan Palace, Pune - Sheet1
aga khan palace_©kristina D.C. Hoeppner

Not just as a museum but as an architectural marvel. The Palace Museum has two essential aspects of him. Architectural elements reveal its splendour, while museums and monuments demonstrate the historical significance of the building. The Palace, which took over five years to build and cost Rs 120,000, was donated in 1972 by Prince Shah Karim al-Husayni, King Aga Khan IV, to Gandhi and his Sumarak Commission. Of importance are the cloisters surrounding his five halls throughout the palace building—many of its elements, including the Italian arches which it is known. Standing in front of a historic building allows you to absorb its history more deeply. These buildings are evidence of record.

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entrance to the palace_©Ian D. Keating

Located on a sprawling campus, the Palace is known for ornate Islamic architecture. Set on 19 acres with extensive manicured lawns. The main building is built on 7 hectares and has five huge halls. One of the distinguishing features of the palace architecture is the Italian arch. A wide corridor, 2.5 meters wide, surrounds the entire building. Palace is a three-story building with a ground floor area of ​​1756 square meters. The first floor of the Palace covers  ​​1080 square meters, and the second floor is built at 445 square meters.

So you might have expected the Aga Khan Palace to remain a special place in the country’s history. There are nearly ten large oil paintings. Not all paintings are of great artistic value, but they are a distinct and unique part of Gandhi’s visual repertoire. , suggests a quiet intimacy between them that might not be possible for those determined to establish Gandhi as the person who exerted a despotic influence on Kasturba. ‘A New Hope in Rural India’ is one of Gandhi’s rare paintings showing his commitment to ‘constructive programs. All paintings need restoration. Colours fade evenly, pigeon droppings appear in places, and the wooden frame shows signs of rot. Horrifyingly, some paintings are now irreparable. Gandhi is nothing more than a white ghost on a crusade for humanity. Many of the other Images are blurry.

The Aga Khan Palace is set up as a museum on the ground floor. The rooms display art and stories relating to Gandhiji, the palace, the struggle for freedom, and his vision for the nation. Many of the rooms are locked, apparently with exotic antique furniture dumped as trash.While it is disheartening to see that none of the art pieces show the name of the artist or the time it was made, there is a name to most of the pieces, and Lila (our guide) knew a lot about each art and each artist

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museum hall_©Ramnath Bhat

As is customary in India, museum exhibits resonate with evocative slogans and exemplary didactic teachings, but the parade’s preaching duties, once fulfilled, have relevance for life. It gives the unmistakable impression of being easily dismissed as having little or no water. Gandhi spent most of his life experimenting with toilets with little or no water. The Aga Khan Museum Complex exhibition is entitled “Bangi Mukti” [Freedom of Scavengers], but the bottom half of the exhibition has been erased. The next panel on “Cleanliness and Sanitation” is one of his big blots.

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room occupied by gandhi_©Flyhigh Megh

Today, Aga Khan Palace serves as a monument to Gandhiji and his philosophy and is one of the most important historical sites in Pune. The samadhi (graves) of Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadebbai Desai are within the palace grounds. Samadhi is also dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, where his ashes are kept. 

The Palace also houses a museum, displaying a rich collection of memorabilia related to Gandhi. These include personal items such as photographs, clothing, utensils, slippers, and letters written about the death of his secretary. There is also a shop on site that sells handwoven and Khadi clothing.

Every morning in Gandhiji’s Samadhi, a prayer session is attended by many people. On October 2, Gandhi’s birthday, the number of visitors doubled.

outdoor spaces_©Preity.133

The museum receives about 500 visitors daily. Mahajan, who earns 6,000 rupees per month, has seen little improvement or maintenance over the years. ASI took over the palace from the Maharashtra government in 2003, built roads around the palace, built toilets and parking lots, and painted and repaired parts of the building. However, the exhibits are still in a disappointing state.B.G. Yelikar, Conservation Assistant at ASI’s Pune branch, said they are seeking funding for the new museum and repair work will begin soon. As he investigates further, he defends the job because no one can imagine how bad it must have been before ASI took over. Some paintings and photos are damaged, but will be replaced.

References:

Gandhi at the Aga Khan Palace, Pune (no date) MANAS. Available at: https://southasia.ucla.edu/history-politics/gandhi/gandhi-aga-khan-palace-pune/ (Accessed: November 25, 2022). 

Mallya, V. (2019) Arching back, Pune Mirror – Get the latest news of Pune & Pimpri Chinchwad. Available at: https://punemirror.com/entertainment/unwind/arching-back/cid5092424.htm (Accessed: November 25, 2022). 

Pranav (2018) The grandeur of Aga Khan Palace, https://www.nativeplanet.com. Nativeplanet. Available at: https://www.nativeplanet.com/travel-guide/the-grandeur-of-aga-khan-palace-003598.html?story=2 (Accessed: November 25, 2022). 

Pratibha (2022) D’source design gallery on Aga Khan Palace, D’Source. Available at: https://www.dsource.in/gallery/aga-khan-palace (Accessed: November 25, 2022). 

StoryAtEveryCorner (2020) Aga Khan Palace Foundation, Gandhiji’s prison and now an oasis in Pune, Story at Every Corner. Available at: https://storyateverycorner.com/agakhan-palace-pune/ (Accessed: November 25, 2022). 

Author

Abha has completed her architecture from mumbai. She is passionate about designing and has a creative mind. She also fond of binging series and movies.

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