Once an intrinsic part of Pune’s identity and an inseparable element of its heritage, the wadas of the city and its culture today don’t mean much to the younger generation.
Now, a couple from the city has organised an event to acquaint children with the culture of wadas, structures built during the Peshwa rule that were the seat of great economic, political and cultural importance. Wadas are also known for their intricate woodwork balconies and enormous courtyards.
The one-day event, organised for children aged between seven and 14 years, will see traditional games such as gotya, vitti dandu and lagori. The programme, by Nitin and Rucha Dhepe, also includes a presentation by famed cartoonist Charuhas Pandit, creator of the popular Marathi cartoon ‘Chintoo’, who will make sketches for the children.
“We will showcase the ancient culture of wadas and their traditions, known as the wada sanskruti, for the children… today’s children grow up in apartments and that’s why they are unaware of wada sanskruti. The event will highlight how joint families thrived… Apart from that, ‘Chintoo’ and its creator will also be part of the event… the children will immediately connect with the cartoon…,” said Nitin Dhepe.
The couple has also set up Dhepe Wada, a homestay “built to promote traditional culture, at a time when busy city lives have engulfed the heritage of bygone days,” said Nitin.
Pandit said at a time when comics like Garfield and Calvin and Hobbs were popular, children would be introduced to a character that they could connect to, someone rooted in the Indian tradition, “someone who plays Holi, Diwali, plucks mangoes from neighbours’ garden…”.
“Similarly, the wada culture is our own tradition and the architecture is something that the children will connect to… the wada, with its spacious architecture, allowed children to play freely and engage in gappa on the katya. Children nowadays do not have such open spaces to sit, or to play in…,” he said.
“I was born and brought up in Pune and am well acquainted with the wada culture. We had our own wada. During the event, I will explain how the character ‘Chintoo’, was born, and how we developed the concept. I will also discuss how to develop children’s creativity and how they can create their own cartoons”, said Pandit.
Some of the most significant wadas of Pune are Shaniwar Wada, Nana Wada, Raste Wada, Mujumdar Wada, Vishrambaug Wada, among others.
Like the havelis of Rajasthan, these wadas stand as magnificent reminders of Peshwa rule and Maratha history.