Bang in the middle of the hustle-bustle of Kasba Peth lies the mammoth structure of Shaniwar Wada. It is a silent reminder of the city’s history and heritage,as its walls stand tall against the test of time,at the centre of a rapidly changing city. Commissioned to be built by Peshwa Baji Rao in the early 1730s,the fort was destroyed by a mysterious fire in 1828. What is left of it,now serves as a tourist attraction. Apart from the grand Dilli Darwaza – the main entrance named so because the spikes on the gate face Delhi in the North – the fort has four other doors which remain shut.
No food and drinks are allowed inside the fort,and no canteen or tuck shop is present on the grounds.
The fort includes a lush garden sprawled around an amphitheater. There are daily hour-long light and sound programmes which take place in the evening,in both Marathi and English. During Diwali,the fort is lit up with thousands of diyas by various communities and social groups in the city. One can find groups of college students hanging out at the campus area of the fort,while couples can be spotted having intent conversations at the doorways,balconies and the garden. The fort serves as an ideal setting for amateur photographers who want to practice photography,and take shots of the monument,the flowers in the garden,and graffiti scribbled on the walls.
There are boards laid out across the garden,on which one can read about the history of the fort. The boards will tell you when the fort was built,burned and then restored,but ask a local to recount the truly intriguing legend of the 18-year-old Prince Narayanrao,who was assassinated inside the fort upon the orders of his uncle. That’s a story an information board or historical textbook won’t have.