Last Updated on March 6, 2019 by Soumya
Aga Khan Palace, Pune is a great place to visit if you are in the city for a day or longer than that. The palace is a historically important monument for India and played an important role in the country’s fight for independence. The palace along with its beautiful grounds can be covered anywhere between 1 – 3 hours. Hence, it makes for the perfect half-a-day trip.
Let’s take a virtual tour of the Aga Khan Palace in Pune through this post.
History of the palace
Aga Khan Palace Pune was built in the late 19th century by Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III in order to provide employment to the famine-affected villagers of the region. It was constructed over a period of 5 years and cost INR 12 lakhs at that time.
The palace went on to assume national significance in 1942 when Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi, and fellow comrades in the Quit India Movement were imprisoned here. Gandhiji was released in May 1944. However, Kasturba Gandhi (Ba) and Mahatma Gandhi’s secretary Mahadev Desai passed away at the palace during the tenure of their imprisonment. Both of them are entombed within the premises. A part of Gandhiji’s ashes is also entombed close to Ba’s samadhi (tomb). In other words, it is home to the final remains of the Father of the nation. This speaks tonnes about the importance of this palace in the history of modern India.
Architecture of Aga Khan Palace
The architecture of the Aga Khan Palace in Pune is a mix of Indo-Saracenic and European styles. The European influence is quite obvious in the French lawns, Italian arches, long corridors, and rose windows.
The palace is colored white and has borders and spires on the roof, windows, and staircases. The floor is beautifully draped with black and white patterned mosaics while the doors are crafted of solid mahogany. The palace comprises of five halls and spacious verandahs that go around the halls. Our next section is about these halls that constitute the Aga Khan Palace.
The Five Halls
The five halls inside the palace are the ones where Mahatma Gandhi and his fellow freedom-fighters were housed after their arrest. A couple of them were not open to public when we went but you can get a good picture through the glass windows.
This is the first hall that you can enter and explore. Inside are two huge black-colored statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi, busts of other freedom fighters, and a number of paintings depicting different stages of Indian life and struggle for independence.
This hall is smaller than the first one but houses an important statue depicting Gandhiji’s philosophy of “Unto The Last”. Bapu had been deeply influenced by John Ruskin’s book “Unto This Last” when in South Africa. The concept of “Antyodaya” or the “uplift of all” was born as a result of this influence. This is reflected in the statue of Bapu lifting up
The third hall was where Sarojini Naidu had been interned during her arrest. The center of the room is occupied by a big round table that could have served as a discussion place for the occupants of the palace. On the walls, are paintings, photographs, and news clippings reminding us of the freedom struggle. There are also two portraits of Aga Khan III and IV on your right as you enter the room.
Hall #4 is actually a combination of multiple rooms, all connected through wooden doors. The first room is a small one that housed Mahadev Desai during his arrest. He passed away at the palace within a few days of his arrest.
The events surrounding his death and cremation are spelled out on wooden relief hanging in the room. A number of articles used by Mahatma Gandhi and Ba are also on display here.
The next room, which was closed to visitors, is the room that was used by Mahatma Gandhi and Ba during their internment here. It was also here that Ba breathed her last. You can look into this room from the glass doors of Mahadev Desai’s room to see portraits of Bapu and Ba, a number of daily-use things of Gandhiji, and pictures of a bygone era.
Their room is connected to a bathroom which is equipped with a bathtub and a washbasin.
This is the last hall along the verandah and was closed when we went. According to the writing hung above, this hall was used as an office. It was lived in by Dr. Gilder and Shree Pyarelal Nayyar.
After gliding and exploring through the halls, take a walk down the spacious corridor that encircles the rooms. As you walk through, you can appreciate the Italian arches, the sculpted pillars, and the iron lacework.
After you are done with the palace and its halls, take the steps at the far end of the corridor to walk into a garden that leads to the Samadhi or the place where both Ba and Mahadev Desai where entombed.
On the right of these tombs, lie the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi in another tomb. After playing an important part in Gandhiji’s life, today Aga Khan Palace is the headquarters of the Gandhi National Memorial Society.
The palace is surrounded by sprawling gardens that take the beauty of the structure to a whole new level. The gardens are pretty well-maintained.
In the middle of different garden patches, are perched European-styled water fountains which further add to the beauty of the place. The fountains were not operational when we went but I am sure they would have made a pretty sight. Unfortunately, the gardens are not free to access. You have to purchase a ticket even if you only wanted to enjoy the gardens.
Aga Khan Palace is located at the Nagar Road in Kalyani Nagar, Pune. You can easily take an Uber or Ola (a competitor of Uber in Pune) to get to the palace for a reasonable price.
The palace opens between 9 am – 5:30 pm every day of the week. Tickets are priced at INR 25 for Indians and INR 300 for foreigners. Toilets are available behind the palace halls within the premises.
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Did I love Aga Khan Palace Pune?
Of course, I did. I loved visiting the palace. It was not only a beautiful architectural piece but also a worthy reminder of the sacrifices that our freedom fighters made to get us a free country. It is definitely a must-visit spot in Pune both for history-lovers and nature-seekers.
Have you ever been to the Aga Khan Palace in Pune? If yes, what did you love about it? Feel free to drop a line in the comments below and we can get the conversation going.