Built in 1892, the Aga Khan Palace, Pune is standing at the intersection point of India’s Royal Past and the Indian National Movement. It is one of the biggest landmarks of Indian history. The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) declared the palace a monument of national importance in 2003.
The beautiful palace in Pune was constructed by Imam Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III in 1892. A popular legend about the construction says that this was an act of charity. The surrounding areas were severely affected by famine in those days.
The Sultan wanted to help the distressed people. So, he decided to employ a thousand villagers from nearby areas in the construction of this palace. The building was completed in five years. It cost the Sultan a sum of Rs. 12 lakhs, an incredibly large amount for those times.
The palace takes much inspiration from Greco – Roman style of architecture. This is visible in its Italian arches and spacious lawns. The building is spread over 7 acres and consists of five splendid halls. Another two acres are reserves for lush green lawns and gardens. It is a double storied building. The major architectural attraction here is the 2.5 meters wide corridor encircling the entire building.
Historical Importance – Aga Khan Palace
The Aga Khan Palace is hailed a marvel not only for its exquisite beauty but also for its close links with the Indian struggle for Freedom. The Palace has served as a prison for Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi, beloved secretary Mahadev Desai and the great Sarojini Naidu.
Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai breathed their last here while they were still in captivity. As a mark of respect, their samadhis have been constructed in the palace. The memorials dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi are located in the same complex near Mula River.
In 1969, Agha Khan IV dedicated the Palace to people of India. This was his act of respecting Gandhi and his way of life. In 1972, Prince Karim Aga Khan donated the Palace to the Gandhi Smarak Samittee. Since then, they have overlooked the maintenance of the Palace and its surrounding gardens.
However, the management of the Gandhi Museum, Samadhis and the palace campus was transferred to the Gandhi Memorial Society in 1980. Since then, the Society has made incessant efforts to making the Palace a living memorial of Gandhi.
Special Attractions in Aga Khan Palace
The ‘Picture Gallery and Museum’ contain photographic evidence of important events in the Indian freedom struggle. Here you can take a look at various items used by the great Mahatma during his captivity years. These include utensils, clothes, his mala, chappals and others.
You can walk into the room, in which Kasturba Gandhi’s last moments on Earth were spent. You can sit on the dining table where they used to have their meals, take a look around the place where Gandhiji used to give science lessons to his grand-daughter and catch a glimpse of his writing in the letters he wrote after the death of his secretary.
There is also a Kasturba Mahila Khadi Gramodyog Vidyalaya and a Library & Documentation Center within the complex. Here you can feel India’s past breathing and be a part of it.
The above mentioned Gandhi Memorial Society organizes special celebrations on Martyr’s Day i.e. 30th January, Kasturba’s death anniversary, Independence Day, Republic Day and Bapu’s birth anniversary i.e. 2nd October. Lakhs of visitors flock the Palace from all over the country on every year to pay their respects to the Father of the Nation.
Reaching Aga Khan Palace, Pune
Aga Khan Palace is located on Nagar Road, Pune.
The Palace is open to visitors from 9 AM to 6 PM. Rs. 5 for adults and Rs. 2 for children is the entry fee payable.
The Pune Airport is 4-5 km away from the Palace. You can get a cab from the airport and reach in 15 minutes. The nearest railhead is Pune Railway Station where you can avail an auto. Shivaji Nagar Bus Stand is at a distance of about 8 km from the Palace.
Note: while my recent visit to Aga Khan Palace, I found that management has decided not to allow cameras inside the palace. However, you can click the snap with your mobile phone.