Just round the corner of Shaniwar Wada, near the Ganpati gate of this fort, lies a Red colored building. The Lal Mahal or the Red palace, is a reconstructed palace – the original home of the famous Chhatrapati Shivaji. I found this accidentally, on the internet and while I was at Shaniwar Wada, decided to just walked over to see it. I imagined it to be huge. I mean, after all, it was the palace of the famed Chhatrapati, but well, it honestly, was not so.
And there is a reason for it. They say that the original palace had been razed to ground and there is little known about how it was and the exact location of the palace. It is estimated that the original was located in the same area as the current palace. However, what it looked like, what was the architecture like, how many rooms – that information has got buried under the sands of time. All that remains is hearsay and stories – bits of which have been put together in what you see today.
History of Lal Mahal
Originally constructed by Shivaji’s father – Shahaji Bhosale, the Lal Mahal was the abode of Jijabai and her famous son – Shivaji. History has it that he stayed here for several years. till he recaptured his first fort at Torna. Later, his first wife, Saibai is said to have resided here. However, since the place was subjected to several attacks, the palace fell and was never re-built.
Later, when the Peshwas decided to construct Shaniwar Wada, some bricks and stones of the original Lal Mahal were used in the construction of the Shaniwar Wada – and this has been found in the account books of the Peshwas. This was done – not to save costs, but as a mark of Good luck! A smaller place was constructed where the current Lal Mahal is and was used as a place to serve feasts to the Brahmins.
For those who have seen the latest Bollywood Blockbuster, you may recall Bajirao’s mom giving a feast to the Brahmins. My vivid imagination has it as they probably dined at Lal Mahal. 🙂
Lal Mahal Today
Lal Mahal today, is a small building that stands out owing to its red color but there isn’t much left to see here. I went in with a lot of curiosity but there was little that satiated it. As you enter the premises, you see some impressive looking statues of the Maratha guards – one on a horse like this one.
On entering the main courtyard, the first thing that I saw was on my left – a sculpture of Jijamata. Besides the same, there is a small model of the Raigad fort.
The one thing that kept drawing attention was a flight of stairs that led up to floors that were out of bounds. I wished to go up but the entry was barred. If you are wondering why that was the case, you need to chat with the guard, like I did. He basically, became my guide and shared his knowledge about the place. He informed me that the PMC was setting up a museum on the first floor and hence, the place was not yet opened. The main feature of this palace are its huge umbrella like structures on its roof. (as seen in the first picture of this post). There was nothing else, to see except the sculpture of Shivaji and his mother, with a golden plough. The same could be visited in the garden.
Thanking him, we headed for the statue, to take a selfie moment with Shivaji – the brave Maratha king, whose stories really inspire courage.
You can give this place a skip for it is not really ready for the visitors. However, maybe, if you are a curious cat like me, you can spare a few minutes when visiting Shaniwar Wada – to just pop in and say a Hi to the Maratha King. I will leave the choice to you. 🙂
- Lal Mahal is walking distance from Shaniwar Wada in Pune, one of the mini metro cities of India. Pune can be accessed easily by road, rail and air from any city of India.
- You can reach Lal Mahal by using any of the local transport options – bus, cab or an auto.
- There are no entry fees to see this place.
- Photography is permitted here.
- Remember to take off your footwear and store is at the shoe rack near the entrance. You need to enter the palace barefoot.
My other posts on Pune:
- Visiting the Haunted Shaniwar Wada
- Shinde Chhatri: A Maratha’s Memorial in Pune
- Mastani Mahal at Kelkar Museum
- The Collection at Kelkar Museum