First Published on June 2, 2016
If Bajirao Mastani interests you and if you have liked my last post on Shaniwar Wada, you are sure to get intrigued by this one. The Mastani Mahal – or the Palace of Mastani. For those who have not seen the movie or are unaware of Bajirao, a quick story from history.
The Epic Romance of Bajirao Mastani
Bajirao as I have mentioned earlier, was the Prime Minister or Peshwa to Chhatrapati Shahu. A mighty leader who had led several campaigns for the Chhatrapati and returned victorious in those. Amongst the various military campaigns he led, was one for Maharaja Chhatrasal of Bundelkhand. The Maharaja was facing a constant threat from the Mughal officials and called upon this brave Peshwa to help him out. Peshwa Baji Rao answered his plea and emerged victorious in this battle. As a sign of gratitude, it is said that the Maharaja offered him his daughter Mastani.
It is said that Mastani bai was one of the most beautiful women of her times and it is no wonder that Baji Rao fell head over heels in love with her. He took her on as his second wife and returned home to face the wrath of his Brahmin mother. A couple of reasons why the mother-in-law hated her new daughter-in-law – She was a half Muslim and a half Hindu. Some say that she was not a true princess – a daughter of a dancer from the Maharaja’s court. Well !!! Among the many virtues that Baji Rao’s mother had, tolerance was definitely missing!
Well, the story goes like any other mom-in-law and daughter-in-law story goes. However, this went to the extent that the lady Mastani was put under house arrest when Baji Rao was out for a military campaign. On his return, he freed Mastani and put her up in her own separate residence – Mastani Mahal.
The Mastani Mahal no longer exists in Pune. However, history has it that it was a beautiful palace. The best part of it is that a section of it still lives – not at its original location but at the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum in Pune.
Dr. D.G Kelkar was instrumental in helping conserve this piece of heritage. The original Mastani Mahal is said to have been in Kothrud, in Pune. After being ignored for years, and before it completely vanished, Dr. Kelkar helped dismantle and recreate a part of this palace within his own museum. The rest as you can read above.
The gorgeous sitting arrangements, the chandeliers, the wall art and Mastani’s instruments is what fills up the space. Granted that this is just a small room and some of you might say – what is the big deal. For me, I saw something more than just a room.
I pictured the beautiful Mastani playing her instrument while Bajirao was reclining on the pillows, admiring his wife. In the background were two maids, fanning their master and mistress, enjoying the beautiful melody that Mastani bai created 🙂
I happened to chat with a few officials of the museum and they told me that the woodwork in the recreated palace, behind the seating arrangements was originally found at Mastani Mahal. As was the silver mirror and her musical instrument that you see at the end of the seating. I am not sure of the ceiling being the original, but if it were, I would not be surprised either.
The corridors that you see above, used to be the endless ones in the original palace. Imagine the dark wooden corridors lit with numerous lamps lighting up the path for Bajirao to meet his beloved. 🙂
I know that the grandeur displayed here is a small representation of what is completely lost. However, I am happy that some bit of history is still preserved. My vote of thanks to Dr.Kelkar for preserving and gifting us memoirs of the past. And that was not all, he preserved many other amazing things. All that in my next post about the Kelkar Museum in Pune. Till then, let’s admire and pin up this bit of the epic romance between Baji Rao and Mastani, at the Mastani Mahal in Pune.
Getting to Mastani Mahal:
- Pune is easily accessible by road, rail and air from Mumbai as well as other cities of India. There are plenty of direct international flights to Pune.
- Mastani Mahal is a part of the Kelkar Museum that is right in the middle of Pune city. You can reach Kelkar Museum by bus, cab or an auto rickshaw. Many tourist buses take you on a tour of this museum.