16 acres of lung space on the busiest arterial roads of Pune Nagar Road, is the stately entrance to the iconic Aga Khan Palace. Exuding immense space and grandeur, it’s well preserved, well landscaped, sprawling manicured lawns, lends great historical value as one of the best landmarks in Poona.
Old trees mark their very existence at the palace grounds, like the great Banyan tree as you enter. What impresses most is its well spread out girth and branches having witnessed the grandeur of the palace since inception, survived the ravage of nature and time.
Built by Mohammad Shah Aga Khan III to help the famine struck poor in the area, this beautiful architectural 2-storied palace looms large amidst lush green, deeply wooded area. With stately halls and rooms, high ceilings, quintessential Italian arches and hallways is more significantly attached to our Indian Independence.
The Aga Khan palace though grand and imposing has a lot of history embroiled during our struggle for India’s freedom from British rule. It attains more grandeur because of the sentiments attached to the Samadhi of Kasturba Gandhi and much later the ashes of the Mahatma enshrined in a solemn corner of the property marked by two marble memorials. The lush wooded area at the back is a bit thick and one cannot go beyond that point.
This hallowed precinct housed Mahatma Gandhi, Kasturba Gandhi, Shri Mahadeobhai Desai, Dr. Sarojini Naidu, Meera Ben, Dr. GLinder, Pyarelal Nayyar, Sushila Nayyar and others were kept under imprisonment during the Quit India movement in 1942. All the rooms have great exhibits and sentiments of these greats during the freedom struggle. The Mahatma was in deep shock when his two years imprisonment at the Aga Khan palace witnessed the loss of two most precious people in his life, Kasturba who breathed her last after a prolonged illness and his loyal assistant who was more like son to the Mahatma, his memorial rests next to Kasturba’s.
Prince Karim Agakhan donated this palace to Gandhi Smarak Samithee in 1972 and since maintained by the National Monumental Garden. Open on all days, tickets are very low Rs 5, and open from 9am-1.30pm and until 6pm.
Text/Photos –Jyoti Shetty and Nala Ponnappa