Aga Khan Palace
|Aga Khan Palace|
|Area||19 acres (77,000 m2)|
|Governing body||Gandhi National Memorial Society|
|Designated by||Archaeological Survey of India|
The Aga Khan Palace was built by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III in Pune, India. Built in 1892, it is one of important landmarks in Indian history. The palace was an act of charity by the Sultan who wanted to help the poor in the neighbouring areas of Pune, who were drastically hit by famine.
Aga Khan Palace is a majestic building. The palace is closely linked to the Indian freedom movement as it served as a prison for Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi, his secretary Mahadev Desai and Sarojini Naidu. It is also the place where Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai died. In 2003, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) declared the place as a monument of national importance.
Historically, the palace holds great significance. Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi and his secretary Mahadev Desai were interned in the palace from 9 August 1942 to 6 May 1944, following the launch of Quit India Movement. Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai died during their captivity period in the palace and have their Samadhis located over there. Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi have their memorials located in the same complex, near Mula river. Legend goes that the Sultan built the palace to provide employment to the famine – struck villagers of the surrounding region; so he employed 1000 people, and the palace was constructed in five years. It was built in Rs 12 lakhs. The total area is 13 acres and built up palace covers seven acres, and the rest is a well maintained garden.
The palace housed National Model School until early 1970s.
In 1969, Aga Khan Palace was donated to the Indian people by Aga Khan IV as a mark of respect to Gandhi and his philosophy. Today the palace houses a memorial on Gandhi where his ashes were kept. The then prime minister Indira Gandhi had visited the place in 1974 where she allotted a sum of ₹200,000 (US$2,800) every year, for its maintenance. The amount rose to ₹1 million (US$14,000) till the 1990s, after which the national monument of India, was neglected for many years due to improper allocation of funds. There was a protest held at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi near Pune railway station in July 1999 to protest against the worsening condition of the monument. The present condition has improved very little. While the visitors take a round the palace, the rooms at the backside can be seen filled with old, broken furniture and garbage. There are rooms on first floor too, which are certainly in worst conditions hence kept away locked from visitors. This condition highlights how badly the yearly funds are managed or how corruption can impact to such an otherwise beautiful and important monument.
Aga Khan palace has Italian arches and spacious lawns. The building comprises five halls. It covers an area of 19 acres (77,000 m2), out of which 7 acres (28,000 m2) is the built up area. The palace captivates the eye of a spectator with its magnificence and picturesque architecture. It took 5 years and an estimated budget of ₹1.2 million (US$17,000) to complete this Palace. The area of the ground floor is 1756 m2, that of the first floor is 1080 m2, whereas the second floor has a construction of 445 m2. The speciality of this structure is its corridor of 2.5 meters around the entire building. Prince Karim Aga Khan donated this palace to Gandhi Smarak Samittee in 1972 and since then Parks and Gardens organisation is maintaining it.
Activities organised at the palace
Gandhi Memorial society celebrates the following public functions at the palace:
- Martyr's Day – 30 January.
- Mahashivratri – Kasturbha Gandhi's Death Day Celebrated As Mother's Day.
- Independence Day – 15 August.
- Republic Day – 26 January.
- Mahatma Gandhi's Birth Anniversary – 2 October.
Other than yearly events, morning prayer sessions are held daily at the samadhi since decades. The prayer draws huge crowds everyday, and the number goes up threefold on 2 October as people visit the place to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aga Khan Palace.|
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