Aga Khan Palace is yet another historical site in Maharashtra that holds a great significance in Indian history. It is located at about 2 Km away from Bund Garden in Yerwada, on Pune-Nagar Road. It is also recognized as Kasturba Gandhi Memorial or Kasturba Samadhi. It was built in 1892 by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Agakhan III and was donated to India in 1969 by Aga Khan IV as an act of charity because the areas of Pune drastically hit by famine at that time.
Historically, this palace is a ceremonial building and is closely associated with 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 the place where Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai died. In 2003, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) declared the palace as a monument of national importance.
This lonely palace once belonged to the Agha Khan, served as quarters for imprisonment of Gandhi and his wife Kasturba towards the trail end of the British rule in India. It is situated near the river Mula and is just a simple memorial to Gandhi and his lifetimes. A shop attached to the palace sells Khadi or cotton, hand loomed garments and textiles. It is also called the Gandhi National Memorial or the Yerwada Ashram. It is located at Talegaon Road, beyond Fitzgerald Bridge.
The significance of the Aga Khan Palace is that it has marvelous Italian arches and spacious lawns. The building constitutes of five halls. It covers an area of 19 acres, out of which 7 acres are just a built up area. The palace bewitched the eyes of a spectator with its glamour and picturesque architecture. It took 5 years and an estimated budget of Rs. 1.2 million to complete this palace. The area of the ground floor is 1756 sq meters, in which the first floor is 1080 sq meters and the second floor is 445 sq meters. The specialty of this adorable palace is its corridor of 2.5 meters spreads around the entire building. In 1972, Prince Karim Aga Khan of that time donated this palace to Gandhi Smarak Samittee and since then Parks and Gardens organization is maintaining it.
Now, the palace mainly houses a memorial to Gandhi where his ashes were kept. The then prime minister India Gandhi had visited the place in 1974 where she allotted a sum of Rs. 200000 every year, for its maintenance. The amount rose to Rs. 2 million till 1990s, after which the national monument of India, was neglected for many years due to improper allocation of funds. There was a grand protest held at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi near Pune Railway Station on July 1999 to protest against the deteriorating condition of the monument.
The archives of the palace contain a number of photos and portraits depicting stories from the life of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation of India, and other personalities of the Indian freedom struggle. Many activities are organized there at some special occasions. The Gandhi Memorial Society celebrates the following public functions at the palace: -
30th January – Martyr’s Day
Mahashivratri – Kasturba Gandhi’s Death Day Celebrated As Mother’s Day
15th August – Indian Independence Day
26th January – Republic Day
2nd October – Mahatma Gandhi’s Birth Anniversary
Other than yearly events, morning prayers terms are held daily at the Samadhi for decades. The prayer attracts a large number of crowds every day, and the number goes up threefold on 2 October as most of the people visit the place to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. So, this monument is worth to see and surely visited by the tourists.