The Lal Mahal, literally translating to ‘Red Palace’, is one of the most famous monuments in Pune. And this is where we planned to go on our fourth day in Pune. It is a red brick building where Shivaji is said to have spent most of his childhood while in Pune.
Historically, it was a residential palace built by Shahaji Bhosle for his wife Jijabai and son Shivaji to stay at when he sent them to live in Pune. It was apparently where Shivaji lived until he captured his first fort (Torna Fort, at the age of sixteen!). Much like the legendary Ship of Theseus, the current Lal Mahal is also a reconstruction of the old original Lal Mahal, which fell into ruins because of multiple attacks on the city, the local tour guide tells us. In 1998, the Lal Mahal came under the control of the Pune Municipal Corporation and that’s when it was decided that it should be revived, he continues.
He follows us, and explains further that this was the place where Shivaji got married to his first wife.
As we go inside, I notice that the Lal Mahal plays the part of some sort of museum for the memorabilia of the Bhosle family. There is an impressive collection of beautiful portraits of Shivaji and Jijabai. One of the portraits depicts Shivaji with a golden plough in his hand, ploughing away at the land, with his mother Jijabai and Guru Dadoji Konddev as onlookers.
The attractions of the Lal Mahal don’t end here at the collections; the guide tells us to proceed into the terrace, where there is a statue of Jijabai, and four umbrella-like structures. This appears to be prime attraction offered by the Mahal, as I see lots of tourists posing for photographs near these umbrellas.
Within the palace itself, is a beautiful garden, called the Jijamata Garden. As we walk onto the garden’s lawns, there are lots of little children playing and running around, and many of the elderly going on walks. It seems to have been converted into some sort of part, which appears to be popular with both the children as well as with the adults.