By Kunal Ray for The Hindu. Published May 6, 2016 Updated: May 7, 2016 17:10 IST
With unkempt building and damaged artefacts, Pune’s Aga Khan Palace is another shameful example of how we handle heritage.
There are ways of seeing and then there are ways of seeing a museum. Historian Vinay Lal taught me the latter.
During a recent trip to Aga Khan Palace in Pune’s Yerwada area, I felt the despair of a historian.
The Palace Museum, a beautiful building, is in a shambles. Most of the paintings and photographs that chronicle important landmarks of India’s freedom struggle are in need of immediate restoration (most are beyond repair). Exhibits languish in neglect and bear scars of graffiti by overzealous visitors, even their cracked frames not replaced. Many parts of the museum have developed cracks and water stains.
When this is the physical condition of the museum, it is no surprise that no thought has gone into curating or organising the images on its walls. A sorry state of affairs, indeed.
Aga Khan Palace was built in 1892 by [Sir] Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan [III], the 48th spiritual leader of the Khoja Ismaili sect.
During the Quit India movement, Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba, and personal secretary Mahadev Desai were interned here from August 9, 1942. Also imprisoned here were Mirabehn, Sarojini Naidu, Sushila Nayar and Pyarelal Nayar. Desai died of a heart attack six days after his arrest and Kasturba passed away after 18 months of prolonged illness. Their samadhis are located on the premises. The white marble memorial, designed by celebrated architect Charles Correa, still stands. Gandhi was released from Aga Khan Palace on May 6, 1944.
In 1969, Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, Aga Khan IV, donated the Palace to the Indian government.
It was declared a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 2003.
Genesis of the Aga Khan Palace
Built in 1892, the Aga Khan Palace remains one of the biggest landmarks in Indian history. The Palace was commissioned by Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III as a dignified way to employ the people around Pune who were devastated by famine.
His Highness Aga Khan III’s empathy for India’s Freedom Movement and its leaders was realized again when the Palace served as a dignified alternative for Mahatma Gandhi and other Indian leaders internship during the Quit India movement.
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