The official guide who took us around the Aga Khan palace had been working there for a number of years. She clearly enjoyed her job meeting several dignitaries who came to visit the palace and giving information about the place that she loved. She informed us that the palace was her former school – the National Model School, a boarding school run by the late Noshir Dorabjee Nagarwala. Having actually lived in the palace, she had several fond memories which she shared with us as she showed us around.
The Aga Khan Palace was built in 1892 by the third Aga Khan, Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan in Pune. This palace was constructed so as to be a source of employment for the famine struck villagers in the surrounding areas. It was constructed at a cost of twelve lakh rupees in five years and around a thousand people were employed. It was later donated by the existing Prince Aga Khan to the Government of India Gandhi Smarak Nidhi in memory of Mahatma Gandhi. This palace is considered as a national monument of India’s freedom movement and now acts as a memorial to Gandhi and the time that he spent here. When the Quit India movement was launched in 1942, Gandhi along with his wife Kasturba and secretary Mahadevbhai Desai were interned at the palace from August 9th 1942 to May 5th 1944. The palace contains several of Bapu’s and Ba’s belongings. In 2003, the palace was declared as a monument of national importance.
Meera behn or Madeleine Slade was a British woman who came to live and work with Gandhi. It was Gandhi, who gave her the Indian name of Meera behn (sister). She was interned along with Gandhi at the Aga Khan palace.
Sarojini Naidu also known as the nightingale of India was also interned here along with Gandhi for her role in the Quit India movement. She was later released on health grounds.
The first flag of the Indian National Congress has been displayed here.
It is believed that Gandhi made this garland with his own hands as a wedding gift. It has been made entirely from Khadi.
Both Mahadevbhai and Kasturba passed away in captivity during this time. Mahadevbhai passed away on 15th August 1942 and Kasturba passed away on 22nd February 1944. The room in which Kasturba passed away has been kept intact. It is believed that Gandhi was very much against modern medicine and refused to give Kasturba an injection that could have saved her life.
The Samadhis of both Mahadevbhai and Kasturba are located in the palace campus. It is interesting to note that Kasturba’s Samadhi has been placed next to Mahadevbhai’s Samadhi and the monument containing some of Gandhi’s ashes (next picture) stands on its own. This may have been because Kasturba and Mahadevbhai passed away earlier than Gandhi. Both Gandhi and Kasturba were extremely close to Mahadevbhai and Kasturba treated him like her own son.
At a cost of around five rupees, the visit to the palace makes for an interesting day out. Along with all the relevant historical details, the guide offered us several interesting anecdotes about Gandhi’s and Kasturba’s life together. I must admit that our visit was made interesting entirely because of the efforts of our guide. I left, telling her earnestly, that if she was ever looking for anybody to do this job for her then I was available.