Thesite on which the Vishrambag Wada was built belonged to one Shri. HaripantPhadke. There was a garden or ‘baug’ onthe site. Bajirao II bought that pieceof land in 1799 AD and gave it the present name.
The work for the construction of thewada commenced in 1806 AD and when the opening ceremony took place aftercompletion in Nov.’ 1807 AD, the cost amounted to about Rs.1,52,000/. Theaqueduct and cisterns cost a further sum of Rs.8500/-. The palace was furnishedat a cost of Rs.14,000 and an establishment at a monthly cost of Rs.400/- waskept to guard it and attend the Peshwa when he lived there.
Reliable sources claimed that theexcavations for foundations were carried out up to the water table. As against the condition of the Wada as itstands today the original building was very different. The westernmostcourtyard contained three small cisterns placed in a line in the centre and fedwith water by the Nana Fadnavis aqueduct.
As shown in the layout, the premisescovered a larger area than what it does today and the Kumthekar Road wasnon-existent then. The road to ShaniwarWada was not what is known today as Bajirao Road. The surrounding area of the building housedstables for horses and sheds for cattle. The water drawn from the well was fed to the‘Pushkarini Houd’ – a tank very little of which remains today. The water was then used for various purposesfrom drinking to washing cattle.
The residential wing was supposed tobe the most private part of the building and one of the wives of Bajirao IInamed ‘Varanasi’ used to stay here for some days.
There was a further change in use ofthe Wada in the year 1821 AD. A schoolwas started in the premises for 100 students for study of the Vedas andShastras. On the
Woodcut by unknown artist of the Sanskrit Pathshala insideVishrambagwada
Oct., 1921 a grand ceremony marked the opening of the school where the subjectstaught comprised of law, vedas, religion science, grammar, medics, artetc. But the smooth running of theSchool started only after one Major Candy, the author of the MarathiDictionary, started looking after the administrative affairs. In about 1842 thestudy of the Vedas was stopped and classes for teaching English were substituted,with Major Candy as the head of the staff. The study of the Shastras wasstopped in 1856 and the first Deccan College (shifted to its present premisesin 1868) was formed with a preparatory school attached, which later became aHigh School. On May13, 1879 the building around the front quadrangle of thepalace was burnt down by incendiaries. It is noted that the wada was set onfire by one Mr. Ranade to conceal the evidence against him for charges offraud. The Eminent Justice M.G.Ranade was wrongly associated with this act forhaving the same surname. He was of-course exonerated of the charges. Public subscriptions and MunicipalContributions were raised to complete the restoration of the palace to its presentappearance. The old plans do not show the balcony or Meghadambari at theeastern facade. But the present building with its most interesting feature wasprobably added during this restoration. The two open stone staircases in theeastern courtyard were added in this period. Also the courtyards were repavedto give them their present appearance. The levels of the courtyards were raisedto drain all the stormwater towards Bajirao Road.
There is a marble plaque set in thestaircase leading to the second floor library which states that 'Vishrambagwadawas purchased for Rs 1,00,000/- in 1930. Extension work commenced in Oct 1932and completed in Oct 1933 at a cost of Rs 42,500/-' This is obviously the steelframed building with trusses on the topmost floor.
Further ahead the building was usedto house the offices of the Pune Municipal Corporation, which were shifted totheir present location in 1959. Sincethen the building has been used for a number of purposes like the post office,vaccination centre, drainage maintenance office, land acquisition office, shopact’s office, library of the State Govt. etc. Since 1984 when the awarenessabout the heritage value of the building was being recognized a number ofad-hoc attempts have been made to introduce compatible uses in this building.The students of the B.K.P.S. College of Architecture, Pune under the guidanceof Prof. V.R. Sardesai and Prof. V.B. Padhye completed a detailed record of thebuilding using measured drawings in 1984. An unpublished dissertation by KiranKalamdani entitled ‘Recycling Vishrambadwada’ was submitted to the PuneUniversity in 1985. In 1992-93 studentsof the D.Y.Patil College of Engineering Pimpri completed a project tosystematically record and suggest measures to rectify the defects of theVishrambagwada.
Today the noted and Maharashtra’smost popular historian Babasaheb Purandare has installed a weaponry museum andrestored the Darbar hall. The eastern portion of the wada has been given overto a shop selling articles made by women and is called SMILE on the initiativeof the former Mayor, Mrs. Vandana Chavan. The noted historian and architectAvinash Sowani has put together a museum of Pune’s Urban History calledPunavdi–Te–Punyanagri. This exhibitionenumerates the landmarks in Pune’s history up to 1857 at the moment and isslated to end up to 1960.
The leader of the opposition in thePMC, Hon. Shri. Vijay Kale has taken the lead in forming a committee to discussand prepare an agenda for the comprehensive, truthful and authenticconservation of the Wada, which is under consideration in this approachpaper. The Hon. Corporator Mrs. MuktaTilak, eminent Architect Mr. V.V. Badve and Architect Avinash Sovani, Dy. CityEngineer Mr. M.R. Latkar, Asst. Engineer Mr. Dhavale are members of thecommittee, which met in Nov.’ 2002, which has led to the eventual completion of a part of the project that was inaugurated on the 28th of October 2006 which admeasures about 9000 square feet.
Work on the rest of the 21000square feet is ongoing. Mr Shyam Dhavaley the Deputy City Engineer of the Pune Municipal Corporation, Mr. Sanjay Borse the Junior Engineer and Mr. Ravi Ranade the Structural Consultant from Construction Diagnostic Centre Pune have contributed significantly to the success of the project. The funding is through tax payer's money.