Shaniwar wada fort in Pune was built by the Peshwas in the 18th century and is the poster boy of tourism in Pune. The sheer architectural brilliance was lost to the British empire in 1818. Later the fort was sustained back by the Maratha empire but it went under a fire which damaged the heritage and the major part was a waste. Though the remains of the fort remain open for the general public. The cause of the fire is still unknown and it is believed this is from where the spooky and haunted activities started in this fort. It is believed that the level of supernatural activity is on its zenith on every full moon night. Got spooky already?
The locals say that Shaniwar Wada is haunted. The ghost of young Peshwa, Narayanrao supposedly still haunts the structure. The story behind this rumor sent a shiver down my spine. This place is a layer of secrets and a token of royal power struggle. Here is one of the most engaging bits of history that many of us have no clue about.
Nanashaheb had three sons, Vishwasrao, Madhavrao and Narayanrao. Vishwasrao perished in the third battle of Panipat which was waged between the Marathas and a triumvirate of King Ahmad Shah Durrani of Afghanistan, the Rohilla Afghans of Doab, and Shuja ud Daula, the Nawab of Awadh. After Nanashaheb died, Madhavrao being the elder one succeeded the throne. During the third war of Panipat, Madhavrao was a chief strategist, but some of his strategies backfired and he considered himself to be responsible for his elder brother Vishwasrao’s death. Madhavrao plunged into constant depression and died due to deteriorating health soon after. Young Narayanrao hence became the Peshwa at the age of roughly sixteen. Narayanrao’s uncle, Nanasheb’s brother Raghunathrao also known as Raghoba was appointed the regent who had to bear the responsibilities of administration till the time Narayanrao was a minor.
Raghoba and his wife Anandibai were not happy with this development. They had a hunger for power and they couldn’t bear to see a boy become the Peshwa. Add to that Narayanrao was believed to be arrogant and very impulsive. He was aware of the bitter relations his elder brother Madhavrao had with his uncle and it was believed that an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Madhavrao was hatched by Raghoba himself. Things started becoming ugly when both Narayanrao and Raghoba were fed ill feelings for each other by their closest advisers. Narayanrao in a fit of rage ordered Raghoba to be taken under house arrest.
Anandibai became furious. Her desire to end this power struggle and win the throne once and for all reached its zenith. She plotted her husband’s escape. Narayanrao had been in strife with a hunting tribe called Gardi who were originally Bheels from Central India. Raghoba sent a signed letter to Sumer Singh Gardi, the chief of the Gardis which read “Narayanrao la dhara” (Capture Narayanrao). Anandibai saw opportunity in that moment and changed just one alphabet of that letter and made it read “Narayanrao la mara” (Kill Narayanrao).
The Gardis, highly trained assassins, scaled the fort in the cover of night and ambushed the palace. They made way to the chamber of a sleeping Narayanrao, eliminating all obstacles in their way. Narayanrao on seeing the Gardis baying for his blood began running for his life. He ran towards his uncle Raghoba’s chambers screaming “Kaaka! Maala vaachva!” (Uncle, save me!). The assassins caught hold of Narayanrao and hacked him to pieces with swords.
Here there are two interpretations of the legend. One was that Raghoba believed that Narayanrao was just being taken captive, as Anantibai had intercepted Narayanrao and his screams were considered by Raghoba to be just a boy being captured. Another was that the young boy was slaughtered mercilessly in front of a mute, emotionless Raghoba as the boy kept on wailing “Kaka, maala vaachva”. Legend says that the boy was hacked into so many pieces that his remains had to be carried out in a vessel. This vessel was taken to the nearest river and the pieces were dumped there.
Even today, the locals say that on a full moon night, one can hear a young boy screaming “Kaka, maala vaachva”.
There are many locals who actually camp at night on the fort grounds just to hear the little boy’s scream.
It is preferable to visit the fort during day hours since the fort is deserted at night except for maybe a caretaker. Visit this place at your own risk as this would definitely be the scariest place in Pune. factual sources : Quora