Of secret passages, central locking systems and humble beginnings of a festival that became a socio- cultural movement – The story of Bhau Rangari Wada, Pune; Prathyaksha Krishna Prasad
On a gloomy September afternoon last year, I took a curious bunch of my students who had opted for Architectural Conservation as an elective in their fourth year of their five year professional Architectural study, through quaint streets of the very crowded Old Pune, to a humble Wada with an incredible heritage attached to it. Earlier that year, I was brainstorming for options to conduct a study in Pune (Shaniwarwada and Vishrambagh Wada were frequented for such studies till now). That’s when my colleagues suggested I look at the Bhau Rangari Wada in Budhwar Peth, and being the time of Ganapathi festive, he insisted it was an interesting example to look at, owning to its association to the festival itself.
I had visited the Wada with a few friends, once before just to evaluate its scope to fit in to our requirements for the study. On meeting a very enthusiastic Prateek Javale who is the 5th generation of the Javale family, and hearing him talk about the nuances of the building, I was inclined to explore and learn about the Wada.
That afternoon we gathered at the Wada for our study and the exercise was to assess the building and make a list card (A that has all the information about a particular building to aid in assessing the significance and thereby grade a building based on the Heritage Grading system). Some background research on the building showed us that this building was not on the Heritage List prepared by the Government (quite shocking honestly), which made it even more interesting for us. No reference List card meant the students had scope to pitch in their thoughts without any inhibitions.
The Wada is set in a very narrow quaint street just behind Shaniwarwada, we had to pass through two Ganapathi Pandals along the stretch, which was quite a sight. What was more intriguing was that the Wada looked so humble from the outside had some great associations. For all those who think Lokamanya Tilak was the man behind ‘Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav’, you’ve had it wrong all along (which was quite a revelation for me after visiting this place) Ganeshotsav as a ‘public’ festival was introduced by Bhausaheb Laxman Javale in 1892. The first meeting of the trust happened in this Wada under the leadership of Bhausaheb.
Just to get a perspective of Bhausaheb, his Wada and the social scenario, I’ll discuss a few events from the freedom movement in Pune and how the Wada contributed to it. The uprising and the famous 1857 revolt meant strict order throughout the country. Hole- and- corner meetings were common around the country; the main agenda being planning for the Freedom Movement. In Pune, the Bhau Saheb Rangari Wada served as a headquarters for the homegrown freedom fighters. Shri Bhau Saheb Rangari (Bhau Laxman Javale) was originally the Royal Ayurvedic doctor, the Raj Vaidya, who was an acclaimed Ayurvedic doctor. Since his family’s business was to dye sarees (his name goes with the suffix- Rangari owing to this tradition), he continued the tradition and had a flourishing medical business. His main motive was to get people together and create awareness about the freedom struggle and this aspect was kept in mind while building the Wada. This was the site where plans for the freedom movement were conceptualised by leaders such as Lokmanya Tilak, Balwant Ramchandra Natu and Narsinha Chintamani Kelkar.
- List card
- LR: Stone and brick work visible on the exterior of the building
- The secret door to hide arms in the ceiling inside the pooja room attached to the ground floor meeting room
- Ground floor ceiling with small hooks used by Shrimat Bhausaheb for dyeing and drying clothes
- Ceiling structure in the ground floor room
- View from the low window from the inner room to the street
- The low window for ensuring eyes on the street, above it are a few archival documents on display
- Roof detail from the balcony
- L: View of the wood work in the balcony on the first floor
L: View of the wood work in the balcony on the first floor
- A painting of Shrimat Bhausaheb Rangari along with the Ganpati on the first floor
- Door ventilator with stain glass ornamentation
- Teak wood ceiling and beams
- L: Typical door at the meeting hall on the first floor
R: Teak wooden pegs used for hanging clothes
- Sketch of the First floor Plan
- Sketch of the Ground floor Plan
- L: Statue of Shrimat Bhausaheb Rangari
R: The archival image of the first Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav with the traditional stone grinder used by Shri Bhausaheb to make medicines to treat his patients- Ground floor meeting room’
- L: A Closer view of the original teak wood chariot
R: Door on the first floor leading to a balcony
- The 127 years old paper mâché Bhau Rangari Ganpati Idol
- View of the 127 years old chariot that carries the Bhau Rangari Ganpati even today
- The sitting room at the entrance with the statue of Shri Bhausaheb
- The Main Entrance door to the Wada
- Bhausaheb ideated the Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav in 1892, in view of making the Ganapathi Pandal, a place of meeting for the Indians, which otherwise was not possible with the British officers policing around round the clock. This initiative was appreciated by Shri Lokamanya Tilak in his newspaper- Kesari, who later preached this practice throughout Maharashtra
L: View of Shrimat Bhausaheb Rangari Wada
R: View of Shrimat Bhausaheb Rangari Wada
- List card
The architecture clearly reflects the agenda- to make the Wada a centre for all the homegrown freedom fighters to meet and discuss the movement. Built in 1860, the building well designed to serve as a hideout with underground tunnels to escape if the British were to break into a meeting. Central Locking system connected by chains running along the locks, functional secret lock for the main door, compartments near the doors to store arms for ready usage, an opening at the floor level to have an eye on who’s entering the building, were all the special features of the Wada to facilitate meetings related to freedom struggle. The underground passage led directly to the banks of the Mutha river. In addition to this Bhausaheb also treated patients for free at the Wada.
Bhausaheb ideated the Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav in 1892, in view of making the Ganapathi Pandal, a place of meeting for the Indians, which otherwise was not possible with the British officers policing around round the clock. The symbolism of the Ganesh idol itself resonates the freedom movement, with Lord Ganesh killing a demon, indicating the vanquishment of the British. The main aim was to use the festival as a driver/ and opportunity to gather at a particular place and strategize the freedom movement. Known as the Bhau Rang Ganapathi, a symbol of strength and wisdom that was worshipped by revolutionaries led by Bhausaheb Laxman Javale during the Ganesh Utsav way back in 1892.
This initiative was appreciated by Shri Lokamanya Tilak in his newspaper- Kesari, who later preached this practice throughout Maharashtra. It resonated throughout India in the form of a socio-cultural movement. Tilak recognized Lord Ganesh’s appeal as “the god for everybody”. He popularised Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival to “bridge the gap between Brahmins and ‘non-Brahmins’ and find a context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them”, generating nationalistic fervour in the Maharashtrians to oppose British colonial rule.
Today, after 127 years, the original Ganesh idol mage of paper pulp is still being worshipped in the temple set up at the Wada and is also set out in a Pandal during the Ganapathi festival and the procession by the end of the festival is still taken out in the same chariot which is as old as the idol itself, both maintained in pristine state. The temple at the Bhausaheb Rangari Wada is managed by the family in the form of a trust- Shrimat Bhausaheb Rangari Ganpati Trust, still works by the ideals of Bhausaheb, who formed the trust in 1892.
When I ask Mr. Prateek Javale about the trust, he says, “Bhausaheb had made a well-structured death will where he had clearly briefed on hoe the trust should work, we have been following the same. For example, this is the only pandal that does not take vargani. We don’t ask for vargani (donation) from anyone. People who want to donate are always welcome to do it at their will. Talking about the family, Prateek say, Bhausaheb did not have any children. I belong to the 5th generation. Bhausaheb was my Great- great- grand uncle.” He takes us around the building, showing us the Arms museum that’s been set up on the first floor, the meeting room where the trust held its meetings, the main hall where Bhausaheb treated his patients where one can still fine the grinding stone that he had used to make medicines, the back rooms that’s almost falling apart. We could catch the sense of pride in his eyes as he spoke to us candidly about the building and Bhausaheb. After showing us around the interior and the exterior and leading us to the Ganesh Pandal just outside the Wada, he let us linger around the building for the students to make drawings and draw out details that were required for the presentation.
With a head full of thoughts about this humble building, I make my way back thinking about how small places and humble people can trigger big things that can change the landscape of a place. Urban or Rural, the concept of Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav has had its effect on the ever-morphing landscape and is even today a socio-cultural phenomenon, and its cultural significance in the Indian Heritage can never be replaced.