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Exploring Nagpur's Heritage at Chitnavis Wada
I was aware that Wadas are the magnificent residences of the affluent in Maharashtra. Remember the Shaniwar Wada of the Peshwas in Pune! Well, Nagpur's old city is filled with numerous such Wadas. My introduction to the city began with a visit to Chitnavis Wada in a neighborhood called Chitnavispura in the Mahal area.
This particular Wada is rare in its ability to maintain the magnificence and timeless allure of the prestigious residences. I made my way inside by passing through a gate adorned with an arch and a wooden door. A sign posted outside displayed the name and location of the Wada.
When I entered the Chitnavis Wada compound in Nagpur, I noticed that there were buildings surrounding a spacious courtyard. It was hard to determine if I had entered the Wada or if I was still outside, as the constructions near the main entrance had a distinct colonial feel. The wooden blind panels on the buildings reminded me of similar architectural features I had seen in Colonial Calcutta.
The towering trees, likely older than the nearby buildings, stand proudly. I entered the area that was pointed out to me as the office. Inside, I noticed a collection of aged wooden furniture, such as palanquins, wooden boxes, writing desks, and wooden bullock carts, scattered about. It dawned on me that this was the primary Wada. The structures I had seen outside were additional sections that functioned as a guest house during the time of British rule.
I received assistance from a man in charge of the location, who provided me with a brochure and requested the staff to unlock the wada for my visit. I had low expectations, only anticipating the presence of well-crafted wooden pillars in the Wada. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised when I initially caught sight of the intricately carved wooden pillars surrounding the front courtyard.
Chitnavis Wada is a historical building that consists of three courtyards connected to each other. This architectural design, known as a 3-Chowk Haveli or Wada, is reminiscent of the layout seen in Shekhawati Havelis. The first courtyard, also known as the First Chowk, is typically the public area where guests and individuals conducting business would visit. In the case of Chitnavis Wada, this outer courtyard served as the office space for the head of the family.
Chitnavis was a title given to the highest-ranking documentation officer of a king. The Chitnavis Wada, a building in Nagpur, was constructed by Rakhmaji Ganesh Randive, who held the position of Chitnavis for the Bhosle kings. Randive arrived in Nagpur in the year 1744 CE, accompanying Raghuji – I Bhosle. The architectural style of the Wada suggests that it is approximately 200 years old.
As I entered the initial courtyard of Chitnavis Wada, known as Deoghar Chowk, I was immediately immersed in a vibrant display of paintings. While the open area of the courtyard was now covered with wooden flooring, the surrounding corridor retained its calming mud flooring.
The walls were adorned with paintings that showcased the life of Krishna, who I later learned is the revered deity of the family. These paintings depicted various scenes from famous epics such as Mahabharata. Additionally, there were beautifully framed lithographs of Raja Ravi Varma's artwork.
Located in a corner of the courtyard, there stands a charming wooden temple that bears resemblance to various temples found in Rajasthan. This temple is devoted to Krishna and showcases remarkable beauty. Sitting in front of this temple allows one to feel completely encompassed by Krishna. The courtyard itself is appropriately named Deoghar Chowk, signifying it as the sacred space of the deity.
The next chowk we came across was called Family or Fountain Chowk. In the middle of this chowk, there was a beautiful fountain. Surrounding the fountain, there was a corridor with mud flooring. We took a seat by the fountain and appreciated the peaceful atmosphere of this part of the Wada. It was a cozy area where families would gather to share meals together. I could picture the women of the family coming here to have conversations or enjoy the warmth of the sun.
We entered through another entrance that led us to the final courtyard, which was most likely frequented by the household staff. This particular area used to house the kitchen. Evidence of its previous use can be seen in the grinding stone and grooves for pounding. Additionally, there is a well and a Tulsi plant present. Colorful Palkis (a type of traditional Indian carriage) were scattered about in this area.
One fascinating aspect is a tiny aperture in the wall that connects to the storage area for grains. By simply opening the window, one can easily access the necessary grains for cooking. This opening can also be referred to as a service chowk or the behind-the-scenes facilities that support the operation of the wada.
The Murlidhar Temple is located behind a door on the side of the chowk. In the past, it was common for large households to have their own personal temple dedicated to their family deity, and this wada is no exception. The Murlidhar Temple features a small garbhagriha and a shikhara in the traditional Nagar style. Inside the temple, the mandapa is adorned with numerous wooden pillars, a common sight in many temples in Nagpur. Additionally, there are small temples dedicated to Hanuman and Garuda on either side of the main temple.
Upon appreciating the inside of the Chitnavis Wada, we step outside and marvel at the exquisite woodwork showcased on its exterior. One notable feature is a suspended corner adorned with a peacock and parrot, which serves as a distinctive symbol of the skilled woodcarvers associated with this place. Additionally, the presence of Banana flower endings reminiscent of the Peshwa wadas in Pune adds to the overall charm of the woodwork.
The higher levels of the building are linked to the external guest accommodations. The guest houses, which have a colonial style, could have been utilized for entertaining or hosting Europeans. This section is attached to the main residence, but it is also distinct, forming a division between the family section and the guest section.
Across from the wada, there was a garden designed in the Charbhag style, with walking paths dividing it into four sections. The garden has lost some of its former magnificence, but I did discover a fascinating old hand pump that is still functional.
The top of the Wada building offers a vantage point to observe the inner courtyards and the Murlidhar temple. Additionally, it provides a stunning view of the city skyline. I visited the rooftop during sunset, and the charming red tiled roofs contributed to the overall atmosphere.
Throughout time, the current owners of the ancestral home have made efforts to incorporate contemporary amenities, such as bathrooms. A section of the Wada is utilized as an office space for different organizations. Additionally, they offer the space for rent for occasions like weddings or intimate gatherings. One can observe the use of wooden planks to serve food in a traditional manner.
Currently, the location mentioned is not accessible to the general public. To gain entry, it is necessary to reach out to the office of Sh Gangadhar Rao Chitnavis Trust. If you wish to explore the historical Wada, it is recommended to arrange a heritage tour with Architect Nitika Ramani.
The amount of time required to see it can vary from 1 to 2 hours, depending on how interested you are in
In the vicinity of Chitnavis Wada, there are numerous lanes where you can explore and come across a plethora of Wadas and temples.
In this article, the author discusses the presence of the Ramayana in the region of Vidarbha, specifically in Ramtek. They also highlight the architectural masterpiece of the Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneshwar. Additionally, the article mentions Matheran, a picturesque hill station in Maharashtra. The author expresses their gratitude for the information shared in the article.
I find your blog to be a gateway to the world. Your captivating narratives and breathtaking pictures have introduced me to hidden gems I was unaware of. Your talent for capturing the true essence of each place is truly extraordinary. Please keep sharing your adventures, as they constantly fuel my desire to explore new places!
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