Lesser known marvels of Maratha Architecture

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Maratha Architecture is often associated to merely forts and palaces. But the mightly Maratha Kingdom is responsible for many more architectural marvels than just forts or palaces. The architecture of any Kingdom is a strong indicator of not only the culture, but also the knowledge of art, science, technology and more importantly it gives an idea of the political stability of the kingdom. The Maratha rule is categorized in to phases as the Chhatrapati rule and Peshwa rule or Maratha Confederacy. Although, these two phases are of the same Maratha rule, we observe noticeable differences in the monumental construction. During the Chhatrapati rule we observe more emphasis given on the construction of forts and palaces, while in the later period we see extensive development in the architecture of temples and other religious places. This phenomena suggests about the political instability of the Maratha rule in the initial phase since they were constantly equipped with tensions with the Mughals, Nizam, Adilshahi, British as well as the Portuguese. Until the Peshwas became the decision makers, the Maratha rule had become comparatively stable and hence, it was possible to enhance the Kingdom further.
Since 2005, the world celebrates Oct 5 as World Architecture Day to celebrate the legacy of world's great architectural heritage. The theme for this year's celebration is 'Housing for all - A better urban future' considering the issue of homelessness that has emerged as a striking problem during the pandemic. On the occassion, let us put light on some of the lesser known architectural marvels of the Maratha rule.
1. Bara MotachiVihir, Satara

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The village Limb lies at the very beginning of the Satara district while travelling from Pune to Bangalore on NH48, in Waitaluka. After the Battle of Khed, when the Maratha Kingdom got divided into two thrones ruled by ChhShahu and descendants of ChhRajaram separately, the cities of Satara and Kolhapur functioned as the capitals of the Kingdom respectively. Therefore, both the regions are monumentally rich and one can explore many beautiful architectural works here which are not as much famous as they should be. Bara MotachiVihir is one such royal stepped well in the Limb village of Satara. According to the stone inscription present on the wall of the well, it was built during the reign of ChhShahu, by a woman called Virubai. The beautiful well from an aerial view may seem to be constructed in the shape of Shivlinga. The primary purpose of the well seemed to feed the large mango orchard whereby the well is located but the detailing given to its design is jaw dropping. In architectural terms, we see an impression of Rajasthani style of Architecture in the form of beautiful Jharokas. In fact, such royal wells are a speciality of Rajasthani architecture but during Maratha rule a few of such wells are seen to be built in Maharashtra as well. Besides, nowhere were the original standards of the style put down.
2. SangameshwarGhat, Satara

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As the name suggests, the temple is located at the confluence of rivers Krishna and Venna in Satara, to the East of the Satara city. This temple too is associated with ChhShahu as he had donated the land to one of his ministers Shripatrao Pant Pratinidhi who is credited to have constructed the beautiful Ghat with a group of temples. The main temple is dedicated to Vishweshwara who is believed to be a form of Shiva. The monument is a grand structure and a must visit because of the magnificent architecture. The domes and pillars are a strong feature of the temple. Besides there are beautiful sculptures sculpted at every possible spot. The temple is articulated with intricate designs. The marvelous 'Deepstambh' will definitely catch one's eye. As it is a Shiva temple, there is a huge Nandi Mandap at the entrance of the temple. The artists have not left a single spot to carve with their art. A visit to the beautiful MahuliSangam at Satara is an extremely eye - pleasing experience that one should not miss in this lifetime.
- HimaliNalawade