After the success of Hindi film Bajirao Mastani last year, many thought at last some steps will be taken to protect Baji Rao Peshwa-I’s cenotaph in Khargone district from submerging under Narmada water. But soon it turned out to be a false hope.
The edifice, built 276 years ago on the river banks after Baji Rao died of high-fever at the district’s Raverkhedi village, is slowly turning into a watery grave due to construction of the Maheshwar dam on the Narmada river.
After Hindustan Times raised the issue in 2013, the then senior general manager of Shri Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Limited (SMHPCL), IC Jain had assured that a retention wall would be built around the Samadhi to protect it. The SMHPCL was previously engaged in building the dam.
No such wall has still been made to protect the Archeological Survey of India (ASI)– listed monument in the past three years.
The Bollywood periodic romantic movie based on the romance between Baji Rao and his second wife Mastani generated lot of interest across the country about the Peshwa who played a crucial role in expanding Maratha empire.
But no measures have been taken to protect historical places related to the Peshwa to attract tourists.
Gourav Mandloi, a member of Shrimant Baji Rao Pehwa Jan Kalyan Samiti, a local committee that has been working to protect the monument, said, “It’s sad to see how the Samadhi is being ignored. It holds immense historical importance. A Rs 8 crore project was sanctioned to build a three-side retention wall. But so far only the base of one side of the wall has been constructed.”
The project is now implemented by the Power Finance Corporation (PFC).
Speaking to the Hindustan Times, chief general manager SMHPCL Asad Jaffar admitted, “The condition (of the Samadhi) is very bad. There were plans to build a retention wall around it. But it could not be built then due to lack of funds.”
He also warned that if the wall is not constructed the damage caused to the monument will be irreversible.
Lack of fund is still holding back the construction of the wall. “Tenders for the project have already been passed. The hydel project has been stalled for a long time. It may start by the end of December. Once there is a flow of funds, it will barely take four to five months to build the wall,” said an official on the condition of anonymity.
HT also tried in vain to reach ASI Bhopal circle chief Zulfikar Ali to get his views on measures taken to protect the monument. But when contacted junior conservation assistant Gopal Sharma told the HT that he was not aware of any project being initiated to protect the historic monument.
Heritage left in the lurch
Maratha general Bajirao I never lost a single war in his brief kingdom of 20 years.
He contributed hugely in the expansion of Maratha territories in the north and elsewhere.
He breathed his last on April 28, 1740 at Raverkhedi at his camp while inspecting his Jagirs.The Samadhi was constructed by the Scindias to pay a tribute to their General who defeated almost all foreign political powers in India during that period.
The Samadhi, apart from being his memorial, is a marvellous piece of Maratha style architecture built at the banks of river Narmada.