Owning a penthouse on the 117th story of a residential building may define the lifestyle of the rich and the famous in Mumbai today but there was a time when a person's station in life was gauged by the wada or the stately homes that he owned in the state.
In the heydays of the Peshwa rule in Maharashtra during the 18th and the 19th century, the homes of those who had wealth or who held high office were built to inspire awe.
"To call the wadas of Maharashtra as just homes is a misnomer," says Professor Mustansir Dalvi, who has curated the exhibition of archival drawings of Wadas of Maharashtra.
"Often these stately homes had public space components like a darbar hall or a temple and became the focal point and hub of activity of the surrounding countryside," he adds.
Most of these wadas that once stood in the significant cities of Maharashtra's history like Pune, Nashik, Sangli, Satara, Ahmednagar and Khed have fallen either due to neglect or due to pressures of real estate.
Some of these wadas survive only in the archival drawings by students of Sir J.J. College of Architecture that are on display at an exhibition at the Claude Batley Gallery. The students of the college had made these drawings between 1929 and 1946 by taking elaborate measurements of the existing wadas.
Essentially, these stately homes were built around colonnaded courtyards, simple on the exterior and with the mazghar as the main room for reception and recreation.
Wadas built in the urban areas were different from those in the rural ones.
Those in the rural area had high walls and bastions or buruj for protection. "The wadas in the urban areas had decorative frontage with a lot of ornamentation detailing that was influenced by the temple and Islamic architecture. These are fine examples of the handiwork of the craftsmen of the time," adds Dalvi. Of these, the wadas with elaborate woodcraft on their facades can be seen at Wai, Palghar and Pune. Mumbai does not have any wada but elements of one can be seen in a in a town house from the 19th century in Phanaswadi near Grant Road that has an decorative frontage and the sloping roof of a wada.
College students who have put together the exhibition, have photographed the wadas – most of them in a sorry state.