I am sure that if you have travelled in India you certainly are familiar with at least the name of this huge city, Pune-termed many a times as the Oxford of east, the land of the Peshwas and in their local language as "punya nagari" which means "sacred town", but I am more than certain that not many know about "Vai". I wouldn’t have come to know about this place myself had it not been for the purpose of my architectural studies for the town has nothing more to offer as sight-seeing for tourists more than its rich "wada architecture".
I have begun on a dismal note about the place I am going to talk about in the rest of my article but I assure you that the experience that I wish to share with you is not so gloomy n dull indeed! Vai is a very small town on the way to Mahabaleshwar. It lies in the Satara district in Maharashtra. We got a bus to this place very quickly from the main bus stand in Pune but had to wait for a while till we could manage to get a seat for ourselves. It took us a little more than 2 hours to reach Vai.
We had our maps with us but were still lost. After several enquiries we were directed to the most important and significant structure of our study, "The wada of Nana Phadnavis". I cannot claim that it is an imposing, grand and enchanting structure for it was rather poorly maintained. But as an architect, one looks beyond the facade and once you do that, there is no doubt that you find this humble and unkempt structure truly "beautiful"! The wada planning has existed right from the time of the Marathas and flourished under the Peshwa rule. It is not very difficult to identify wada planning. In plan it would resemble 2 concentric rectangles, with the inner rectangle forming the courtyard, while in elevation, you can identify it as a one or two storied structure with sloping roof, corridors at the ground floor, sometimes, balconies on the floors above with the wooden post of the ground floors continuing above, wooden shutters for windows, some delicate detailing done on the brackets, posts and balcony railing and most importantly the extensive use of wood in the structure. The Wada of Nana Phadnavis, where none lives today, had all the beauty of the wada planning. Unfortunately, it has only those ruminating, sluggish cows to look and marvel at it every single day for a part of the wada is now converted to a cowshed.*
The plight of the rest of the wadas in Vai isn’t much different. A few fortunate ones have residents in them and therefore are better maintained yet these wadas cannot escape the damage caused due to renovation (mind you, renovation and not restoration!).
It is indeed a pity that the floral carving of the brackets, the excellent wooden floor, the deep rich redwood ceiling, the muddy courtyard et all is left to such a degree of negligence, for one might feel looking at this place, “Vai” worry huh?