FEBRUARY 21, 1969


Mowlana Hazar Imam accompanied by Prince Amyn Mohammed arrived in India on February 21, 1969. The next day in the presence of a distinguished audience Mowlana Hazar Imam handed over the historic AGA KHAN PALACE at Poona to Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Fund through the Government of India.

The palace which was built about 72 years ago occupies an area of about 65 acres in the Yarwada area of Poona. The palace was begun during the days of famine in 1897 by Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah so as to provide employment to the famine stricken people. The palace is estimated to have cost about 12 lakhs in those days. The construction of the palace was supervised by Mata Saalmaat Lady Ali Shah. After its completion it was decorated in the Iranian style and precious Iranian Carpets were spread on its floors and valuable chandeliers hung from its ceilings. The walls of the palace were decorated with countless artistic pictures and paintings and the whole palace is surrounded by magnificent gardens.

Though Hazrat Sultan Mahomed Shah lived mostly in Europe, the Aga Khan Palace was always a centre of activities. Many Princes and Nawabs of India stayed there as guests and when Price Aly Khan came to India in 1923 at the age of 12 alongwith his mother, they also stayed at the Palace. The Aga Khan Palace jumped into history when Mahatma Gandhi following the Quit India movement of 1942 was arrested and imprisoned alongwith his followers at the palace. His wife Kasturba died in the palace in 1944 and the Mahatma's Private Secretary Mahadev Desai also died here. Both Kasturba and Mahadev Desai were cremated in the grounds of the Palace and later Samadhis were put up by Hazrat Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah at his own cost.

The Aga Khan Palace has therefore acquired a unique position in history of India and has become a pilgrimage and a place of shrine for the many hundreds of visitors who visit it weekly.

Mowlana Hazar Imam during his last visit to Delhi in November, 1967 expressed his desire to hand over the palace to the Nation and the Indian Parliament welcomed this decision in December, 1967. The members of the Parliament said in their statement "THE AGA KHAN DESERVES CONGRATULATIONS ON HIS DECISION TO HAND OVER THIS PALACE TO THE COUNTRY ON THE OCCASION OF GANDHIJI'S BIRTH CENTENARY. THE AGA KHAN HAS WON THE HEARTS OF ALL INDIANS BY THE TRANSFER OF THE PALACE WHICH CONTAINS A MEMORIAL TO KASTURBA GANDHI.

Thus a new chapter was added to the 1400 year old history of the Ismaili Community.

Source: Ismaili Mirror

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