Some buildings house stories of love, loss and a life lived dealing with the loss. The next destination of our walk is one such place.
As we come out of the Rukmini Temple Complex, towards the left, is a quaint building, that would normally fail to catch your attention. But if you stop to have a look at this old building, it will tell you stories of its glorious past. This quaint building is the famous Deshmukh Wada, that was once considered to be the cultural hub of Nagpur.
Baburao Deshmukh, the owner of this wada, was a great admirer of all forms of art, be it music, theater or painting. This wada was the place where he hosted many artists including legends like Bal Gandharva. Baburao Deshmukh was known in the city for his love for art and the hospitality he provided the artists. It is said that Baburao Deshmukh made sure that no artist left his house hungry.
When troupes of artists came to Nagpur to perform, Baburao Deshmukh hosted them in the Deshmukh wada. He actually had a separate chamber constructed, where the artists could stay before their shows. It was in this chamber that the tropes gave their first performance.
Most artists considered performing at the Deshmukh wada auspicious. It was a common belief among artists that if the performance at the Deshmukh wada went well, the shows around the city would also go smoothly.
Baburao Deshmukh liked to spend lavishly on elaborate pancha pakvanna meals and expensive perfumes for the artists he hosted. His lavish hospitality came from his admiration for all art forms.
Built as a combination of the Maratha and British styles of architecture, the Deshmukh wada is divided into two parts. The front portion of the wada served as the family residence, while the part of the wada that faces the main road was made for the artists.
In 1874, when Jamshedji Tata founded the Empress Mill in Nagpur, Baburao Deshmukh thought about the possibility of developing a mill culture in Nagpur. With this thought, he founded the Swadeshi Mill. He wanted the Swadeshi Mill to become a competitor for Tata’s Empress Mill. But Tata’s market superiority and quality was tough to beat, and the Swadeshi Mill slowly crumbled under the rising pressure and debts. Eventually, Tata took over the functioning of the Swadeshi Mill.
Even in the time when Baburao Deshmukh was close to bankruptcy, he did not compromise on the hospitality he provided the artists with. This speaks volumes about his passion for art.
Today, Baburao Deshmukh’s great great granddaughter-in-law stays alone in the wada.
This wada too, like the Rukmini temple complex, has blended seamlessly with the modern life around it.