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History In A Home

Greenwoods, owned by the Piramals, is a beautifully restored retreat that combines Victorian-Maratha architecture

2/2/2016 2:57:23 PM
written By : Basabi Banerjee Print

Captains of industry, Ajay and Swati Piramal, combine supreme business acumen with a passion for the arts and conservation. Their sublime summer home, Greenwoods, perched on a mountain slope in Mahabaleshwar, is testament to their love of history, heritage and sensitive restoration. In this little piece of heaven where the bracing climate is a welcome change from the heat and humidity of the plains, the Piramals organise a board retreat once a year to which the directors’ spouses are invited. While the board discusses the company’s business, Swati ensures that the spouses never have a dull moment, filling their weekend with meaningful activities that leaves their hearts, souls and brains nourished!

When the Piramals first contemplated buying the erstwhile Maharaja of Sangli’s summer retreat, it was a forlorn dilapidated Victorian-Maratha estate reeling from the effects of neglect. A few years on, painstaking work with a team of architects, conservationists and horticulturists has restored the nineteenth century property to its former magnificence. Ancient structures have been preserved and strengthened and the property has been imbued with art and a sense of history. Maratha valour is celebrated with evocations of the warrior king Shivaji whose legacy inspired many during the Indian Independence movement; homage is paid to British dignitaries who contributed to the development of Mahabaleshwar and Maratha craftsmanship is feted; the paintings in the Paithani suite for instance, pay tribute to an ancient weaving tradition which the Piramals are helping to preserve. 

Built in 1862 and known as ‘Sanglikar’ to the locals, Greenwoods is mentioned in a venerable old tome in the British Museum. Its blend of English country and Maratha architectural styles is redolent of a period in Indian history when the colonial rulers established several hill stations to which they and the Indian elite could retreat in the searing summer months. Greenwoods’ Victorian features, arched Gothic windows, grouped chimneys and stained glass panels, complement local characteristics like the wide verandah, exemplifying the leisurely lifestyle of the aristocrats in the 1860s.

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