Rangubai Bhosale was born to Ramachandra Rao and Balabai Bhosale,a farmer family,in 1895 in Balekundri village. Rangubai lost her father at the age of 5 and this fateful event brought Balabai with little Rangu to Belgaum.
With no place to stay,they took shelter at the steps of the Basavanna temple for over a month. Rangubai was enrolled in a school at an early age and was a seeker of knowledge.
Balabai started selling butter in the weekly Saturday markets to make ends meet. Business flourished and Balabai would travel frequently to Pune to deliver butter to Chiman Shethji, sometimes accompanied by Rangubai.
During one of their visits,Rangubai was intrigued with Shethji’s other business of assessing the genuinity of pearls and diamonds. He taught her the art and also helped in setting up her own shop in Pune. She was appreciated for making her mark in the otherwise male-dominated profession.
In 1920, Laxmanrao Bhosale of Nagpur visited Pune and was impressed with Rangubai’s skills of assessing the pearls/diamonds. He invited her to settle in their Wada in Nagpur. During their stay, Laxmanrao’s mother fell ill and Rangu started studying Ayurveda and later started her own manufacturing unit producing Ayurvedic medicines.
Few personal events led to Rangubai returning to Belgaum. She started her own ‘Maharashtra Aushadh Kaarkhaana’ in 1924.
As the business grew, Rangubai started planning a bigger space and with the help of Engineer Raosaheb Aaraas, the foundation stone of the present-day Rangubai Palace was laid in 1927.
The building has an eclectic nature with elements of neo-Gothic and neo-classical coming together. The cast iron railings were custom made with the name of the palace and Rangubai’s portrait. The construction is in a combination of black basalt and beige coloured stones with jack arch slab construction.
The palace was set within a compound wall with a pair of marble lions stationed at the gate. The compound was taken over during road widening. The second floor was planned as a Diwaankhaana with galleries for women to sit and hall for various cultural programmes.
Rangubai also had her own theatre company ‘Chittarkarshak Naatak Company’ for a brief period. On 8th June 1929,Laxmanrao Bhosale inaugurated the palace. However,work in the palace was over only by 1932.
A printing press was set up in the palace by the name ‘Lokamitra’ during the election period in 1937 in which she contested. She lost the elections but was the first woman to be elected in the Belgaum Municipality later.
The palace was used as a recruiting centre by the Maratha Light Infantry during WWII.
12th October 1962 Rangubai passed away in Miraj and was brought to Belgaum for her last rites. She believed that only education can empower citizens and eradicate poverty. Rangubai Saheb Bhosale Trust was made in 1937 and she kept her promise of donating her life savings to the betterment of the Bahujans. Since 1966, Rangubai Bhosale Girls Schools runs in the palace.
Source – T. B.Pingat’s ‘Tyagamurti Rangubai Bhosale’
Location – Shree Rangubai Palace,Ramling Khind galli