Delhi’s rich heritage has often been an attraction for the historians. Though the city’s landscape is changing at a fast pace, it’s old quarters still have their original edifices, dating back to at least a hundred years.
With its typical galis, kuche and darwaze, the Old Delhi has several structures that are larger than life. It is in this Walled City that several havelis have existed through ages and seen Delhi from being under the Mughal empire to resurrecting post-Partition.
Standing tall outside them, and guarding them through thick and thin are the old, sturdy gates and doors of Old Delhi, which have a history as old as it’s exteriors and interiors.
Some have wood carvings while others have religious engravings and there are still others who have many a tales to tell. Though most of the havelis and their gates have been dismantled during various phases of reconstruction, these gates that exist today provide a glimpse into the glorious past of our city’s tradition.
“There are a lot of havelis in Old Delhi which are private properties and aren’t recorded in most of the Government maintained lists,” says Priya, programme consultant, Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Delhi Chapter. She adds, “Earlier we had installed signages on the havelis but soon they went missing. There is no recording of how old these gates of havelis are.”
Even a few history enthusiasts in the city emphasise on the urgent need to document the existence of these gates. “There’s a lot of speculation on the exact year when these gates of havelis were built. There is very little recorded history on them,” says Prianka Sihota, co-founder of The Delhi Way.
With hardly any records available on these havelis, we try and talk to the residents or neighbours, to know more about the history of these gates.
1. Sanjay Kuwatra’s Haveli
Located at Tehra Behram Khan near Golcha Cinema, haveli of Sanjay Kuwatra is in shambles but the gate, around 150 years old, stands tall in front. Kuwatra says, “It was in 1947 when my grandfather bought this haveli for just
Rs 4,400. It was really beautiful then but apart from the gate, nothing remains ever near to its original shape now.”
2. Religious carvings
Carvings on the doorpost depicting Lord Krishna. (Prabhas Roy/HT Photo)
Another gate, just 100 metres away from Kuwatra’s haveli, is an attraction. Although the door has been replaced with a new one, the carvings on the wall around and the doorpost has been left untouched. Depicting Lord Ganesha and Lord Krishna with his cow, it is one of the most intricate works that can be spotted. “The reconstruction work of this haveli has been started. We have already demolished the upper floor and are not sure when it was constructed but our owner says that it is around 200 years old,” says Feroz, caretaker of the haveli.
3. Khazanchi ki Haveli
The popular Khazanchi ki Haveli, near Dariba Kalan, Old Delhi. (Prabhas Roy/ Ht Photo)
The popular Khazanchi ki Haveli, near Dariba Kalan, is in ruins at present. Its gate is still in good condition. With intricate and beautiful carvings, the work around pillars are eye-catching. Sanjeev Kumar Sharma, resident of the haveli, says, “This haveli is 400 years old and we are surprised by the quality of the wood it has. Not even once have I seen termite affect the wood used in the gate and it is so heavy that we need two people to open or shut it.”
4. Next to Khazanchi ki Haveli
A gate right next to Khazanchi ki Haveli is as old as the haveli has an array of shops inside it. On being asked about it, one of the shopkeepers says, “This gate was constructed along with Khazanchi ki Haveli and it is as old as as the haveli. The carvings showcase architectural designs and colours that are amazingly impressive.”
Haveli near Dariba Kalan is among the oldest one. (Prabhas Roy/HT Photo)
5. Gate near Dariba Kalan
This haveli near Dariba Kalan belongs to a old woman. Though the owner didn’t reveal the details, a local Mukesh Sharma, says, “This haveli is among one of the oldest in Chandni Chowk. It’s architecture hardly as an equal in the nearby vicinity.” One look at the picture and his statement can’t be doubted!