Amid the modern buildings and haphazard constructions of Delhi, a corner of the city is adorned by age-old havelis — a reminiscence of what Delhi once was. Sadly, most part of the Walled City of Delhi remains its past only. The only interruption to that is an underground metro rail network.
But a stroll down any lane of Old Delhi would lead you to one famous haveli or the other. Lanes and bylanes are by no means easy to navigate with bad traffic and an endless crowd but a few enquiries and a small ride on a cycle rickshaw may help. Though most of the havelis of Shajahanabad got destroyed in the mutiny of 1857, few famous ones still standing strong are Ghalib’s Haveli (where he spent last years of his life), Zeenat Mahal’s haveli, Begum Samru’s Kothi, Namak Haram Ki Haveli and Neharwali Haveli (the ancestral home of General Perwez Musharraf).
A few of the havelis have been renovated, either by descendants or government after media attention and are definitely worth visiting for their splendid architecture and history. Amongst other heritage structures, Masterji ki haveli now welcomes visitors to spend their time experiencing the Mughal lifestyle. Kashmiri Haveli has been redone by The Heritage Society and it also organises cultural programmes while Ghalib’s haveli displays the poet’s memorabilia.
Seth ramlal Ki haveli
Bygone times: The haveli that was built around the 1850s, now wears a more contemporary look. The renovation which began earlier this year has retained the 19th century details. A grade-II heritage building, it is being renovated by Seth Ramlal’s nephew Devaki Nangal Bagla and the process is still on. The restoration brings out the prominence of the courtyard, brick vaults and jaalis, multifoliated arches and curved entrances with grand facade. The haveli displays a charming mix of past and present.
Where: Chhota Bazar, Kashmere Gate
Cultural confluence: Till 2007, the haveli was inhabited by Kashmiri Pandits who moved to lesser congested parts of the city. The ground floor dates back to 1860s while the first floor was constructed around 1930s during British times. The renovation work of the haveli by The Heritage Society was completed last year and now it welcomes visitors and organises cultural programmes.
Like other havelis of the time, it has its roof supported by timber and arches. On the walls hang maps of 19th century. Greenery in courtyard adds to the haveli. There is also a shop that sells books specifically on the city and its heritage and also stocks traditional garments and jewellery. In the bylanes nearby, there is also Haksar Haveli where Jawaharlal Nehru got married.
Where: Gali Kashmiriyan, Sitaram Bazar, Nearest metro is Chawri Bazar