From havelis to bungalows and present-day apartments: The Gurugram Home
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From havelis to bungalows and present-day apartments: The Gurugram Home

The Gurugram house owner today vies for global architecture. But despite his western living, the construction of his house is still bound in tradition.

gurgaon Updated: Feb 04, 2019 15:49 IST
gurugram,havelis in gurgaon,farrukhnagar
The Sheesh Mahal in Farrukhnagar, near Gurugram. (Sanjeev Verma/HT File Photo )

The ‘Haveli type’ courtyard house existed in Gurgaon region and the rest of northern India since the Sindhu Saraswati (earlier termed Harappan) Civilisation and the ‘Villa type’ house developed later as an influence of the British bungalow. These are two historical paradigms for residential dwellings in northern India. Historically, the courtyard house of the nobles, termed a haveli in the medieval period, was subsequently replaced by the bungalow form developed by the British.

Towns in Haryana around Gurugram, such as Farrukhnagar, Sohna, Pataudi and elsewhere, still retain some historical havelis. Most of these existing havelis are typical 18th century Rajput-Jat- Marwari styles of architecture, and a glimpse of family life in these houses today takes us back to the traditional ways of living of a joint family system. The Seekhon ki Haveli belonging to a businessman in Farrukhnagar is one such example. It is rectangular in plan with a courtyard in the centre, with three staircases at different corners providing access to rooms on the upper floors. The courtyard used to be the centre of all family life in such havelis — the space for celebrating birth, weddings and festivals throughout the year.

Colonial influences resulted in the transformation of the traditional courtyard house into the British bungalow where the courtyard was thrown out and the form became entirely extrovert. Some typical bungalow examples with Indo-Saracenic architectural styles developed during the British period can be found in the Civil Lines area in Gurugram. Most of these are now adopted as official government houses and retained to a large extent, but a few private ones are demolished to make way for more modern homes or apartments. In the bungalows of the mid-19th century and onward, the functional aspects became more significant. Furniture moved inside the house and the inner courtyard disappeared, giving way to an extrovert form opening into large surrounding open areas mediated by a colonnaded verandah. The external verandah became as intrinsic feature of the Bungalow house as the courtyard was of the Indian haveli.

In the post-independence scenario, when this bungalow form is translated into the government by-laws in HUDA sectors or builders’ colonies — the rectangular residential plots are left with only a small portion of built-up area between the front and rear setback. These prevalent rules often completely negate the possibility of a courtyard in the centre or a verandah in the front. So, a new hybrid residential form has mushroomed in Indian cities like Gurugram within the parameters of indigenous tradition and colonial zoning that still dictates the setbacks for residential plots in the town and country planning departments.

The Gurugram house owner, as well as the architect, today vies more for a global architectural imagery as the ideal representation of a house façade. But despite the intake of western of living, the construction of current Gurugram houses are still bound in tradition, thus perpetually trying to achieve a balance between deep-rooted Indian customs and newly adopted western comforts. Strangely, in their Italian villa or French chateau prototype apartment, the house owner still performs the Hindu fire ritual of Griha Pravesh, while the fire alarm needs to be adjusted.

The traditional habit of washing hands one’s hands in the plate after a meal induces a person to have a washbasin in the dining area of their Italian villa. Additional stores with the kitchen or the bedroom are often essentials. The puja or meditation space has to definitely be allocated in the most modern house. And most of all, despite having a complete western layout with defined spaces like bedrooms, dining and living rooms, the house owner still does not adhere to strict usage of these spaces. His use of inner spaces is still as flexible as it was when he lived in a haveli. Thus, the master bedroom in most Indian houses today can very well be used as the dining place, if the television happens to be located there or it can become the living room if close family friends are visiting. He still has a need for constructing a boundary wall and placing a nameplate on the house gate. It is this deep-rooted need for self identity that makes the house owner place his nameplate outside along with the house number or create a high boundary, norms rarely found in western countries. His traditional way of living needs to be assimilated with his aspirations for western conveniences and adaptations. And the Gurugram architect needs to understand this search for the reconstructing identity of the Gurugram-dweller in the post-global world to achieve the ideal home.

Shikha Jain is state convenor, INTACH Haryana Chapter and member of Heritage Committees under ministries of culture and HRD. She is co-editor of ‘Haryana: Cultural Heritage Guide’; director, DRONAH (Development and Research Organisation)

First Published: Feb 04, 2019 15:48 IST