Haveli restored to past glory

New structure will house two restaurants, hookah room

Haveli restored  to past glory
Changes had been made in the majestic structure to suit owners’ requirements

Once boasting of its grandeur and royalty, it was reduced to an ordinary run-down building and given a name, Teen Chowki ki Haveli (mansion), to serve as a popular landmark in the locality and a guide to the visitors of the narrow lanes of the walled city of Old Delhi.

This 128-year-old mansion, believed to have been built in 1887 AD in the then Shahjahanabad city of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, silently witnessed its fading majesty and constant dilapidation for want of adequate attention, as its ownership passed on from one to another with the passage of time.

It had endured the burden of ignorance for years coupled with damaging alterations to its magnificent structures done to only suit the requirements of its subsequent owners. Now, the mansion is again back to its glory and medieval charm. With its new identity―“Dharampura Ki Haveli”,― the three-storeyed mansion is ready to narrate its history along with the story of transition of Shah Jahan’s royal capital from the city of Shahjahanabad to today’s cluttering lanes of Old Delhi, which serves as a symbolic heart of the national capital with remnants of structures and monuments of 17th to 18th century lying scattered all over as reminder of the past.

Located at a stone’s throw from Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India built during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan between 1644-1656 AD, the refurbished haveli built on 1,600-yard land with 13 palatial living rooms, two big courtyards, a library and an art gallery among various other features will now serve as a cultural centre for the tourists and lovers of heritage buildings and architecture.

To be opened for visitors in February, the grand haveli, will also house two restaurants, one hookah room, a handicraft shop and a spa. The visitors can enjoy the traditional sports of Chandni Chowk such as kabootarbazi and kite-flying.

The credit for its resurrection goes to Bharatiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha MP  Vijay Goel as he started painstaking work for restoration of the crumbling haveli funding it because of his “love and passion” for heritage buildings and architecture.

Challenging task

Goel, who floated non-profit organisation Heritage India Foundation a few years back, bought it 10 years ago but kept it as it is because its refurbishment always appeared to him as a challenge in view of the  damage done to its original structure. As his son Siddhant Goel kept on motivating him, he decided to take the challenge and began restoration work. “I am a lover of heritage. It’s my passion. My journey began with the restoration the of 400-year-old mansion of my ancestors in Sonipat in past. I was quite dismayed at the deplorable condition of this building in Chandani Chowk when I saw it for the first time. I was not sure if its restoration was possible. But my son kept on insisting, making me one day decide to take the challenge,” he told Deccan Herald.

Though the haveli , a unique example of residential buildings of 19th century planned around a central courtyard, was in a worst condition, with the structure being overloaded with several “ad hoc and inappropriate” additions and alterations on every floor. “RCC chajjas were made inside the rooms to provide storage area. The rooms were badly organised and divided into smaller rooms to accommodate toilets, kitchens.  The service connections, including open pipes, hanging wires, added to the chaos waiting for calamity to happen any time,” Goel recalled.

The doors and windows were blocked while the walls had large patches of dampness due to lack of any maintenance. Projected balconies were severely damaged and precarious. At upper level, the roof had collapsed due to uneven loading. There were long vertical cracks in the masonry walls. The wooden purlins and joists were sagging. Some of the red sandstone brackets supporting the first floor level balcony were pulverised. The original arched openings were filled up with brick masonry or wooden partitions.

“Decorative plasterwork was hidden due to multiple coats of lime wash. Stone columns were painted with thick coats of synthetic paints obliterating details. Wooden doors and windows frame and shutters had completely decayed. The original glass panes were either missing or broken,” Goel said. 

Originally the haveli, with an intimate layout, separate courtyards meant for Mardana and Janana and with intricate ornamentation, was once symbol of pride and prosperity of the “local Jain community,” the BJP leader said. It was primarily a load-bearing structure built in traditional technique with thick walls of lakhori bricks masonry, wooden joist ceiling covered with lime concrete floor and cleverly designed arches for uniform load distribution.

“It was extremely painful to witness its deteriorated condition. And standing inside it, we were absolutely clueless on how and where to start the restoration. Clearly there was a big challenge but unfailing will too, to not only restore the original glory of the haveli but also sustain it for years to come. It took nearly 6 years, 24/7 working by 50-odd workmen, under regular and personal supervision to achieve the result,” he said.

Dharampura, the name of the mohalla that the restored haveli bears now, has its own significance in its history as it has several famous religious shrines belonging to Hindu, Muslim and Christians, lending its narrow streets a genuine cultural harmony and co-existence of people of different religious belief. To name a few, the haveli is surrounded by Digamber Jain Lal Mandir, built in 1807, Christian Baptist Church established in 1814 and an old Sikh Gurudwara. “The haveli will be open to receive visitors in February. We have made a lot of arrangements for tourists,” Goel said.  

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