The gullies of Chandni Chowk usually strikes a vibrant image, with busy streets, shopping haats and the overpowering aroma of delectable street food engulfing the atmosphere. Every nook and cranny is regarded as a historical reminder of the grander times that the capital witnessed.
The capital city has been known as a central hub of arts and culture since time immemorial. While the younger generations might be more familiar with the city’s glamour and increasingly popular hot spots, the charm and timeless architecture of old Delhi holds a special place in our hearts.
Brimming with tourists, students, and history enthusiasts, Purani Dilli is home to Chandni Chowk’s hidden trove of stunning havelis. Built in the 17th century, the market enchants you with glitzy lights and the teeming sounds of a regular Delhi bazaar. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the crowds fool you; the gullies of the historic market harbour some of the finest havelis built in the Mughal era.
Havelis have been passed down through generations; while some are renovated into flats, the rest have been preserved by families and are open for public viewing. These havelis consist of an aangan (courtyard) to play in, a chajja (balcony) that overlooks the street, and a Jharokha (window) filtering in sunlight.
Ghalib Ki Haveli
One of the most cherished poets in Hindi and Urdu, Mirza Ghalib lived in Delhi from 1860 to 1869. His quarters, aptly recognised as Ghalib Ki Haveli is a 300-year-old property in Ballimaran. Legend says the haveli was gifted to the poet by a Hakim (physician) because he was an avid admirer of Ghalib’s poetry. A statue of Ghalib smoking a hookah marks the entrance of the Haveli, followed by giant wooden doors that are adorned with Mughal lakhori (kiln-fire) stonework. The haveli turned museum houses a few of Ghalib’s possessions and features walls inscribed with Ghalib’s poetry, along with two original manuscripts on display.
Begum Samru Ki Haveli
Once a symbol of magnificence, Begum Samru Ki Haveli is now a branch of Lloyd Bank. Begum Samru Ki Haveli in Chandni Chowk once had nine grand fountains, lush gardens, Mughal, Greek, and Roman architectural influences, winding staircases, and wide-open terraces. Begum Samru was trained as a dancer under a popular courtesan Khanum Bai of Chawri Bazaar.
In the midst of the busy area of Bhagirath Palace, which is home to many electronic shops, street vendors and banks, the dilapidated Begum Samru Ki Haveli stands as a memory of the grandeur of the past. The Greek-influenced staircase is filled with vendors and paan stains reports Travel.earth.
Today, the building is only a shadow of what it used to be. The symbol of Begum Samru’s grandeur has gone through decades of neglect, demarcated by hoardings, rackish display boards, and advertisements. The once royal haveli stands forlorn and visible only to those who are acquainted with its past.
Zeenat Mahal at Lal Kuan Bazaar, named after the third wife of Bahadur Shah Zafar is another such Haveli that now stands dilapidated. The gateway of Zeenat Mahal is declared as a notified heritage (grade I) building, as per the 2010 list of heritage sites under the jurisdiction of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. This doesn’t appear to mean much, however, as the haveli stands in shambles.
Only the rusting door and two balconies remain of the Mughal establishment, which once offered an eagle-eye view of the street to the women of the haveli. Since then, traders and vendors have set up shop, an all-girls school came up in 1979, and a few six-storey buildings have risen from the ground that was once the queen’s palace reports Indian Express.
If you find yourself heading to Delhi anytime soon, we suggest taking a walk down this historical lane and getting acquainted by way of the array of heritage tours and walkarounds. Grab the chance to explore the culture and architecture that stands as a vital part of the homegrown landscape.
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