Offer of sumptuous Mughlai dinner at heritage haveli (Mansion) – ‘Lakhori Haveli – Dharampura’ by my wife in a serene, somber and quiet environ was irresistible proposition which turns out to be a life-time experience. The exquisite Mughlai gourmet, pristine environs, redezvous in regal and heritage structure was not only out of world experience but it surpassed all our expectations.
(Picture : Lakhori Restaurant)
Dharampura Haveli (Mansion) is owned by BJP Member of Parliament (MP), Mr Vijay Goel and operated by ITC Welcome group, since its painstaking restoration of six year (2011-16). It is nested in narrow bylanes of Puani Dilli (old Delhi) behind Jama Masjid, 200 metres away, accessed through Gali Guliyan (incidentally name of my village happen to be Jiwana Guliyan – coincidental similarity) which opens in famed haveli through Gali Anar. It can be approached from Dariba Kalan (Jewellers market) through Kucha Seth also. Originally, owned by Muslim family and then constructed by a trading Jain family after purchasing it in 1887.
(Picture: Haveli before Restoration in 2010)
The Haveli is made of small shape and slim sized, Mughal era bricks called Lakhori– also known as Badshahi or Kakaiya bricks (contemporary to Nanak Shahi bricks of similar size used by Sikh Empire in Punjab) masoned in lime mortar. Lakhori bricks are almost 3/4th of the size of now prevalent British introduced bricks known as Ghumma bricks of size 9’ X 4.25’ X 2.75’. Area seems to have acquired name Dharampura (Dharam – religion) due to proximity of multifaith religious places in the vicinity namely – Jama Masjid, Fatehpuri Masjid, Sunheri Masjid, Gurudwara Shis Ganj, Gauri Shankar Temple, Jain Temple, Hanuman Temple and St. Stephen Church, Baptist Church etc. Fifty skilled workmen (earlier associated with Red Fort restoration) with intricate knowledge of Mughal architecture, after clearing 1000 truckload of rubble, restored the 14 room property to olden glory.
(Pictures : After restoration of Dharampura Haveli)
Entrance gate of the Dharampura haveli, carved in wood, is situated at an elevated height from street. An alley bifurcating the two symmetrical red stone Chabutaras (platforms) ushers in the heritage building. Small entrance room – Nakkar-khana (Entrance/Gateway) with small reception table and opposite wall covered by mirror, directs to big Aangan (court yard). I guess, ground floor Baithak (drawing room) has been converted into a nice restaurant called – Lakhori. Plaster has been kept on lower half of the wall with elegant biege coloured paint, while the wooden structure are covered in traditional blue and green hue. Lakhori bricks have been exposed at upper half portion of the wall, to give it rugged, primitive and heritage looks. Columns made of pink stone (‘Mayawati stone’ – Favourite of erstwhile UP Chief Minister) seems to have been erected at gates and load points to strengthen the structures. In between, cast iron rods have been used to support the dilapidated and crumbling structures. Small but steep glossy wooden staircases leads to upper floors. Verandahs abutting courtyard, ushers to rooms restored with very basic but elegant linen, minimalistic wooden furniture interspersed with modern amenities like lights, Air Conditioner and of course modern hamam (bath) but everything concealed in traditional designs. Aala (hole in wall) and khuntis (peg, hook), diya (lamps covered in earthen lamp lookalike) completes the interiors of the rooms of the bygone era. Carving of washroom out of existing rooms have not reduced vastness of room much. Rooftop/Terrace restaurant gives 360 degree view of interconnected concrete zigzag lineage of Dilli-6 rooftops as well as surrounding monuments – Jama Masjid and Lal Qila. Helical cast iron staircase of European design, rises to top most vantage point. Live dance performance of Kathak (Indian classical dance) and songs with Sarangi, Tabla, Tumba and other musical instrimuments sets the mood of the evening; taking you to the periods of mujras (courtesan dance) and mushairas (recitation in congregation of poets). There seems to be amalgation of late Mughal period architecture at core, with sufficient mix of Hindu Vastu (Architecture) and sprinkling of Goethic art and design in the Haveli.
(Picture : Dharam Pura Haveli)
Out of the nine cities of Delhi, Shahjahanabad – literal meaning city by Shahjahan (now called Purani Dilli or Delhi – 6) was one of the best planned new walled city at that time. It covered an area of 1500 acres (6.1 sq Kms), constructed between 1639 and 1648 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan; who transfered his capital city to Delhi from Agra due to paucity of space. Semi-circular design of city was partly inspired by Hindu Vastu shastra’s ‘karmuka’ or arched bow-shape design. Of course, at the the centre of this walled city of 14 gates encircled by 12 feet wide and 26 feet high wall (initial mud wall converted into stone wall in 1657) are Lal Quila (Red Fort) and Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) – two iconic royal buildings; manifestation of power and prayer respectively. Red Fort was initially called Urdu-I-Mualla and subsequently known as Qila-e-Mubarak (Blessed Fort). Red Fort, initially made of mud walls was ultimately constructed in red sandstone in eight years covering approx 125 acres of citadel-fortress.
(Picture : Lakhori Restaurant)
Centre of attraction of the capital city was mix-use residential (mohalla) cum commercial space (katras) – Chandni Chowk (Moonlit Square), famous for hustle and bustle of nobleman, amirs,mansabdars and common man. The boulevard promenade laid by Jahan Ara (daughter of Shahjahan), ran from Lahori gate of Red fort to Fatehpuri masjid measuring 40 yards wide and 1520 yards long. It was bisected in middle by beautiful canal Nahar-e-Bahisht (stream of paradise) fed through a tank by Yamuna river replicating paradise described in holy books. Adjacent Faiz Bazaar (now Dariya Ganj) was the other market place after famed Chandi Chowk and garrison hub of Mughal army.
(Picture : Arches, Columns of Mughal Architecture)
Shahjahanabad was home to a number of grand and royal havelis mostly owned by ‘Sahiban-i-saif-o-qalam’ (Men of sword and pen) i. e. Amirs and noblemen of the Mughal court. The front of these mansions were adorned by floral patterns, sculptures and fluted designs. Havelis normally featured a Naqqar-Khannah (entrance/gateway manned by musicians and soldiers), a library, shish mahal (glass house), diwan-khana (house of audience), hammam (bath), teh-khanna (underground summer house), garden, family mosque, and kar-khanas (workshops) employing artisans. Obviously, haveli housed multiple family rooms depending upon the rank and profile of owner. These havelis boasted of beautifully decorated jharokhas (small projected balconies or windows), chattris (umbrellas), Jalis (carved ventilators), fluted columns, well-designed chabutras (platforms), traditional baithaks (drawing rooms) and marble floor as distinctive features of the Mughal architectural styles. The havelis were generally set on a high platform above street level. The central portion of the buildings are the diwan-khana (drawing room). As imitations of imperial constructions, most of the havelis also had a profusion of gardens, fountains and fruit trees. The terraces were planned with a sense of purpose: apart from providing privacy. Khus (aromatic grass) screens, kept rooms constantly moist and helped in keeping the summer heat away while the fine stone screens (Jalis) with beautifully worked geometric patterns served as ventilators. Some of the large rooms had fireplaces; the smaller ones were heated with sigris (charcoal braziers) full of red-hot colas. Living in Shahjahanabad was a proviledge aptly described:
‘Kasra Zindgani shad bashad ki dar shab-e-jahan abad bashad.’ (the man who fortunately finds residence in the city of Shahjahanabad leads a happy life).
(Picture: Rooftop Terrace Restaurant)
Chandni Chowk frequented by Amirs and nobles, displayed delicious kebabs (minced meat balls), aromatic flowers, silver and glass huqqas ( waterpipes), gemstones and precious jewellery. Amirs visited dancers and singers in the dead of night riding on their elephants and horses, crowding lanes of Chandni Chowk. Lot of Amirs patronized artists, poets, painters, musicians, singers, calligraphers, dancers, rug-makers, weavers etc. These Amirs (Man of sword and pen) were typically assorted mix of administrative Hindus (kayasth, Khatri, Brahmins), Hindu warriors (Rajput, Marathas), Muslim administrators (Irani) and Muslim warriors (Afghan, Turanis). Mirza namah (Mirza roughly translates as gentlemen) details expected etiquettes, skills, manners and cultures of Amirs. During 1658-78, there were 179 Amirs in the Mughal Court, out of which 73 were Indians, followed by 64 Iranians, and 33 Turanis. Their manners were dictated in Mughal court by a manual called “zawabit-I huzur”. Sitting arrangement in the Mughal courts was also hiearchal and as per rank – starting with highest point for king’s throne, then prices seating in semi circle (seperated by 5 feet high gold rallings), then seated the Amirs (separated by silver rally of 5 feet) followed by low ranking mansabdar. Courts represented universe – king at centre of it as sun, princes as planets and Amirs as stars etc.
Main mansions (havelis) in 1739 at the time of attack of Nadir Shah were Safdar Jung Haveli (best haveli owned by Dara Sikoh bul later occupied by Safdar Jung – nominee of Abdali in India), Dara Sikoh library, Ali Mardan haveli (architect of Shahjahanabad – later occupied by daughter of Shahjahan – Jahan Ara), Lutftulla haveli, Shaista Khan (wazir – Minister of Shahjahan), Habshi Khan, Ghazi Ram (Astrologer of Shahenshah) etc.
(Picture : Huqqah – Tobbacco Clay-pipe)
Weakening of Mughal empire started after death of powerful Mughal badshah Aurangzeb (1707). But, the capital city started to decay and disintegrate due to plunder by Persian Nadir Shah (1739), and three attacks of Afghan lord Ahmed Shah Abdali (1752, 1756, 1961), multiple attacks of Marathas (1754, 1759, 1784, 1788) and Jats (1764) as well as due to fair share of natural calamities – rain, flood, earthquake and plague etc. Most of the havelis (mansions) were occupied initially by invaders as reward or gift of their triumph. Subsequently, these were occupied by traders and common citizen by dividing – each haveli in multiple residences called mohallas. The city called as Aalam-e-intikhab at its peak of glory by acclaimed Urdu poet Mir Taqi Mir (who took refuse in Lucknow after invasion of Ahmed Shah Abdali in 1739), described the sorry state of affairs of Dilli in mid 18th century:
Dehli jo aik shehr tha alam-e-intekhab
Rehte the muntakhib hi Jahan-e-Rozgar ke
Jisko falak ne loot kar barbaad kar diya
Hum rahnay walay hain us ujray diyar key