The Haveli Architecture

The historic Haveli, spread over 500 square yards, was designed in the architecture of the Mughal style, around a central courtyard with elaborate woodwork decorations. It was initially intended to feature a mix of residential and commercial uses. The lower ground floor shops opened to the street, and the remaining stories were constructed as residences. The ground level with a grand entrance and the first story was built at the same time, while the second floor was a later addition in the mid-20th century.

Before the Revamp

The Haveli, which once boasted grandeur and nobility, has been reduced to a run-down edifice with unidentifiable areas and a crumbling framework. The structure, erected in 1887 AD, was abandoned and in poor condition. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi labelled the building hazardous after it acquired extreme moisture due to rising water levels on all floors. The antique woodwork had deteriorated as a result of this, as well as normal ageing. 

The rooms were disorganized and partitioned into smaller rooms to accommodate toilets, kitchenettes, and other amenities. The service connections, such as exposed pipes and dangling cables, contributed to the turmoil, awaiting disaster at any moment. It also caused the original roof to fall, shattering the entire structure and adding to the renovation burden.

The doors and windows were obstructed, and the walls had enormous spots of wetness and extensive vertical fissures. Multiple applications of lime wash obscured decorative masonry work. Thick coatings of synthetic paint were applied to stone columns without obliterating the intricacies. The original glass panes were either damaged or missing. Haveli Dharampura posed a pitiful sight.

Timeline of restoration: Haveli Dharampura, New Delhi - Sheet1
Historic Haveli_©Bharat Aggarwal
Timeline of restoration: Haveli Dharampura, New Delhi - Sheet
Mughal Style Architecture_©Bharat Aggarwal

Resurrecting the Former Glory of the Iconic Haveli Dharampura

The purpose of restoring this Haveli was to combine ancient construction methods with current understanding to maintain the architectural legacy. The preservation of the land’s potential archaeological deposit was always a major concern. There was a significant task, but there was also an unwavering determination to not only restore the Haveli’s former splendour but also to sustain it for many years to come. Vijay Goel, MP and Heritage India Foundation president, and his son Siddhant Goel along with architect Kapil Agarwal spent six long years restoring a haveli in the heart of this conundrum.

Challenges

The Goels had the daunting job of resurrecting the Haveli. The severe rains exacerbated the issue. As an emergency step to avoid further collapse of the structure, supports and jacks were used to hold the damaged walls, and the building was covered with tarpaulin.

Another issue they faced was finding masons since traditional building construction employed chuna (lime plaster), which was no longer widely used. However, neighbouring conservation work at Red Fort allowed them to hire 50 masons with the necessary experience. It took about 6 years of continuous effort by these workers under regular and personal supervision to achieve the desired result of the Haveli Dharampura, New Delhi.

Restoration Methods

These masons knew how to make lime mortar by combining pozzolanic materials and additions including belgiri, gursheera, sun (jute fiber), methi, and daal. All shattered and collapsed walls and roofs were reconstructed using the same materials as the originals. 

While restoring the haveli, the preservation of the original character was the main concern. All conservation work adhered to fundamental principles such as minimal intervention in the historic fabric and care for historic pieces of evidence, which are outlined in several international charters for the conservation of historical sites and monuments. All new repairs used conventional procedures such as indenting, replacing damaged stone with new in the same material and carving, and refitting undamaged stone in its original spot.

The original lakhori (kiln baked) brick masonry was discovered to be in good condition and was preserved and reinforced with a waterproofing coating. Long deep fractures in some areas of the walls were patched with MS (mild steel) bars using a cross-stitching method, while gaps and holes in the masonry were filled with lime mortar by gravity grouting. Furthermore, the sandstone brackets were reinforced and kept; the cast iron railings were created in Jaipur as a reproduction of the Shahjahani style; the entry wooden door was carved in Shekhavati.

Timeline of restoration: Haveli Dharampura, New Delhi - Sheet3
Retaining the columns_©Bharat Aggarwal

Drawings and pictures of the archival quality of the physical works carried out throughout rehabilitation have been kept at all times as a record of valuable history. All of the ancient furniture discovered before reconstruction has been meticulously maintained, and a new one has been designed in the beautiful manner of the time to which the haveli belongs. The conservation architect permitted the use of herbicides to clear excess vegetation in the haveli.

Timeline of restoration: Haveli Dharampura, New Delhi - Sheet4
Preservation of the original character_©Bharat Aggarwal
Timeline of restoration: Haveli Dharampura, New Delhi - Sheet5
Restored structure_©Bharat Aggarwal

The Current Glory

It bagged the ‘Best Heritage Property in Delhi’ at the 12th World Annual International Travel Awards. It was also awarded the 2017 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation. The haveli presently features 13 rooms for visitors and historical enthusiasts to experience Old Delhi’s distinct and colorful culture. It also features two restaurants providing street food specialties and Mughlai cuisine, one with a Lakhori Bricks interior and one on the rooftop, from where all of Chandni Chowk’s famous landmarks, including the Red Fort, can be seen. There is also an art gallery and a venue for other cultural manifestations.

Timeline of restoration: Haveli Dharampura, New Delhi - Sheet7
Hotel Rooms_©Bharat Aggarwal
Lakhori Bricks interior_©Bharat Aggarwal

The Goels want it to be a cultural center as well as an information hub where individuals and students may learn about restoration. It will also serve as a venue for art exhibitions and fashion shows/pop-up boutiques. Consider this haveli to be a museum, library, history center, and performance venue all in one. It exemplifies how history may be restored and preserved in elegance.

The Haveli is now fully restored, reinforcing the concept that where there is a will, there is a way. There is newfound optimism for the thousands of other Havelis in Shahjahanabad’s alleys and by-lanes.

Reference List

1.“About Haveli Dharampura.” Havelidharampura.com, havelidharampura.com/about-haveli-dharampura.html.

2.“Dharampura Haveli in Old Delhi, India by Spaces [email protected]ArchShowcase, 29 July 2016, www10.aeccafe.com/blogs/arch-showcase/2016/07/29/dharampura-haveli-in-old-delhi-india-by-spaces-architecska/#jp-carousel-354184. Accessed 1 Sept. 2022.

Author

An undergrad student who dreams of building castles in the sky with her words. Yep! She is an aspiring architect and writer, living between the grand mosques of the gulf and the palatial indian palaces, currently, hankering for a peripatetic lifestyle all the while maintaining her non-existing social life!

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