Splendid Havelis that once dotted the lanes of Old Delhi were known for their impressive doorways, stunning marble arches, and eminent occupants. But time has its own terms! Time unleashed destruction and with no hopes of the restoration of palatial homes, the grand structures, today, are left to oblivion barely identifiable. It goes without saying that official supineness and financial constraints are destroying the capital’s heritage bit by bit.
The shambles of several grand and spacious homes in Chandni Chowk echoes the sentiments of the stately palace of the bygone era. Zeenat Mahal, constructed in 1846, bears the name of the favorite wife of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor of India. The biggest mansion in the area, adorned with jharokhas with jaali work, intricate murals, and lively colors, has seen the distinctive times of history.
Old Delhi, built by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan, is a walled city known as Shahjahanabad that has eight gates Kashmiri, Nigambodh, Kabuli, Mori, Ajmeri, Lahori, Delhi and Turkman gate which stands formidable and tall to this day. However, the walls that connected the various gates are no longer found here.
Chandini Chowk, one of the main streets of Shahjahanabad was designed and constructed by Jahanara Begum, one of the most talented Mughal princesses and daughter of Shahjahan. A canal ran through the entire city and as it reflected moonlight brilliantly, it earned the name of “Chandni Chowk” (or Moonlit Square)
There is the Bazaar Sita Ram in irremediable ruin. The Haksar haveli, where Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, tied the knot with Kamala Kaul is in a dilapidated state.
An interesting structure in the Katra Neel section is the Chunnamal haveli, a three-story building, which, at one point of time had 128 rooms. This looks like the only structure that is kind of well preserved compared to the other havelis in the area.
Other places of attraction include Namak Haram haveli, Fatehpuri Masjid and Queens Garden (also known as Jahanara ka Bagh or Begum ka Bagh). This place used to be quite famous for maalishwalas. Another historic landmark is Hardayal Municipal Library, strangely named after the Hardayal, the man who hurled a bomb at Lord Harding, a British officer during the freedom struggle.
Walking through these battered lanes one can sense the embers of a once free-flowing Indo-Islamic heritage and culture. The haveli quarters that vanished in the sands of time offer you a peep into a glorious past that will be forever remembered as the golden period of Indian medieval history.