Repositories of great architectural wealth, our old havelis or mansions are some of the lesser known heritage treasures that have been passed down through generations.
This old haveli, built in the 18th century, is situated in the old city of Karnal1 in Haryana. It welcomes one with its huge open courtyard, giving foreground for facades decorated with red sandstones brackets and chajja2, floating stairs and corridor on stone brackets, lamp niches, segmental and foliated arch openings and antique door-windows spanned by arches.
The property was acquired by the residents after the Partition of India in 1947. Since then, the ownership was under the Waqf Board. They have been living there for more than 60 years now and recently gained ownership after filing a petition.
The most significant and beautiful feature in the interior is the mehrab3 decorated motif of ‘tree of life’ with ainakari4. Some places have beautiful decorated old tiles which resemble traditional European ceramic tiles.
The structure is built with thick walls in brick and lime masonry supporting the barrel vault roof. Architectural features like huge spaces, with high ceiling, ventilators near the ceiling in each room/space keep the place cool even in peak summers.
Several portions of the mansion are not being used due to structural issues. Salt deposition in the basement, cracks in the structure, water seeping out through the cracks in rainy season, crumbling wooden column and beams due to weathering are few of its serious issues.
Information and Images: Bhavya Ahuja, Anshu Ahuja and Nishant Upadhyay
All three of them are architects.
1. Karnal is a district in Haryana, located midway on the Delhi-Chandigarh route on NH1, which was popular as the Grand Trunk Road in earlier days.
2. A chajja is the projecting or overhanging eaves or cover of a roof, usually supported on large carved brackets.
3. Mehrab is a semi-circular niche in the wall that indicates the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying.
4. Ainakari is the practice of covering an architectural surface with a mosaic of mirror-glass.