A Haveli Restored to Its Ancient Light

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Among the things to miss about India in a lifetime of not being there are the many ways in which residential space is constructed to deliver light with minimum heat and maximum cool.

 

 

Among these residential spaces is the example of the haveli: a gorgeously embellished environment, an architecture still extant in northern India and in Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A haveli, derived from an Arabic word, is the Hindi, Urdu and Gujerati term for a private residence built around an internal courtyard. 

 

Gujarat’s Vaishnava Hindu sect also use the word for those of their temples built around a courtyard, dedicated to Lord Krishna, and gorgeously decorated with carvings. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This haveli is on the east side of the Sabarmati river in the oldest part of the Gujerati city of Ahmedabad.

 

 

Across the river…..

On the left, past the house of Mangaldas Girdhardas, a textile family, who converted the house to a hotel and restored the haveli.

 

 

On the left, past the Sidi Sayyed Mosque,  with its magnificent stone lattice work  (jali) windows, built in 1573/74 in the last years of the Moslem sultanate.

 

 

 

 

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The mosque from the back with a Tree of Life stone lattice window.  Photos from the net

 

 

 

Turning left,  you walk into the heart of the old city past the Badhra Fort built in 1411 by the city’s founder, Ahmed Shah I in the new capital of the Moslem sultanate of Gujarat.

 

 

 

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Bastion of the Badhra Fort, Ahmedabad

 

 

 

At the base of the fort is the temple of the protectress of the city, Badr Kali (which cannot be photographed): a mark of the re-imposition of Hindu rule when the Mughals surrendered here in 1758. 

 

In front a grand plaza, the site of markets and festivities.  It leads into the heart of the east of the city through a triple gateway.

 

 

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The plaza in front of the Badhra Fort, Ahmedabad looking towards the Triple Gate

 

 

 

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An image of Kali on a wall in the old city, Ahmedabad

 

 

 

You walk through the Triple Gate, also built by Ahmed Shah I (starting in 1411), with its ornate carving. The gate formed the midpoint of his city:  on the west, the Bhadra fort and on the east the Jama Masjid (mosque).

 

Here the red powder stippling on one of its columns is a mark of popular devotion to Badr Kali.

 

 

 

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Past magnificently decorated bird houses

 

 

 

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Everywhere people buying and selling, strolling, talking.

 

 

 

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Can one imagine the formation of the imaginal world of a child in the midst of all this colour and bustle?

 

 

 

Down narrow streets and across quiet residential courtyards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This haveli is 200 years old and was renovated in the past 25 years by the great-grandson of the Mangaldas Girdhardas  family: a man who was a textile worker and became a successful merchant and whose ancestral house (The House of MG) is now a first-class hotel in the city. 

 

 

It fronts a narrow street on both sides of which havelis were built. These are in various states of (dis)repair. 

 

 

 

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On a neighbouring haveli, the woodwork remains almost intact; but the iron bars over the windows have probably been stolen.  Here they are replaced by sheets of tin.

 

 

 

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The renovated haveli has four stories: the ground floor, a first and second floor and a flat, accessible roof. The house is rectangular.

 

 

 

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The front of the house has tall, narrow windows with shutters of decorated wood; and a chain mail grill of iron.

 

 

 

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In the center of this rectangular building is a courtyard which extends four stories to the flat roof, the fourth floor.

 

The interior of the house has three kinds of spaces: the open courtyard  whose space rises like a decorated funnel to the roof.

 

On all four sides of this courtyard and its open space on every floor, a corridor.

On the roof, the top floor and ground floors, the corridor is not sectioned and light pours in from the windows at the front and back. 

 

On the second floor, the corridor is sectioned.  Each section is a room with a door leading onto the edge of the corridor.

 

 

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Ground floor internal courtyard

 

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Ground floor internal courtyard

 

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Ground floor internal courtyard

 

 

 

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Looking across the courtyard space on the second floor where the corridor has been partitioned into rooms

 

 

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Looking down from the second floor

 

 

When you step out of one of these rooms, you are looking down onto the central courtyard.

 

 

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A window across the courtyard onto tables set on the third floor against the front windows of the house

 

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Looking up at the skylight which covers the central open couurtyard space

 

On  each level, mirrors strategically placed expand the light from windows on the front and back of the haveli.

A narrow stairwell clings to one wall and climbs up.

 

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On the ground floor, a mirror with a modified lotus design separates the narrow stairwell from the rest of the house. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depending on the light, sometimes the lotuses are silver and sometimes gold. 

 

 

 

Also on the ground floor in a corner, a well, now closed off.

 

 

 

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Gujerati vintage ceramic pots

 

 

 

There is natural light from the windows on the front and back of the house onto the corridors

 

The corridors on each side of the house have no natural light.

 

 

 

 

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On the second floor there is (2010) a store selling embellished clothing on one side of the rectangle.  My memory is of no natural light.  Electric light and mirrors.

 

 

 

 

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On the third floor is a cafeteria the length of the front corridor against the front windows.

 

 

 

 

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Photo taken from the net. The 3rd floor with windows onto the space above the courtyard on the right

 

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A restaurant has been made of the corridor on the flat roof at the front of the house

 

 

 

 

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The whole exterior facade and much of the interior is covered with worked wood.  There is also some worked stone decoration inside the house.

 

 

 

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There are mirrors everywhere, large and small; and some placed high up on the walls to reflect natural light.  

 

 

 

 

 

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And doors and shutters and cupboard doors with  soft colours and surfaces begging to be touched and opened and closed and opened…….

 

 

 

 

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The entire house is tiled.  Cool tiles.

 

 

 

 

 

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Softening green against white plaster

 

 

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Ganesha always present

 

 

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Ganesha, wood

 

 

 

A world to itself made of light radiating around and through many materials to provide sensory stimulation and comfort.  Quiet.

 

 

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