By Shams Qari @shamsqari
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The walled city was originally called Shahjahanabad and has served as India’s capital since 1639 when it was founded by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan.
Apart from its famous historical monuments, the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid, the old city of Delhi also boasts the antique charm of its centuries old Havelis, the townhouses and mansions owned and inhabited by families or rented by those who come from outside.
Atam Agarwal, a man in his 70’s who owns a Haveli, said: “This Haveli is more than 300 years old. I don’t know the exact date as my grandfather moved here in the early 1900’s.”
He said, “Delhi has developed more rapidly than we could anticipate. We want to preserve these structures as these are what define our history and hold our best memories."
Atam lives in Old Delhi’s famous Noughara, meaning nine families, who used to live in these Havelis. All these Havelis are centuries old with a more recently built temple adjacent to them.
Present throughout the narrow lanes, with hundreds of tangled electricity cables hanging over them, these Havelis hold some of the resident's oldest memories.
Vinod Kumar, owner of another Haveli, said, “It was my father who bought this property but we lived here for only a few years. Due to the lack of some modern day facilities, we moved out of Old Delhi.”
“I have spent my childhood here and that is why this place is special for me. I do not intend to sell it.”
With most of them built during the Mughal era, these buildings are known for their unique architecture and craftsmanship.
In almost every lane, there is at least one huge, heavy wooden door with centuries old woodcarving on it that makes it stand out amongst the cluster of structures.
Atam explained: “It is the huge doors of our Havelis that attract people, mostly foreigners. The amount of carving on doors, windows and even on the inside of the Haveli can rarely be found in modern-day houses."
The Havelis were made with a unique architectural design featuring a distinctive inner courtyard.
The courtyard would act as a garden and would also allow all the rooms to gain sufficient sunlight in an otherwise congested city.