Ghalib Ki Haveli is one of the lesser known tourist sights of Delhi, that has served as a capital for many empires and kingdoms since it was inhabited in the 6th century BC. Going around Delhi, you can witness all the riches of this history with vestiges of these old civilisations hidden somewhere, buried amongst all the frenzy of the modern metropolitan. All one needs is a keen eye and a bit of curiosity. One of these concealed gems is an old ‘haveli’(mansion) which served as the house to a poet towards the end of his life. Ghalib ki Haveli or Ghalib’s mansion was the house to one of the most important and most influential poets from India - Mirza Ghalib, from the Mughal era. The Mughal empire was a glorious realm stretching from current day Afghanistan till Myanmar. India witnessed the crest of cultural, economic and social riches during this period. The reminiscence of this era, that lasted roughly from the 16th till the mid-19th century, still resonates strongly through Delhi, and India.
Located in the centre of the vibrant and bustling neighbourhood of Old Delhi, Ghalib ki Haveli secludes itself in placidity, holding attestations of the poet’s ife and the beauty of the Mughal architecture. The haveli was recently declared as a national heritage site by the Archaeological authorities. It now serves as a museum and a homage to Mirza Ghalib. Amidst many compelling portraits, it also houses handwritten poems from the poet. As you enter the haveli, the walls read:
؎ اگ رہا ہے در و دیوار سے سبزہ غاؔلب ہم بیاباں میں ہیں اور گھر میں بہار آئی ہے
Loosely translated in English to:
Greenery is growing out of the doors and walls 'Ghalib', I am in the wilderness and spring has arrived at my house.
The deviant writer Mirza Ghalib was bestowed upon with the title “Dabir-ul-Mulk”, making him the noble poet of the court under the emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II. But Ghalib was famous for being notorious and not caring about his public reputation and challenging the social norms. He was often arrested for gambling, and he despised other poets for not drinking wine and not seeing the walls of the prison. Even though his noble career was short-lived and was displaced by the British Colonial rule, he wrote a prominent amount of poetry with the most significant being the ‘ghazals’, which are till now sung and interpreted by not just Indians but also Pakistanis and a significant diaspora around the globe, making him the most celebrated poet from the Mughal era.
A visit to Ghalib’s mansion in Delhi is not just for literature or cultural enthusiasts. It is almost like travelling back in time as the surrounding Old Delhi area still holds, almost preserved, the warmth and charm of the Mughal era. From elaborately constructed ‘havelis’ to tapering labyrinths of streets full of vendors and shops, the surrounding area offers an excursion for all the senses, and above all, an enthralling, almost captivating smell of food. The area is the epicentre of the best Mughlai food in Delhi, and perhaps even in India (with the only exception to Hyderabad). A few streets from the haveli are restaurants that serve elaborately prepared cuisines at surprisingly affordable prices. The nearby ‘bazaars’ are a haven for shoppers, offering a variety of dedicated lanes with shops and vendors selling everything from spices to intricately embroidered fabrics. And if nothing else, I think it is still worth a visit to get to see the ‘real’ Delhi, the one that somehow encompasses all the fuss of the modern city, but still manages to revive the reminiscences of its roots of origin.
Cover picture © Credit to Sukanya Garg
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