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The Vanishing Havelis Of Jaipur

Jaipur, a city popular among the travelers’ world over as the Pink City.  Acclaimed for its forts, palaces, culture, traditions, and handmade art in the form of fabric, paper, blue pottery to name a few. Among many things, its architectural legacy is well known and appreciated. It has continued to wow visitors and travelers to the city ever since it was founded with its grandeur. Jaipur was founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1727 AD as a planned trading city. Havelis in Jaipur are one of the most dominant aspects of its heritage. These are also known as traditional courtyard mansions used as residential units. Many of these mansions have historic significance like this one here on Chhoti Chaupar. Most old Havelis can be found in the walled city area although a few are located outside. these buildings are a reflection of the yesteryear grandeur and provide a great medium to study the evolution of society and its practices.

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A visual of Nataniyon Ki Haveli in Jaipur
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From the walled city of Jaipur

Despite living in Jaipur for many years, I have never lived in the walled city area of Jaipur. I found the walled city area unkempt and shabby. This was because of the open drainage system which had issues related to cleanliness and traffic.

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A scene from the bylane of Johari Bazaar

Little did I realize at that time the walled city was designed for the 18th century. It was much before consumerism took birth which generates tons of waste. The issues have only aggravated over the last few decades. I started appreciating the local and unique architecture of Jaipur having stayed in other cities for a long duration and extensive travels. This write-up is an extension to my previous post Why Our Attitude Towards Heritage Needs A Big Change?

The Havelis of Jaipur

The bylanes of bazaars have many beautiful mansions built-in local vernacular architectural style. Some call it Rajput architecture, it is essentially a Dhundhadi architecture; Jaipur is part of a region called Dhundhad. These Havelis have many interesting features like lattices, Jharokas, Chowk, Tibara, to name a few. One of the striking features in the Havelis was Araiash work which simulates white marble with a mirror finish.

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A typical facade of Jaipur mansion

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Here is a picture of beautiful Haveli in Johari Bazaar, Jaipur

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As per the planned layout, the city was divided into various zones. People were allocated land-based on professions or occupations. Those were times when certain skills were carried out by specific communities. So these are two sides of the same coin. Important people like ministers and the rich businessmen were allocated bigger land in strategic locations. The social standing of a person was judged by the number of courtyards in his mansion. Some of the Havelis had up to seven courtyards, an indicator of the social standing and influence of the owner. Here is one such mansion belonging to an influential person in Jaipur court.

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This is one of the better restored Havelis in Jaipur and has been turned into a museum called Museum of Legacies.

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Yet another in the historic town of Amer (now part of Jaipur) is now a textile museum – Anokhi Museum

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What is the meaning of Haveli?

Haveli is a traditional residential mansion found in this part of the world. Some experts think the word Haveli has an Arabic origin. It is difficult to arrive at a firm conclusion. The courtyard or Chowk represents an essential feature in all such structures. Here are pictures showing the entrance of Haveli opening into a courtyard.

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The activities of the residential unit revolve around this space. The courtyard is enclosed space from all four sides but is open to sky allowing sunlight, air, and water. Many historians assume this kind of residential units developed during Mughal rule.

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However, this idea is open to debate. Havelis can be found across North India. The traditional Chettinad mansions in South India also have open to sky courtyards, but there are many other differences. The local architectural styles are substantially influenced by climate, social structures, customs, and traditions. It is prudent to say that Haveli architecture derives its design elements on this basis.

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The courtyard
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The entrance and courtyard

Rajasthani Haveli Architecture

Another fascinating thing to note is Rajasthani Haveli architecture varied depending on caste and social structure along with the location. The Havelis of nobles, Thikanedaar, and aristocrats varied drastically from the ones belonging to merchants/Banias, Brahmins/Rajpurohits, and commoners. There are differences in the style and facade of buildings based on the economic and social status of the person. The Havelis in Jaisalmer varied drastically from the one in Jaipur, Bikaner or Udaipur. These buildings were built depending on social customs and practices, availability of building materials, and local climatic conditions. Usually, the Havelis were built on a raised plinth level.

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A beautifully restored mansion in Jaipur
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A commoner’s home built in traditional Dhundhadi Style of Rajasthani architecture.

Rajasthani Havelis are famous the world over. The Havelis of the Shekhawati region are well-known for beautiful frescoes adorning its walls. Many such buildings have now been converted into hotels granting it a renewed lease of life. For the uninitiated, the owners of these Havelis migrated to cities like Kolkatta and Mumbai many decades ago for lusher pastures. All such mansions are dying due to neglect with owners deciding not to return. Here is a picture of a magnificent Haveli in and around Shekhawati region in Rajasthan.

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A courtyard of a Shekhawati Haveli with beautiful frescoes

Here is another picture showing a beautiful wall fresco in Haveli in Jaipur supposedly 200 hundred years old.

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On The Deathbed?

The Havelis of Jaipur do not suffer from the problem experienced by the ones in the Shekhawati region. Only a handful of such buildings have been renovated. Listed here are a few of the reasons for the loss of Havelis in Jaipur, an integral element of Jaipur’s heritage.

  • Losing the Haveli facade

It is unfortunate that the facade of the Havelis in Jaipur is being tempered with. This is happening at an extremely rapid pace. One of the first such buildings is the LMB hotel in Johari Bazaar. LMB Sweets best known for its Ghevar was the first building in Johari Bazaar to receive a modern look in the 1960s. The building featured in below two pictures replaced an old structure.

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LMB in its previous Avtaar

LMB hotel underwent a restoration last year but it is still not in line with local architecture style. The pink color is distinctly different from the terracotta pink used in the walled city area.

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In recent times, the owners have redone the facade to align it with local architecture; it is ironic that influential people manage permission from the authorities to manipulate rules & regulations. If one was to walk past Johari Bazaar and notice the facade, it is easy to spot the changes. The old facade has given way to modern-looking buildings. It is not challenging to comprehend the reasons; money is a strong motivation! Can you spot the “black sheep” in the below picture?

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  • Razing & Selling Old Havelis in Jaipur

It is frequent to find the old Havelis being razed down to be replaced by a modern building. Despite stringent laws that do not permit the destruction of historic architecture, people discover new ways.

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An old Haveli was razed down at this site to build a new structure

The insiders suggest loopholes in the law to accomplish the desired output. Many times, the facade is left untouched while the entire structure behind it is pulled down and replaced by new construction. Here is a set of three pictures depicting how a charming Haveli was pulled down to build a building for offices.

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  • The commercial Activity galore

The residential mansions are being replaced with a commercial complex which only compounds the problem that the walled city is facing, increased commercial activity and traffic congestion. Each additional commercial complex puts a burden on existing infrastructure. Unfortunately, none of the governments – past or present have put into thought and worked on a plan to mitigate the problem. The picture below is an eye-opener as to how the walled city area in Jaipur is witnessing a big rush towards commercial spaces.

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  • The Color Chemistry

The government rule mandates a uniform color code to be used on all building facades on the main road. This is the approved pink color to be painted on all buildings – Terracotta pink!

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This also means the paintwork is carried out by the local authorities to ensure uniformity. Unfortunately, some people find ways to circumvent this rule. The result is an eyesore like this.

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picture of johari bazaar jaipur

  • Lack of Government support

Unlike many countries in Europe where the authorities mandate rules pertaining to renovation and then enforces it by providing assistance, we possess no such structure. Repairing and renovating old architecture remains an expensive affair and it does require financial and technical assistance because many building owners cannot afford the same. The facade of the main Bazaars receives support from the local body for repair, maintenance, and paint. Below are the pictures of the repair and restoration of the facade in the walled city area undertaken by the local authorities.

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Repair and restoration of the facade of the traditional Bazaar in Jaipur
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Restoration work at Sanganeri Gate, Johari Bazar, Jaipur

Unfortunately, the ones in the bylane are left on their own. Most old buildings were constructed using ancient techniques – lime plaster and local stones. These days it is hard to find skilled people proficient in this technique. Thanks to globalization brick, cement, and RCC structures are ubiquitous. Using these materials in heritage buildings is often ineffective. Sadly, no one is thinking on these lines.

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It is unfortunate that the built heritage of Jaipur is being destroyed by its citizens. This loss is irreplaceable. It is this priceless architectural legacy that influences thousands of travelers to the pink city. I’m apprehensive there will be very few Havelis a few years down the line for travelers to witness and experience.

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Why Jaipur Havelis Offers An Outstanding Experience For Travellers?

There are two ways to experience Havelis in Jaipur – a stay and a walking tour. A stay in Jaipur Havelis represents a remarkable cultural experience allowing travelers an immersive encounter. Unfortunately, there are very few authentic Havelis to stay in Jaipur that have been turned into a hotel and are open for travelers like Samode Haveli. Many modern hotels replicate traditional Heritage Haveli in Jaipur and fool travelers. You can find these outside the walled city area, especially in Bani Park. As for a walking tour read on.

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A heritage Haveli for a stay in Jaipur

How to witness and explore the traditional Havelis in Jaipur?

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The best way to do would be through a heritage walk in Jaipur. I have written one such experience in this write-up Heritage Walking Tour In Jaipur. You can also undertake a walking tour on your own Self-Guided Walking Tour In Jaipur.

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Have you ever stayed in a traditional Haveli in Jaipur or elsewhere in Rajasthan? Do you think these Havelis in Rajasthan are an important part of our built and cultural heritage? I would love to hear about your thoughts on the same.

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87 thoughts on “The Vanishing Havelis Of Jaipur

  1. Wow!!! Fantastic write up Arvind and pretty photos to go with it. I have never really “seen” a haveli in Jaipur. I am sure I might have simply passed by them. Timely restoration & utilisation can save our grand heritage structure, but alas. We let it rot and then razed. I have noticed these shades of pink that you mention ….. They do seem out of place. Smart City concept is way off from what it is. You had written a post on it, if I remember correctly. I hope they preserve & restore some havelis that are surviving.

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  2. I really must applaud your for the effort you have taken to write this post and the pictures you have beautifully captured. It is heartening to see the Havelis, the pride at one time, left in dilapidated conditions. Perhaps we need stringent laws and good support from the government that encourages and supports the owners to maintain these magnificent structures and preserve the heritage we are so proud of! Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Praikhit. I’m happy you liked this post. Yes, it’s certainly time consuming to create such post. I agree we need better monitoring and execution of policies. Unfortunately, the situation is different. Have you ever been to Jaipur?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sadly I haven’t been to Jaipur yet. I had plans to last year but I am certain I will go there this year. But I do not wish to be the regular tourist for I always like revelling in the sights and sounds of a city like a lost wanderer. Fingers crossed for this year.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. This problem has many aspects. There is lack of incentive from government to help maintain such heritage structures. Also, without any method to generate revenue it’ll be hard to maintain on part of the owners. Family partitions also is a big issue. We need to learn from Europeans on preserving such structures. Have you documented buildings of Kolkata in your post?

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