As I approached the Haveli Dharampura (or the Goel Sahab ki haveli) through the narrow lanes of Mughal era residential blocks in Chandani Chock, anxiety started taking over my mind. There is nothing new for me to roam around in these lanes as I have been frequenting the area for the last 30 odd years that I have lived in Delhi, but I was curious to see whats inside a 200 year old haveli in Delhi.
I belong to the Shekhawati region in Rajasthan which is famous for Havelies and their special architecture and also for the Frescos. (please see my blog on Frescoes in Rajasthani havelies – link https://exatraveller.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/fatehpur-shekhawatis-magical-murals/). I did had an idea that the architecture of my haveli in Rajasthan and that in Delhi will be different, but what I found was surprising.
Whatever may be the difference, an 200 year old and restored haveli is surely going to be an unique piece of architectural wonder. And Haveil Dharmapura is one of these wonders. Once you step inside the main gate, you are into a world of antiquity charms and you stand still for a moment admiring the reception desk of the Haveli. You cross another gate and now into the main chock of the Haveli. A small water fountain setup welcomes you here and as you turn around your head 360 degrees – you get engulfed with wonder. You are standing in the middle and there are colourful doors all around you. It’s a world full of old memories, experiences and a nostalgic feeling engulfs you. You look up and you see a similar structure – 4 floors of an unique, antique display of wonders – now restored to its old charms through great efforts of Mr Vijay Goel and his family.
The haveli, over the last 200 years had been home to many a communities – Mughals, Hindus, Jains and now back under Hindus. As such the haveli has seen many a cultural changes, modifications were and are made into the design accordingly. It even has a hidden safe/locker tucked in a corner – of which not many people know. I am providing a brief history of the haveli at the end of my story.
Today because of some really commendable efforts we are able to relive the golden charms from times which our ancestors have enjoyed. The restoration of the haveli took more than 7 years to complete. Rajya Sabha MP and President of Heritage India Foundation (HIF) Shri Vijay Goel and his son Siddhant Goel took over the haveli about 10 years back, and started the restoration process. Many big rooms of yesteryear’s were converted into small rooms built by its habitants over these years and they are now restored to their old beauty. Now they have 13 rooms along with a restaurant Lakhori. There are three floors, each floor has refurbished luxury rooms and a rooftop dining area too. On weekends they organize Kathak dance shows on the 3rd floor along with dinner. For the roof you can see Red Fort, Gaurishankar Temple, Jama masjid, Jain Temple, St. James Church and Seeshganj Gurudwara.
Ms Vidyun (daughter of Mr. Vijay Goel) was with us for almost over 4 hours during our visit and she explained each and every detail to us with a great personal interest. I guess this kind of personal interest and attachment is required for you to love your old havelies. I would love to see more havelies being restored in the area like this and also in other parts of India. And through this feature I offer any kind of help the Heritage India Foundation might be looking for.
Now to talk about food at Lakhori named after the famous Lakhori bricks from the Mughal era. The restaurant at Haveli serves authentic food from Chandni chowk and old Delhi. Inside the restaurant I was amazed to see the red sandstone brackets, motifs, stones inlaid in marble and the kiln-baked “lakhori” brick walls which spoke so highly of the Mughal architecture. There is provision for 48 seatings and also a Personal Dining Room.
It was a hot summer afternoon and I was dying of thirst. Seeing this, one of the servers quickly got me a glass and filled it up with naturally cooled water from a earthen pot. Though the jug appeared to look like made of plastic but it was actually a terracotta jug – taking me back into an age old culture.
We started with a few mock-tails as we waited for other members to join us, like Chai Biscuit, a tea flavoured milk shake topped with biscuit powder, Jahan Ara, a khus, green chili and lemon flavored mock tail, a few smoothies which were mixture of fruits and berries, Banarasi pan drink with lots of tiny ingredients that a proper Banarasi pan has to offer, Mango shake, and a few more.
The Chai Bisuit was the most simple and amazing drink – it reminded me of my childhood times – or for that matter even today – almost every time I have tea and biscuits at home or office – I dip the biscuits in my tea to make them soft and at times half of that biscuit falls in the tea- So I mix up that in my tea and drink – and this Chai Biscuit tasted exactly like that. Hats off to the mix-o-logist for creating this wonder at Lakhori.
Another wonderful drink was the Banarasi Paan, it was amazing, I drank it without a straw and the tiny pieces of supari and other ingredients kept on exploding inside my mouth and filling it up with flavours of an traditional Meetha Paan in Banaras.
We also tried Patangbaaz Sangaria, a pomegranate juice infused with cinnamom syrup, Roohafzah Margarita, Lal Quila Pina Cola Da made with Pineapple and Orange juice and strawberry crush, Gali Khazanchi, a guava juice drink, Blue Berry Mojito, and Baraf Khana, a water melon and pomegranate juice.
We also tried some typical old Delhi drinks like Lakhori Manzil, a beetroot and carrot drink, Medi grass, a cucumber, spinach n ginger drink, Aam Ras – mango shake, Kiwi, Strawberry and Berries Delight smoothie, Jal jeera, Aampanna, and a welcome glass of mustard flavoured Kanji drink.
Soon, we were served the starters. We had Haveli special Dahi Puri, Palak Patta chat, Dahi ki Arnachini, and Kacche Kele ki Gilauti. Serving staff seemed in a hurry and soon we were flooded with the starters. It was very difficult to match their speed – and I just kept on munching in between my photo shoots and tasting.
The Haveli special Dahi Puri was a great innovative dish. Dahi puri was made out of gol gappas with thick curd, sweet and spicy chutney with flavoured paani. Palak patta chat was made of crispy fried spinach leave with chutney and namkeen. I also loved the Dahi ki Arnachini, made with hung Curd with a distinctive cardamom flavour.
The next item which amazed us all was the Kadak Roomali Masala, it was a huge roomali roti, hard baked upside down over the tawa to form a bowl, and sprinkled with ground spices, onions and tomatoes. We had this with the Tamatar and Dhaniye ka Shorba (Tomato nectar infused with coriander roots extract) and the combination was one of the highlights of the meal. The shorba was so fantabulous, I had 3 servings and after coming home even tried to make it (obviously not even anywhere near the taste).
Soon we were served the main course and once again it was a flooding of the dishes. We had Purani Dilli Matar ki Tokri, Dharampura special Dal, Kinari Bazaar kofta Dogla, and Allo Katliya Achari along with Mint Raita, steamed rice, and assorted breads like Naan, Khurmi Naan, Laccha Parantha, and Tandoori Roti.
Each and every item was amazingly tasty but of special mention here is the Kofta Dogala (cottage cheese koftas with two gravies — tomato and makhani kaju). It sure was a photographer’s delight, reminded me of our tricolor flag (Reddish, green and milky white colours). The two gravies made of tomato and Kaju pastes were separated by the green wrapped koftas acting as the divider. The flavours complemented each other so fantastically that the plate was emptied in a jiffy.
Matar ki tokri also is a very interesting dish. The plate had a tokri shaped structure in the corner made out of mashed potatoes. That structure provided a base to the fried spicy Peas, and it tasted equally good with the breads.
I finished my food quickly and now waited for about five – ten minutes for the desserts to arrive on our table. Soon the desserts were served. We first had the Kheer – Three flavours of kheer served in a ‘cutting chai glass’. Malai, Paan and Beetroot.I loved the Malai one, with the Paan flavour coming a close second.
Soon we had some artistic presentation on our tables. The Kulfi has arrived – it was a visual delight. Fruit flavoured Kulfi with an outer layer of frozen molded chocolate cone. Paan, Mango, Malai, and Rose flavours were served, I loved the rose one the most and the frozen Choco layer enhanced the already super duper taste of kulfi.
Well our short stay at Lakhori was coming to an end, and we all started feeling emotional. Ms Vidyun announced that now it was time for a property tour and we will be taken for an exploration of the haveli. That returned the smiles on our face and we whole heartedly went for the tour. It served two purposes – one it helped us digest the sumptuous meal we just had and second it gave us a personal insight into a bygone era. We had fantastic panoramic views all around the haveli. And the added gift was a live demo of a game now live only in Old Delhi, the kabootar baazi. Well for me it sure is going to be a second time here with my family, and till that time I hope you must have already visited and enjoyed the Haveli….
Brief about Haveli (official information from Havel Dharampura sources)
Built around 1869 AD, the haveli is in Dharampura of Shahjahanabad, the old city of Delhi. The name Dharampura of the locality was named after the word ‘Dharam’-religion, likely because of the presence of large number of small and big religious institutions including famous Jain temples. The building is situated in close proximity of historic Jama Masjid and famous Jewelry markets of Dariba Kalan and Kinari Bazar. The haveli has one of the world’s narrowest gali in its backside “Gali Krishna”.
Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Goel and his son Siddhant Goel adopted this haveli in association with Heritage India Foundation. Due to its distinctive features such as central courtyard, arched entrances, sand-stone and marble pillars it is attributed to Late Mughal, Hindu and European architectural and design elements.
The haveli once boasted of grandeur and royalty which had been reduced to an ordinary run down building with spaces unrecognizable and falling structures. With 6 years of hard work and after extensive research, Vijay Goel and SiddhantGoel – the restorers worked tirelessly for the haveli work.
The haveli now stands completely restored and reinstated.This enormous effort of the restoration work at Haveli Dharampura Chandni Chowk has renewed hope for the thousands of other havelis in the lanes and by lanes of yesteryears Shahajahanabad-todays Chandni Chowk.
Architecturally, the haveli is a unique example of residential buildings during 18thCentury and was planned around a central courtyard, a standard feature of that era. There is an intricate use of stone brackets, marble inlays, jharokas, and multi foliated arched gateways, arches, carved sandstone facades and wooden doorways. The traditional style of construction with lakhori bricks with mud and lime mortar, sandstone slabs, wooden joists and planks, flooring with lime concrete and the use of marblepillars for spanning gives a distinct architectural contribution to the period.
The haveli has become one of the most preferred cultural destination of Delhi. It has 13 fully functional rooms where guests experience the royal hospitality of a grand hoveli, restaurants serving authentic food of Old Delhi. A Hooka Room, a library, an Art Gallery, a handicraft shops, spa, two courtyard for functions. One can enjoy Kabooter baaji (Flying Pigeon),Patangbaaji (Kite Flying) and can see Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Gurudwara Sis Ganj, Baptisht Church etc from the haveli’s viewing gallery.