June, 2021July 15, 2022
Ghalib Ki Haveli – The 19th Century Mansion of Famous Urdu Poet Mirza Ghalib
A walk across the busy lanes of Old Delhi offers a lot. If you are someone who loves roaming in the busy bylanes to witness some interesting stories, welcome to Old Delhi my friend! Old markets and buildings (havelis), street food stalls, people selling on the road, small chai stalls (tea stalls) and chaos bustling as far as you can see; that’s the typical Old Delhi vibes, welcoming you any day of the year (lockdown may bring a different scenario). I often love wandering in the narrow streets of Old Delhi, be it for food or some stories whenever I am around. I have known that somewhere in those dark, congested streets housed Ghalib Ki Haveli but never got any chance to visit it.
After visiting Mazar-e-Ghalib in January 2020, I decided to visit Ghalib ki haveli, but lockdown pushed several plans and then I moved back to home for a long time. Finally, I moved back to the capital city in March 2021 and that’s when I spent an evening witnessing the old-world charm in a small mansion with a courtyard and a room, known as Mirza Ghalib ki Haveli.
The day I visited Ghalib’s haveli; it didn’t look like Delhi was experiencing extreme Corona situation. The market in Old Delhi almost looked like it used to be before. Street markets, crowds at every shop, every corner, people gluing to street food shops and flea markets; everything seemed normal. Deep down, I was a little worried as there was no social distancing and I was constantly being pushed and touched by random people in that crowd.
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Ghalib Ki Haveli – The Mughal Era Mansion where Ghalib Lived until His Death
Ghalib needs no introduction, so I won’t talk about him. If you don’t know who Ghalib was, better to Google and find it yourself. It took me a long time to reach here as the GPS led me in the totally wrong direction. I must have changed my ways four times following the GPS and then I switched it off and trusted the local GPS. I asked a couple of people on the street.
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Following the direction and the electric wire-canopied streets, stuffed with crowds of busy shopping, I walked like a spear tearing down everything that came on its way. Reaching this place was a tough battle to win. After some time, I found myself surrounded by Urdu vibes and that’s when I realised that my destination wasn’t far. And I passed before the Haveli without even noticing it. I returned and stood in front of it for a while to check if people were going in or not. I must have spent two minutes and then asked the security guard if Ghalib ki haveli was open for visit or not.
I assume we all have heard this name ‘Mirza Ghalib’. You must have seen his couplets in local buses, trucks, you must have heard about him in movies, songs, or even people reciting his works. Being someone who writes and loves poetry, Ghalib has been an influence on me. I have known him as one of the finest poets. A few years ago, Neelesh Misra did a story telling at Jashn-e-Rekhta on Mirza Ghalib. People love him and appreciate his works.
Though Ghalib was born in Agra in 1797, but he moved to Delhi when he was 13 years old. He was barely 5 when his father died. He spent most of his childhood with his uncle who also died when he was 8. At the age of 13, Ghalib married Umaro Begum.
From Mirza Ghalib’s Haveli to Wedding House – Stories behind Mirza Ghalib Ki Haveli
This place served as a residence where Mirza Asadullah Khan lived until his death. This 19th century mansion which is now a heritage site, was given to Ghalib by a hakeem who was a great lover of Ghalib’s poetry. It is said that after Ghalib’s death in 1869, that hakeem used to sit at the haveli every evening just to avoid anyone’s entry. Located in Gali Qasim Jan, Ballimaran Mohalla of Old Delhi, Mirza Ghalib ki haveli gives a glimpse of how Ghalib lived here.
The haveli is divided into three parts, a small corridor that takes you to the main courtyard and room just right to the main semi-circular brick arched entrance gate attached to the corridor. The room houses Ghalib’s belongings, including his clothes, handwritten letter, a bust and several other photographs, banners mentioning about him, his activities, his lifestyle, etc. Adjacent to the courtyard are small chambers which give more insight into his life. There are items displayed which are contemporary to Ghalib, showcasing how he must have lived. These items include hookah, utensils, chess, etc.
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The walls of the courtyard have wall-sized portraits which show his photos and his couplets. Couplets of other poets of the same time can also be seen, including Momin Khan Momin, Abu Zafar and Ustaad Zauq. Ghalib wrote some of his famous works living in this haveli. It was acquired by Indian government in 1964 however it was auctioned and was bought by Mohammed Ali Farooqi at a highest price of 22,400 INR. In the beginning, he rented the haveli to tenants. Farooqi died after some years without any legal heir. After that, the haveli had been converted to a coal store, a manufacturing unit and even a wedding hall. The Delhi government acquired a small part of the haveli in 1999.
The haveli is now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. This around 300 year old Mughal architecture haveli was later restored to give the same look, especially with the use of Lakhori bricks. Ghalib witnessed massive political instability in India, from the Mughals to British. His poetry shows an influence of the same. This haveli cum museum is among the most underrated places of Delhi where not everyone visits. Ghalib’s fans and literature enthusiasts may find it interesting but it’s a disappointment for someone who isn’t into poetry and literature.
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It’s not easy to navigate for a first timer as the haveli is now covered around with lots of shops. The nearest metro station is Chandni Chowk metro station. One can either take a walk, moving through the never-ending crowd or can take an e-rickshaw to reach here.
Ghalib ki haveli remains open from 9 AM to 5 PM all working days however it remains closed on Monday. This entry free museum has no charge for photography as well. Standing in a dilapidated condition, Ghalib ki haveli is a time-capsule which takes you back to the days when Ghalib used to spend his life here. This weathered condition reminds me one of the famous couplets he wrote,
“Hum ne mana ki taghaful na karoge lekin,
Khaak ho jayenge hum tumko khabar hone tak.”
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I am a food & travel enthusiast, a music aficionado, poet, artist, and someone who loves to explore unexplored/off-beat places. I started this blog to share my food and travel journey.