Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Walled City: Havelli of Nau Nihal Singh another lost structure

After Lohari Gate, the façade of another Walled City structure has fallen prey to vandalism — big holes have been drilled in the front wall of the famous Government Victoria Girls Higher Secondary School — to install a streetlight and a stand to support electricity wires. In fact the private residence of Nau Nihal Singh, a grandson of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Haveli Nau Nihal Singh was converted into a Purdah school for Muslim girls by Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam during the World War I.

The haveli, one of the few surviving magnificent structures of the Walled City, has been declared a protected monument under the Antiquity Act 1975 and the Punjab Special Premises and Preservation Ordinance 1985.

Historian SM Lateef writes in his book on Lahore that rectangular in plan, the haveli has been a fairly large building having its entrance on the west side. Its façade has been divided into two clear sections: one housing the entrance gate that was profusely decorated while the other was simple but has plenty of fenestration. Having four-storeys above the ground level, the building had a basement that is no longer approachable.

Lahore Conservation Society’s Information Secretary and historian Dr Ajaz Anwar said the haveli had a cut-brick work of the finest kind. “The carving of the bricks is so sharp, precise and accurate that bricks seem to be made of wax rather than of baked clay. It has a vast open space in its surrounding – the Payyanwala Bagh– which is uncommon in the walled city.

Extensive restoration of the haveli was carried out during the first regime of Mian Nawaz Sharif as chief minister. The quality of restoration was very poor. However, magnificence of the bygone days still stands out at various places of the haveli.

Nau Nihal Singh:
“Ruthless destruction or spoiling of anything beautiful or venerable has become very common. We have almost lost Baithak Katiban inside Lohari Gate façade which was vandalised by drilling a big hole over the plaque stating its history to install a streetlight bearing the name of two bigwigs of the ruling PML-N in the province.

“The courtyard of Badshahi Mosque was drilled to make holes for iron rods used to erect tents for the marriage of the daughter of a senior bureaucrat. Later, the walls of Badshahi Mosque were drilled to make holes for installing lights there.

The lawns of Lahore Fort have been the favourite place of influential politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen to host functions there. But the façade of Haveli Nau Nihal Singh could have been spared by fixing streetlights and wire stand at nearby electricity poles that is hardly one-and-a-half meters away from the building,” said Dr Anwar.

July 10, Lahore,
Text by Zaheer Mahmood Siddiqui, photos by Tariq Mahmood


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