Haveli Nau Nihaal Singh – A Rendered Poetic Splendor from the pages of Past
Article Written by Ar Sahar Amjad
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Lahore, the historic city of Pakistan, remained a house for majestic past. Its versatile and distinctive architectural heritage always attracts tourists to visit this place most often. The existence of royal buildings from Mughal Rule, Sikh Empire and British Raj, adds beauty to this city. One of the profound royal buildings of Sikh era (mid-19th century), located inside the Mori Gate of Walled City Lahore, is Haveli of Maharaja Nau Nihal Singh. He was grandson of great Sikh ruler of Punjab, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh.
While wondering inside Interior Lahore the phrase “A jewel in the Heart of Lahore” can be commonly heard by tour guides and story tellers, indeed it is said for this magnificent Haveli. Wearing vibrant colors of glorious past, Haveli is a true reflection of Sikh architecture and their love for music, dance and arts. It is formerly used as a private residence of Maharaja Nau Nihaal Singh and then turned into Girls High School after British Raj in Punjab in 1860. It is still in use as a “Victoria Girls High School”, under Government’s possession
The main entrance of the Haveli gets unveiled from the open square named as “Bhaiyon ka Maidan”. At first glance Haveli looks like infusion of all colors from sky and rhythms of musical notes. The fine details of cut-brick work and engraved wood work amplify the sophistication of structure. The haveli is composed in a regular rectangular plan. It is comprised of one basement which is no more accessible and four superstructure storeys including large 2 storied central courtyard. The 3rd storey is partially deteriorated.
The 4th storey comprises of “Rang Mahal” (Color Palace). Haveli’s entrance façade is heavily decorated with fresco, précised cut-brick work and wooden Jharokas. Other sides are kept less ornamented but adorned with simple wooden and cut-brick work. Stepping into the huge welcoming En trance wooden door of Haveli, one feels like travelling back into royal era of Sikh rule. The semi covered fresco and stucco work under the sheet of lime plaster made the interior walls preserved for long period of time. There are numerous well ventilated and lighted chambers, four-cornered airy balconies and well decorated wooden roof inside Haveli.
Interior walls of haveli are communicating and enriched with art work. There are several blind Muti-foil arches in between the openings. Unlike Mughal structure’s free foil arches, these arches are more stretched and low in height that reflects the association of building with Sikhs.
The arches are bejeweled with visual arts including miniature paintings depicting religious and secular themes. Use of all primary colors; Red, Yellow blue and vibrant Orange and gold colors are dominating in all miniatures, motifs, stucco, fresco, cut-brick and engraved wood work of Haveli. These bright colors are still sustained and believed to be extracted from stones to make them everlasting.
The real beauty of Haveli lies in its detailed cut-brick work and this brick-work excelled its perfection under the oriel window and the cornices. Eye-catching Wood carving is found on doors, windows and miniature columns. The most relishing and bracing part of Haveli is “Rang Mahal” located at fourth, top most floor of haveli. Its concept is based on the Mughal’s Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds. In royal dwellings Hawa Mahal used to be private area. It is always located at the top to welcome fresh breeze, serenity and at the same time to get a view of the surroundings.
The Rang Mahal of Nau Nihal Singh’s haveli is well garlanded with wooden roof and miniature paintings. Although the miniature paintings lack the fine details of figures representation, still tells enough about the religion and tales of Maharaja’s Life and his associations. A symbol of Sikh Religion, sun motif “Surya” is well depicted with use of geometrical patterns and mirror in wooden roof’s work.
“Some marks History, Few becomes history itself”, it can be truly said for Haveli Nau Nihaal Singh. Though some of the art work and few parts of haveli are completely decayed, even restored paint and plaster is chipped off; still the glory of Haveli is spell-bounded. When cool breeze touched the skin inside haveli, it opens up the unseen views of the majestic past.