Mirza Ghalib ki Haveli - rediscovered through the realm of time...

Mirza Ghalib lived through turbulent times in New Delhi, and while his benefactor and the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar didn't survive India's first war of independence in 1857 (he was exiled to Rangoon in present-day Myanmar), Ghalib did. Ghalib spent many years of his life in this rather humble haveli, but this wasn't the only place he lived in. In fact he also considered Rampur as the dominion of Urdu language and spent many years there as well under the patronage of the Nawab of Rampur. He also lived in Agra and Varanasi.

This is the story of his house in Delhi - Ghalib ki Haveli.

mirza ghalib haveli old delhi
Mirza Ghalib's bust at the haveli

mirza ghalib haveli old delhi
The simple Mirza ki Haveli

A bit of history

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Mirza Ghalib is one of the most famous and loved Urdu and Persian language poets of the Indian subcontinent. Whether it's India or Pakistan, Ghalib is revered. But things weren't always like this. When he was alive, he pined for appreciation but never quite got his due. He was well-known but his work wasn't always well appreciated.

Born in Agra to a family of Turks, and his mother was ethnic Kashmiri. He started writing early at thee age of 11, first in Urdu and later in Persian, which was a popular language in India back then and almost all legal and poetic work was done in it. Later he received some appreciation under the last Mughal Emperor and lived a fairly decent life in Delhi.

mirza ghalib haveli old delhi
Ghaliz enjoying hukkah...

After Mirza Galib's death in 1869, and later after India's partition, Delhi changed dramatically. Many of the old mansions were considered old-fashioned and so destroyed and replaced with brick and concrete buildings. Ghalib's house also met a similar fate and actually housed several shops till the Delhi Government acquired a part of it in 1999 and renovated it to bring back some past glory.

My visit to Ghalib ki Haveli

So when I visited the recently renovated and opened-to-public Ghalib ki Haveli in Ballimaraan, Old Delhi, there was so much running in my head. On one hand was a man whose words have stayed relevant even 150 years after his death, and then the context in which he lived - the weakened Mughal empire, increasingly aggressive British East India Company, the rivalry in the court with Zouk - poet laureate in the Mughal court, and a completely different social fabric of Delhi.

In two days I visited twice and each time the place left a unique impression on me. The haveli is located in the supposedly narrow lane, Gali Qasim Jaan, but it's no longer a narrow by-lane, nor is it very charming. In fact Old Delhi is still full of charming lanes and by-lanes where you can spend hours simply walking and chatting up with the locals, but this lane is not one of them. But this lane is still important, after all Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan once lived here, and that in itself is a reason to visit.

mirza ghalib haveli old delhi
On the way to Ghalib's haveli


Ghalib also penned a few lines about his house in Delhi and these are also some of my favourite lines. He manages to so vividly recreate a bygone era and transports you to a world that doesn't exist anymore, but somehow still does in the minds and the hearts of the readers.

Ballimaraan ke mahalle ki wo pecheeda daleelon ki si wo galiyan
Saamne taal ke nukkad pe batero ke qaseede
Gurhgurhati hui paan ki peekon mein wo daad wo wah-wah
Chand darwaaze par latke huye boshida se kuch taat ke parde
ek bakri ke mamiyaane ki awaaz
Aur dhoondhlayi hui shaam ke be-noor andhere
Aise deewaron se moonh jor kar chalte hai yahan
Churi-waalan ke katri ki bari bee jaise
Apni bujhti hui aankhon se darwaaze tatole
Isee be-noor andheri see gali qaasim se
Ek tarteeb charaghon ki shuru hoti hai
Ek quran-e-sukhan ka safa khulta hai
Asadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’ ka patha milta hai.

(The lanes of Ballimaran so much like the confusing arguments
With patridge stories at the lane’s corner.
The sounds of applause amidst the gurgling sounds of  chewed beetal leaves.
With worn out rug curtains hung outside a few doors
The bleating sound of a goat
And the lifeless darkness in the hazy evening.
That creep along the  walls.
Like the old lady from the alleys of Chooriwalan
Who hunts for the doors by the partial vision in her eyes.
In one such dull, dark street Qasim
Where a  row of lit lamps starts, 
And a new page of poetry begins
There,  the  whereabouts of Asadullah Khan Ghalib are  found).

(Source)

Ghalib was a man with only a modest income, and most probably his house reflected that as well. This is seen in the renovated house as well - things are bare minimum and decorations almost non-existent. As you enter, on the right hand side there is a small museum with a Ghalib bust and a few stories on the walls. Straight ahead if you climb the steps there is a photocopying shop, and if you walk ahead to your left you will come to the renovated haveli.

mirza ghalib haveli old delhi
View from inside the haveli

Just as I would have liked, the walls are filled with some of Ghalib's most well-known poems, and a few representative household articles are places in the niches on the walls. Only a few people walk in and those who are often Ghalib fans and spend some good amount of time reading and re-reading his words.

While I was there, I also young siblings who were also Ghalib's fans. Falak read out some of her favourite Ghalib lines. Do see the video...she is simply adorable :)



Practical information

Opening hours: 11 AM to 6 PM, lunch break 01.30 - 02.00 PM (closed on Mondays)

Entry fee: Free

To reach: It's impossible to give directions, use this map instead or just ask the locals when you reach Ballimaran. Or even better, take an auto-rickshaw and it will directly take you there. Having said that, walking and finding the place has it's own charm.




Video

I didn't do a full photo-story on Ghalib ki Haveli, but this video on Delhi has a small section on it. Enjoy!


Comments

  1. Another awesome post. Great to read about Ghalib ki Haveli.

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  2. I have to admit I never heard of Ghalib ki Haveli but he sure sounds interesting. Might give this a visit if I am ever in the area :)

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    1. It's quite an interesting place actually, so if you are in Delhi do make a visit...you will love just the old house by the road to it as well :)

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  3. Thanks for the history lesson on Mirza Ghalib! Visiting his house seems like a humbling experience. That picture of the street is insane, what are all of those cables on top of the street?

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    1. That's difficult to say actually...there would be be electricity cables, TV cables, phone cables...all mixed up together...

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  4. Mesmerizing description of the Haveli... I have always wanted to visit the place ... thanks for sharing ...

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  5. It's good thing to know that the house of Ghalib was renovated and opened to the public. It has a part of literature that I think your countrymen should know. It has an interesting history as well!

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  6. The haveli seems like a flowing space, just like flows in the verses of Ghalib. An interesting place to visit . Good that it's being maintained so well. I will visit here the next time I happen to be in Delhi

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  7. A very informative read - this seems like a very interesting place to visit. If ever I find myself in Delhi, I'll be sure to check it out!

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  8. There are many blogs that have been telling us the same thing in different ways but this one particular has been very helpful to us as we have been in search of such blogs. Keep up the great work


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