President Pranab Mukherjee is likely to visit a 150-year-old painstakingly restored 'haveli' in Old Delhi, an event that will send out an important message for heritage preservation in the country.
Union minister and heritage connoisseur Vijay Goel, owner of the iconic 'Haveli Dharampura' in the Walled City, today said he has "extended an invite" to the president, who has "shown interest" in visiting the place.
Nestled in a narrow by-lane of the city, the three- storied mansion in Gali Guliyan, a stone's throw from the historic Jama Masjid, underwent six years of painstaking restoration that ended in January 2016. It is now a heritage hotel.
"If he (president) visits the place, it will not just send out a message about preserving our architectural heritage in Delhi, but in the entire country," Goel told reporters during a press interaction here.
The Union minister, who is also author of 'Delhi, the Emperor's City: Rediscovering Chandni Chowk and Its Environs', and is known for his penchant for heritage, said, if he had to choose between politics and heritage, he would pick the latter.
"We had sent the invitation to the president sometime back, and he did accept our invite. He was to come on June 20, but the date fell during the Ramzaan period.
"His (president's) office wrote to us, saying his visit during the festive period could affect movement of people in the area, so it was decided to change the plan. The office has told us that they are looking into fixing a suitable date," he said.
The term of President Mukherjee comes to an end on July 24.
Rescued from a severely dilapidated condition, the haveli had most of its architectural features obliterated when it was identified for refurbishment.
The revitalised architectural marvel has since emerged as a new heritage destination in the Walled City where unfortunately many such old buildings with ornate facades and embellished gateways are crumbling for want of urgent attention.
Goel hopes Mukherjee's visit would encourage people to treat old buildings as an asset and not a liability, besides helping in formulation of better heritage preservation policies, at all levels of administration.
"Several Union ministers, ambassadors of foreign countries, among other dignitaries, have already visited the haveli. Also, the MEA has held a programme for women ambassadors at the haveli. The idea is to promote the idea of heritage conservation among people and policy-makers," he told PTI.
The rooms of the haveli arranged around a large central courtyard, have beautiful stone-carved arches and pillars. There are three staircases with one leading exclusively to a basement, said to have a secret vault.
Sharing the challenges faced during restoration, Goel said, "The most challenging task was to hold the entire structure from collapsing and then retaining the original architectural plan and features showing elements of Mughal, Hindu and European styles".
During the long and tricky restoration works, every effort was made to retain the decorative features like stone brackets, balconies, jharokas, multi-foliated arches, carved sandstone elements, wooden Shekhawati doors and windows.
"There are documents showing that it was purchased by a Muslim gentleman in 1869," said Goel, who purchased the haveli 11 years ago.
"I bought the haveli from a Jain. At that time there were tenants who had partitioned the spaces to create 60 rooms which have now been reduced to 13," he said.
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