WORDS: SHEENA DABHOLKAR
PHOTOGRAPHS: KRISHNA ANGIRA
GREAT FROM: Mumbai, Jaipur, Kolkata
GREAT FOR: A trip down memory lane
As charming and quaint with stunning architectural details as it is chaotic, dusty and heaving with humanity, there’s nothing quite like Old Delhi. And Haveli Dharampura, a restored three-storey mansion tucked into a narrow lane, is all of the former and none of the latter. It offers a much-needed soft landing in the mayhem of Old Delhi, and a welcome oasis after a day spent exploring it.
Built in 1887, the haveli was originally designed as a family residence with commercial usage at the bottom. Over the course of a century, it grew to accommodate 60 families and fell into disrepair until it was acquired by parliament member Vijay Goel, a history lover and preservationist.
Restored over six years, the collapsing roof was fixed, hidden doorways uncovered and limewash removed to reveal original decorations. Its new cast-iron Shahjahani-style railings came from Jaipur, its brass fittings from Moradabad, its wooden entrance door was carved in Shekhawati. It was painstakingly transformed into a 13-room luxury hotel, which, now serves as a shining example of what could be if the care, attention and indeed, resources were given to preserving other sites in the area.
The haveli’s carved sandstone facade is almost missable in the pedestrian-only galli, but step into the unassuming building and the salmon pink courtyard punctuated with pops of bright colour will transport you right away to Mughal-era Chandni Chowk. With scallop-arched doorways, wooden brackets, marble jaali work and clunky uneven stairways, the building is a nod to the past, but its rooms are pleasantly up-to-date.
If you haven’t made the most of the tourist sites, this is where you do it. Its central location is perfect for accessing the sites and taking a breather in between. The historic Jama Masjid, whose domes are visible from the terrace, is a mere stone’s throw away and the Red Fort is slightly further away.
To better navigate the lanes and learn of the lesser-known sights, sign up for a walk with Street Connections. Sharp, curious former street kids, who know every bylane and turn of the markets, are your guides. The Old Delhi Walk covers the Jain neighbourhood, makes pit stops at several famous havelis and ambles through Kinari Bazaar and Dariba Kalan before taking a short ride to the spice market. It’s worth sneezing your way past the lower floors to reach the terrace of the Colonial-era building for views of the busy streets and the nearby mosque.
When your feet and ears are weary of wandering the streets, head back – because evenings at the hotel are special. The terrace is ideal for catching sunsets and the haveli’s sparkling lights and classical music will make you want to make an occasion of it. On weekends, classical dancers make the best use of the building by putting on a dazzling kathak performance across the different levels.
It’s the perfect time to make a booking at Lakhori, the in-house fine-dining restaurant, named after the style of the 200-year-old bricks that adorn it. The menu is fixed, creative and well-presented in many bite-sized (and bigger) courses.
It’s a meal fit for royalty, but you won’t mind the food coma as much when you can enjoy the modern conveniences that the haveli’s earlier inhabitants never did – an elevator, a cup of green tea before bed, and icy-cold air conditioning.