Bikaner Havelis

Friday, December 19, 2008

As our rickshaw sped through the bylanes of the old city in Bikaner I saw these buildings and was like, wait a minute, what are these buildings? That's when the driver told us these were Havelis built by merchants many centuries ago. While some are inhabited most of these magnificent structures are empty. Lane after winding lane lined with the most intricately carved exteriors. I remembered the Ahmedabad pols, but these were more regal and certainly not as 'lived-in' as the pols in Ahmedabad.

"Havelies are marvels in home architecture. Such havelies or residential houses do not exist anywhere in the world. They are the pride of Bikaner, says great author and philosopher, Aldous Huxley."

"The havelies were the residence of wealthy merchants who had a fancy for beauty and art. Nine months in a year they lived in far off lands to earn money and then came to this city to rest and enjoy and build havelies and live in them, show their wealth and status, their love , fascination for architecture and colours."
"The oldest haveli is perhaps four hundred years old but most of them are hundred years in age or around it."

The juxtaposition of the handpainted words like 'Modern' and 'school' in these lanes captures the way the old & the new co-exist.

A parked cycle in a decaying entrace....
...and wiring indicate habitation in some of these havelis

Lanes like these are such a rarity in Rajasthan which is mostly buzzing with people & markets through the day.

Some of the Havelis show mixed architectural influences.

As one walks through these labyrinths of beauty, one can't help but wonder about their upkeep & maintenance. Many of Jaisalmer's Havelis are maintained by either the families who constructed them or by the Archeological Survey of India, I didn't see any such signs here.

And just when you feel like you are walking through a giant and empty film or theater set, suddenly a childs head pops out & surprises you.

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