Ghalib Ki Haveli – Lost in the Bylanes of Purani Dilli

Day 7 (G) ~ #BlogchatterA2Z challenge

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“na tha kuchch to Khuda tha, kuchch na hota to Khuda hota

duboya mujhko honi ne, na hota main to kya hota?”

Of all the cities that I have lived in, none have fascinated me as much as Purani Dilli. And, once wandering in the by-lanes of Purani Dilli, I came across the house of Mirza Ghalib. As I walked through the haveli, it seemed almost unreal that the legendary poet had once lived in this very space; maybe even penned down several of his couplets here.

Is there any traces of that magical aura left here? Will his spirit speak to me, if I sit for a while, really silently?

Mirza Ghalib’s haveli is located in Gali Qasim Jan of Ballimaran. It is said that the haveli was gifted to him by a hakim who was his biggest fan. When Galib died, the Hakim would sit for hours in the haveli in mourning. Over time the haveli passed through many hands, its significance forgotten. It has been used as a coal storage space, leather and plastic manufacturing space, vegetable shop, and even an electric repair shop! Finally, heritage activist Firoz Bakht Ahmed and advocate M Atyab Siddiqui, through an NGO Friends of Education, filed a PIL to restore this heritage site.  In 1999, Archaeological Survey of India took over portions of the ground floor and converted it into a heritage museum – “Ghalib ki Haveli.” The museum was inaugurated in December 27, 2000 on Ghalib’s birth anniversary.

The haveli was built using Lakhori or Badhahi bricks,  popular element of Mughal architecture during Shah Jahan era. These slim, reddish, burnt-clay bricks were easy to shape into the delicate arches, jharokhas, and chhajja popular during that time. The 2 room museum now houses a bust of Ghalib (donated by Gulzar), some books, photographs, some of Ghalib’s personal belongings, and Mughal-era utensils. A few handwritten scrolls with Ghalib’s couplets are framed and hung near the entrance.

Mr. Ahmed’s work was not over though. While on an evening stroll, he noticed that a marriage celebration was taking place inside the museum. He alerted the police and notified Times of India. After much furore, now there is a more stringent security at the site.

Firoz Bakht Ahmed has lived in Purani Dilli. The homes and graves of these great poets and writers are sacrosanct to him and he has spent much time on getting them restored.

If you ever happen to be in Delhi, do take some time out to visit this historical place, where one of the greatest poets of our country lived and created quite possibly an undying quantum of work that never ceases to amaze the old and young …

Ik roz apni rooh se poocha, ke dilli kya hai.

To yun Jawab me keh gayi,

Ye duniya maano jism hai aur dilli uski jaan

-Mirza Ghalib

One day I asked my soul, what is Delhi and it replied- if the universe is the body then Delhi is its soul.

37 thoughts on “Ghalib Ki Haveli – Lost in the Bylanes of Purani Dilli

    1. Glad this article inspired you to add on to your “to travel to” list 🙂 I first read about this place in Dalrymple’s “City of Jinns”


  1. Lost in the Chaos of Chandni Chowk, Mirza Ghalib’s 300-Year-Old Haveli is a Forgotten Treasure. Down a quiet Ballimaran lane in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk stands a haveli like many others in this historic part of the Indian capital. An old dilapidated structure with a semi-circular brick arch as its entrance, this mansion was once home to Mirza Asadullah Khan, better known as Ghalib, one of India’s most celebrated and quoted Urdu poets. Ghalib also witnessed the decline of Mughal Empire and the establishment of British colonial rule in India. This makes his haveli not just a living memory of the poet but a standing testimonial to a bygone era.


    1. ‘Ghalib also witnessed the decline of Mughal Empire and the establishment of British colonial rule in India. ” very true … this but one of the many testimonials to history in Old Delhi. Glad you liked the article 🙂 and thanks for adding to it 🙂


  2. Hi Seema.. impressed with your excellent piece of writing with detailed historical account. I have been around Purani Dilli a bit during my stay there earlier, and your post brought back the charm of the place to my mind. Recently I read Dalrymple’s “The Last Mughal” which has extensive references to Ghalib, and am currently reading Zahir Dehlavi’s (translated version) “Dastaan-e-Ghadar” which describes the ‘mushaira evenings’ and the ‘shayarana andaaz’ of the elite Mughal Delhi of the times. Zahir himself is an accomplished Urdu poet and was the disciple of Zauq, the court poet of Bahadur Shah Zafar, thus making him a junior contemporary of Ghalib.

    I also happened to visit the house where Ghalib had stayed during his sojourn in Kolkata (which happens to be my hometown).. Though the house is occupied by others who do not have a clue about Ghalib, at least he is honoured by the street in his name: Mirza Ghalib Street!

    You are writing fascinating stuff and I am going to come back to your blog to read more 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for the detailed comments and sharing your book experiences 🙂 I’ve added “Dastaan-e-Ghadar” to my reading list 🙂

      When i was Delhi, working around the Jama Masjid, I read “City of Jinns” and its been one of my favorite book experiences. Right book at the right time.


  3. Impressive write up! Though I lived in Delhi for a while. I haven’t got a chance to explore Old Delhi as much, which I regret. Will definitely visit Ghalib’s Haveli next time as I heard great things. You’re doing a wonderful job of reminding our heritage and their significance!


    1. Delhi is endlessly fascinating and with historical monuments and cultural activities … there are some awesome heritage walks conducted around old Delhi. Maybe you check out one of those 🙂

      Happy exploring … looking forward to hearing your experiences.


  4. Interesting to read about Ghalib. Ghalib has been a huge influence for me, mostly thanks to Gulzar and the timeless couplets that fit so rightly at so many situations in life. Among the many things I like in Ghalib is the ability to smile through adversities. Would love to visit this and any place that has a Ghalib connection.
    ye jo ham hijr meiN deewaar-o-dar ko dekhte haiN
    kabhee saba ko kabhee naamaabar ko dekhte haiN

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mirza Ghalib == goosebumps. I am just loving your perception of buildings. How you ponder and see them. How you effortlessly put soul in them and make them come alive in your posts telling their tales. Would definitely stop by here on my next visit.

    Liked by 1 person

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