The word haveli meaning mansion is derived from Persian language, ‘hawli’ which means ‘an enclosed space’. The conventional methods in the architecture of haveli included the placement of an interior courtyard as well as building of several stories in order to house the families of the aristocrats. A grand entrance usually arched in correspondence to the Sikh traditions with a carved wooden door.
Haveli Nau Nihal Singh is one of the best examples of the Sikh architecture in Lahore that is still intact and well maintained throughout these years. The haveli served as home to the famous prince Nau Nehal Singh.
The building has a simple rectangular floor plan, with a basement and four stories above ground level and around forty rooms. ‘Rang Mahal’ tops the haveli as being the fourth and last story and brings about the pinnacle of the ornamentation of the whole building. The wooden roof of the structure is highly embellished with geometric patterns and glass work. The main function of this rang mahal was to provide the residents with cool fresh breeze and let them enjoy the beautiful views in the surroundings. The upper storey also exhibits the miniature paintings.
The ‘jharokas’ i.e. the hanging balconies are one of the amazing feature of the haveli that are ornamented by various wooden carvings in the forms of animals and human figures. The pedestal of these jharokas are decorated with floral designs.
The space right in front of the main entrance of the haveli is known as ‘bhaiyon ka maidan’. It is said that it used to be a garden of the haveli itself. As time passed the outer buildings of the main haveli complex went through numerous divisions of land and reconstruction thereby eliminating the outer buildings but keeping the haveli intact.
The haveli is highly embellished with glass work and floral paintings that adorn the inside walls as well as outside entrance facade of the haveli ,thus making it highly elaborative and rich such that the entrance speaks rich of its glory and splendor. In terms of ornamentation the haveli excelled in a number of techniques including cut brick work, stucco work and woodwork including various carvings. The colors of the paintings are still fresh and elaborate. The paintings are done in ‘Kangra style’ that belong to the haveli as part of its decorations.
The inner courtyard consisted of fountains and potted plants adding to the beauty of the building and creating a sense of interaction and dialogue with nature, bringing in ambient light through the courtyard that filtered as it proceeds along the passage ways encircling the court.
Lahore served as a center where new traditions in terms of arts and ornamentation developed, flourished and excelled, thus creating a new dimension in the studies of Sikh arts and architecture. It was this period that the establishment of private residencies like these called havelis prospered and helped in the promotion and uplift of the Sikh art and culture.
The building currently belongs to the Education Department of Punjab and serves as Government Victoria Girls High school that educates 1500 students and deals with children from grade 6-10. The building thus serves as a source of education and grooming for the girls in the walled city of Lahore.
<https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/haveli-kunwar-nau-nehal-singh-tania-qureshi> , Qureshi Tania
<http://www.youlinmagazine.com/story/nau-nihal-singh-haveli-lahore/NjEy#sthash.UxkeMnXQ.dpbs>, Shujrah Mahnaz
<http://locallylahore.com/blog/havelis-of-the-walled-city-lahore/>, Anjum Mahrukh
Photo Courtesy: Author