Saturday July 20, 2024

Sujan Singh Haveli: one of the classic buildings of Rawalpindi

By Dr Nasir Iqbal
August 04, 2016

Such buildings need to be declared cultural heritage by UNESCO; government must pay attention to preserve it and ensure restoration of its lost glory; NCA director says efforts are being made in this direction


Director National College of Arts (NCA) Rawalpindi Campus Dr Nadeem Umar Tarar has said that efforts are being made to protect and preserve historical buildings of Rawalpindi which are the real asset and heritage of the city.

While talking to ‘The News’ he said that Rawalpindi and its outskirts are endowed with historical buildings in which hues of cultural heritage were conspicuous on the walls, doors, windows, roofs, and floors through pictures and paintings which describe the historical and religious background and rituals of those belonging to different cultures. He said that government was also making efforts to ask people living in such buildings neither to demolish those buildings nor change their original shape.

He was especially talking of historical buildings that are more than a century old. Prominent among those is Sujan Singh Haveli that is situated in the narrow old streets of Bhabra Bazaar. It was the outstanding creation of Rai Bahadar Sujan Singh who was a renowned businessman and well-known personality of Rawalpindi in 1890. Its construction started in 1890 and was completed in 1893. It was built on 24,000 square feet comprising 45 rooms including four big hall-like rooms lit in the evenings by huge lamps and chandeliers.

This Haveli has two portions and has been attached with each other with small bridge (Chatti) and a narrow street passes under it. The two buildings were named as Sujan Singh and Manmohan Singh Haveli. The Haveli walls were specially decorated with antiques, Victorian furniture and a multitude of silver and gold-ware. The walls were bedecked with pictures of Rai Bahadur’s family. The four-storey building is divided into two parts on either side of the street and a steel-supported bridge connects both of them. The bridge is tastefully decorated with wood carved with artistic work on the roof, floors and windows that is simply marvelous.

Alas! The present dilapidated condition of the Haveli pains the sense. Once a grand and awesome building, the historic Haveli gives a gloomy picture. One is sorry to see that a historic building, our heritage, is crumbling right in front of our eyes. One is sorry to see the negligence of the powers that be towards preserving history and its landmarks. The whole Pindi could be watched from the rooftop of this Haveli even today.

Those residing around that building said that thirty to forty years ago it was in a very good shape. They said that it had a cave which led to Bagh Sardaran, but today it has caved in and left no sign except its ruins.

The lethargy of different governments, after the creation of Pakistan, is responsible for its dilapidated condition. Some tried to save it by making it educational institution related to art, culture and heritage but proper attention was not paid which led to its current state.

Nowadays the Haveli is being run by the National College of Arts (NCA) under Fatima Jinnah Women University. Director NCA Dr Nadeem Tarar says that the students of NCA are being trained to preserve the historical places and they are also working on this Haveli to preserve its portion and restore its lost glory.

He said that that efforts are being made to get this Haveli declared a cultural heritage site and convert it into heritage museum so that maximum people particularly, the tourists could visit this Haveli.

Before partition Rawalpindi was a city where religious harmony prevailed. Mosques, temples, gurdawaras and churches co-existed. Due respect was given to every place of worship. The interior areas of Rawalpindi like Bhabra Bazaar, Bohar Bazaar, Mohanpura, Kartarpura, Banni, Bagh Sardaran, Akalgarh Mohallah, Krishanpura, Gawalmundi, Mohallah Shah Chan Chiragh and several other old localities were inhabited by followers of different religions. There was peace and harmony all around.

Dr. Shahid, Volunteer Team Leader of Joint Venture initiated by Unesco, Netherlands, World Heritage Shinghai, and government of Pakistan. aiming to preserve the historical buildings of Pakistan, is also working voluntarily in conservating such historical buildings of Rawalpindi. He has vast experience of dealing and preservation of cultural and heritage sites.