Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Past Peeping Through Jharokhas

If Dreams are cast in stones and if stones can sing they would be like the Exteriors and Interiors ofBikaner Havelis

“If Dreams are cast in stones and if stones can sing they would be like the Exteriors and Interiors ofBikaner Havelis” , such was the remark of Aldous Huxley , renowned philosopher and author , who wasspell bound after watching these architectural marvels in sandstones. Bikaner, a small desert kingdomknown to world for its flavour, festivity and fun also has prolonged period of antagonism and patrioticheroism. The city bewitches every traveler with its architectural glory be forts, palaces, cenotaphs orstatues. But more than anything else Bikaner is known for its “Havelis”. These grand abodes of merchantfamilies strike you in the eye when you take first step towards the old walled city. Begun in mid 15 thcentury they reached a crescendo in 19th century, as each merchant commissioned artists to create moreextravagant houses built from a new found wealth created through trade with the British. In the mid15 th century Karan Singh Bachawat made an initiative in this direction and by the end of 16 th centuryBachawat Haveli was completed. Other merchant families like Mohta, Daga, Rampuria, Bagri etc. followedthe tradition. There are around 1000 havelis large and small scattered in the serpentine lanes of the cityboasting its rich architectural and cultural past. These havelis are storehouses of art in varied forms beit carving, fresco, murals, fretworks, mosaic and mirror work etc. They give a poetic feel to the visitorsbecause of their evocative and aesthetic touch. Jharokhas, divankhanas, Gumaharias give these havelis atouch of royalty. If exteriors of Bikaner havelis are the marvels of stone and chisel then interiors are thewonders of paint and brush. The artists used their fertile imagination to capture these on the canvas of thewalls. The result is a socio-history of the time painted on the walls of drawing rooms (Diwankhanas) of thehavlis. Havelis are the mute testimonials of benevolence of the haveli owners who were art connoisseur.Most of these havelis were constructed out of noble cause to give employment to local artists duringfatal drought. These marvels in stone have stood the test of time spreading the sweet fragrance of the toiland talent of those great artists. The craftsmen and artists expressed their imagination and their gratitudetowards the patrons by creating wonders with colours and stone. Each has a story to tell and past to boast.These architecturally strong and intricately designed Havelis have enormous treasure to charm art loversacross the world. They have a lot to cater to the passion and interest of true art loversSuch monuments of social and architectural significance are now going through it bad phase due tovandalism, improper traffic and drainage system and apathy of havelis owners and government. Haveliowners have migrated to other cities and now have no time to preserve their heritage. These havelis areeither sold or dismantled and new buildings are constructed on its places .Myself being a native of thecity its painful to see these grand monuments disappearing and new live-less buildings taking their place.“Kabhi rohan thi jinki parchayi se saher ki galiyan ; aaj unka namon nisan nazare dhudti hai” Theartifacts of the havelis are sold in the antique markets. If we have to pay a real tribute to those great artiststhese Havelis should be preserved.