chapter  2
32 Pages

Fragmented Domestic Landscapes: From Mansions to Margins

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Delhi, as Shahjahanabad, sovereign city of the Mughals, boasted of many distinguished haveli, grand establishments of the elite. The ubiquitous mansions and courtyard houses formed a primary unit of the urban fabric (Figure 2.1). By the early twentieth century, many of these elegant and sprawling mansions had suffered dilapidation and been converted into over-crowded multi-family ‘tenement’ houses, warehouses, and specialty markets. The transformation of the haveli from what European visitors saw as the picturesque to the decrepit occurred through a disarray of synchronous activities: demolishing and building, disclaiming and appropriating, redefining and abandoning. Like the city, the mansions – fragmented, commercialized, and rebuilt – remained vibrant even in their decrepitude.1