Back in 2015, when I was living in Delhi, my favorite thing to do was to roam around the streets of Old Delhi in search of some interesting stories. Mainly because of the nature of my job and also because I loved wandering around aimlessly.
Some days the stories were presented right on the platter and on some days I had to do a lot of digging around. More difficult the pursuit, the better the story.
This time, I stumbled upon a dilapidated mansion built by last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar for one of his beloved wives, Zeenat Mahal. The mansion is very aptly named after her, but has fallen prey to encroachment by fishermen and shopkeepers. There is also an all-girls’ school within the premises, which made news in 2013 for achieving 100% pass results for the last five years by a government-run school.
ABOUT ZEENAT MAHAL
Beghum Zeenat Mahal was one of the four and apparently the favorite wives of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. After the failure of the 1857 Rebellion, the royal couple was exiled to Rangoon, where they lived till their last days. After her death in 1886, she was buried next to her husband’s tomb in Rangoon.
THE ZEENAT MAHAL HAVELI
The Mansion is situated in Lal Kuan Bazaar, famous for its kite shops.
Back in the day when Mughal dynasty was suffering financially and counting its last days, building a mansion for your favorite wife says a lot about how Badahur Shah Zafar was head over heels for Beghum Zeenat Mahal.
Apparently, the palace used to have fountains and waterways which doesn’t exist anymore. Most of the area has been either encroached by shops or in ruins, but the 2 red sandstone jharokhas above the main entrance gate reminds one of it’s original architectural charm. It is said that A danka(announcement) was made to alert the residents who would congregate near the haveli to greet Beghum Zeenat Mahal.
Back in 2015 when I visited the place, an old couple used to stay there: Mr.& Mrs. Abdul Rauf. Mrs. Rauf was nice but reluctant to talk much since her husband was not feeling well and she didn’t want us to disturb him.
Mr. Rauf, a teacher occupying the main portion of the haveli has no proper documents to claim his right.
This is a historically important place since Bahadur Shah Zafar spent his days here after surrendering to British. But sadly, the haveli is in a dismal state due to encroachment, and sheer lack of empathy for our heritage.