SRINAGAR: A three-storey house at Zadibal area of old Srinagar exhibits unique tradition of art and architecture of ancient Kashmir. Popularly known as Jalali House or Jalali Haveli, the massive structure is an attractive architectural site constructed with Maharaji bricks and intricate lattice work on windows and doors. Two hexagonal balconies overlooking the lawns of the historic building add to its grandeur.
The house was constructed by Agha Syed Safdar Jalali in 1863 using Taq structural engineering. It is among the 10 sites listed to be declared as heritage sites by the government.
Last month, Jammu and Kashmir government informed the state high court that Jalali House would be declared as heritage site after processing the documents.
The compliance report filed by Director Archives, Archaeology and Museums, Mohammad Shafi Zahid, stated that the opinion of the committee was in favour of declaring the building as ‘heritage building’ under the heritage conservation and preservation Act 2010.
The house is divided in two parts–the right side consists of Deewankhanas and the left side consists of small living rooms. The Dewaan-e-Aam, located on the ground floor, is divided into lateral galleries. The gallery was meant for social gatherings for every occasion. The family members along with local political figures would sit on the upper portion while others would sit in the general space between galleries.
The Deewaan-e-Khas on second floor is slightly larger than the deewan-e-aam. This hall is the center of attraction for most of the people because of its ambience. The walls of this deewaan are decorated with colorful handmade flowers using vegetable dyes, in the Naqashi style.
The multi-colour window panes change the ambience of the hall according to different lighting conditions of the day. The Deewaan-e-Khas also paves entry to a small room where several heritage items including bed, chair and other items are placed.
The house has undergone just a single change since it was constructed, in the shape of a bathroom that was constructed by dividing one of the rooms. In the olden days, the custom of interior bathrooms inside the premises didn’t exist among Kashmiris.
The wooden Khattamband roof and pillars of the house have been polished so that they don’t catch termites. The house is designed in such a way that it keeps Kashmir’s weather condition in mind. The walls of the house are around three feet thick, to help the rooms keep warm in winter and to stay cool in summer.
The house also holds a place of pride in Jammu and Kashmir’s history as it has hosted former Chief Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, several British Generals and Viceroys along with the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Their visits have been photographed in a glass frame placed inside a lobby.
Zahid told Kashmir Reader that the processing of declaring Jalali House as a heritage site is underway. “We have completed half of the process and it is up to the government as to when it declares Jalali Haveli a heritage site,” he said.
Zahid said that he has not contacted the present owner of the house so far regarding the declaration of the house as a heritage site. “We are hopeful that we will negotiate with him,” he said.