In our part of the world , we have branded architecture on the basis of the religion. Any architecture not Muslim, withers away under neglect with exception of few fortunate ones. Temples from the Pre-partition times, Samadhis of Saints, and Grand Havelis are diminishing due to this particular attitude at all levels. These thoughts came to my wandering mind as I stood in awe in front of a haveli known in local community as the Haveli Bakhshi Ram Singh in a small village 15km from the city of Gujur khan. This beautiful Haveli built in 1886, still stands as the highest building of the area. Withstanding the years of neglect, this beautiful Haveli is standing proud as once its owner must have stood. The village folk narrate that all the houses of this Sikh and Hindu populated village were burned in the 1947 riots. Only this Haveli was left due to its grandeur to be used for any purpose appropriate. And what could have been a better purpose then using it as a School building. However, this use was discontinued in 1975 and since then this beautiful haveli lay abandoned. This haveli is believed to have been built by Bakhshi Ram Singh during the British period. He was a businessman and influential person during the British period in Potohar. The haveli is four storied with 32 big and small rooms, a basement and two view towers.
The beam of the entrance of the haveli bear the following inscription: “This haveli in honour of Bakhshi Ram was erected in 1886”. The portico of the haveli is surmounted with balcony which displays intricate wood carving. Before entering the haveli, the double wooden balcony of the haveli attracts attention. The distinctive feature of the balconies is remarkable carving. The wooden ceilings of both the balconies are beautifully carved out. Unfortunately the wooden screens or fretted panels of both balconies are now in broken state. The outer façade of the haveli also boasts beautiful Jharokas, here women used to sit and view the village hustle bustle while being hidden from the view of the ones being viewed. The intricate wood carving of the Jharokas and the balconies are one of the most beautiful that can be seen in the Potohar Plateau.
One notices the courtyard as ones enters the haveli, this used to be the main area for family gatherings and is a peculiar feature of architecture of this area. The first storey rooms all are spacious and have curved arches and fireplaces. One room has a hidden basement as well. Due to non usage this building has stones and bricks falling all over the place. Thomas Fuller once said, “ Light ,God’s eldest daughter is the principal beauty in the building.” The architects of this building ensured to keep it naturally lighted.
All of the three storey are built more or less on the same pattern. However, as one alights the stairs towards the fourth storey. Two towers oppositely placed to enjoy the view of the village. Interestingly, one tower has been built on the shape of a sun room and have windows all around. The other has an open platform to view around and smoke hukka in the leisure time of evening or morning. There are also big stoves built at the roof for cooking on pleasant evenings.
It is a treat to watch and feel the grandeur of the Haveli Bakhshi Ram. An effort from the archaeology department can restore it and make it available for conversion into the novel site of Potohar Museum.