The house of Choudhary Naunihal Singh

Hello !

I know you are wondering where I have suddenly disappeared after all that activity—
Well,I am in Lucknow–trying to begin settling in in my husband Debashish’s grandfather’s house ! There are lots of hiccups as Debashish and I try to decide which part of the house we should tackle first- my mother-in-law’s(all of a sprightly 88 !)junk accumulated in all possible storage spaces, the crumbling bathrooms or the leaking kitchen !
Alright,alright–it SHALL happen ! Eventually !
I have just got our internet connection-so things are beginning to feel more normal..back to writing this blog, etc…

This is a flashback to Allahabad- film style !

To continue with its beautiful houses– we must now visit chowk, the centre of the old city in Allahabad. I am very happy amidst the timelessness of the chaos and colour. Something very unpretentious about it. The girls of our family- my sister, niece, my daughter and I often make trips on rickshas and spend many hours happily browsing through tiny shops bursting at the seams with jewellery, baskets, fresh flower garlands, gold and silver lace and borders, mirrors, utensils and almost everything conceivable !
The streets are narrow and crowded around the Ghanta Ghar (the Clock Tower-a British era tower built in mid 19th century),the centre of chowk. Behind this tower lies the locality of Attarsuiya, where, in traditional style, homes rise from the road side and shops busily ply their wares from the ground floors of these homes.
My sister and I sit on a ricksha and are carried past these places till the narrow streets widen and the area becomes residential. We have come to the locality of Kalyani Devi- one of the oldest parts of the city.I confess I have never been there and am pleasantly surprised to find the place clean, quiet and full of decrepit, small, mostly traditional houses-some quite beautiful .

Ahead of us, different from all, we see the kothi or traditional Indian mansion of Choudhary Naunihal Singh.That is where we are headed. Everyone in the area knows it. Not surprising. Ch.Naunihal Singh’s family have been residents in this large mansion for about 200 years !
From where we are it looks large and sprawling but unremarkable. We follow the house and reach its front on the other side and are stunned by the beauty of its frontage. IMG_7640

We are led through the imposing doorway, through a verandah and into a courtyard that is absolutely beautiful.Actually out of a Rajasthan Palace. It is stone clad and leads up two steps into verandahs on all four sides. The pillars, and one of the walls, are intricately carved in stone-the patterns exquisite.
A view of this courtyard from a balcony upstairs-
We sit in one of the verandahs and almost out of nowhere our hosts Jitendra Singh and his wife, Vinita appear. They are pleasant and warm, and, as they show us the house, they do so with love and pride. They share the house, they tell us, with Jitendra’s brother and his family and some older relatives.

The decorations on a wall of the courtyard carved out of a single piece of sandstone- the verandah within where visitors sit, still referred to as ‘durbar’ in classic zamindari style –
The Choudhary family, over generations have been zamindars and talukdars, owning large tracts of land near Sirathu, Sitapur and Banda in Uttar Pradesh and Sitamarhi in Bihar.
In the 17th century, their ancestor, Choudhary Suba Lal, was the person who started to build this beautiful mansion.
Craftspeople were brought in from Rajasthan to make the carvings as was the sandstone.

The small details on the pillars-

In the late 19th century, another ancestor, Choudhary Mahadev Prasad, contributed large sums of money to make a trust which helped build many institutions of higher education in Allahabad- among them, the Kayastha Pathshala and the Choudhary Mahadev Prasad (CMP)College.

Vinita takes us upstairs to see the ‘Naatch Ghar’or Room for Dance, where, until the mid 20th century, sophisticated tawaifs or courtesans performed. Yes,dear people, you can think ‘Umrao Jaan’! So on special occasions the house would be filled with music, dance(mujra) and Urdu poetry-all performed by courtesans- something straight out of a Hindi film !
Stairs leading upstairs with Vinita standing at the head-

The doors leading to the Naatch Ghar-

A view of the Naatch Ghar through the mirror-panelled door-

The room itself -in the past people sat on mattresses on the floor(and never seemed to have knee problems!)

High up are windows or jharokhas through which women and children watched the performances. Jitendra Singh himself remembers watching many performances through these windows-

The design of the first floor mimics the groundfloor. Rooms on all four sides opening into verandahs and balconies which look down into the courtyard below.. A large, open terrace leads on one side into yet another courtyard and identical block of rooms. Lots of open spaces and breeze–how ideal for the hot Indian weather !
Across the Naatch Ghar- a balcony leads to the dining room- previously a billiards room- used only on special occasions –

A view of the dining room, the doors on the other side open into smaller balconies- yet more open spaces- absolutely beautiful !

The doors with beautiful coloured glass panes and traditional Indian style shelf spaces, called Aala, built into walls-providing simple and beautiful detailing and utility-

Carved details on more aalas-

A view of the open courtyard upstairs that lead to bedrooms-

Jitendra Singh’s father, Choudhary Naunihal Singh was a well known politician from the Congress party, having been elected twice as Member of the Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh – in 1962 and then ’67. He had been given important portfolios in the state government in Lucknow.

A collection of some family portraits in a corridor below with Naunihal Singh’s on the right-

And just in case one thinks that there are no green spaces in city homes-part of the large garden at the rear of the house-

The gracious Jitendra Singh and his wife Vinita-

I was delighted to see this house and even more delighted to learn that the younger generation of the family have returned, after their education, to live in this very house and are proud to maintain it in it’s fullest glory. Here is a mother, old but stunningly beautiful, blossoming in the love and care showered by her newest generation of children.

Thank you Jitendra Singh and Vinita-and indeed the whole family- for showing us how !
And for reviving our faith in preservation of Indian heritage !

Read features on other beautiful old Allahabad bungalows by clicking here and here.

We plan to visit friends of the family this evening and go to the Lucknow cantonment for a leisurely walk tomorrow morning–in between cleaning our home, that is !
Hope you have a wonderful weekend.
Thank you so much for reading and supporting me- do tell your friends to ‘subscribe’to my blog(you can see a ‘subscribe by email’box on the upper right of this page–it is free and very safe)and ‘like’my blog page on facebook(also on the right of this page) if you think they might like it.

And do leave a comment because I love to hear from you !


About Adity

Hello ! You are either already a friend or will become one--through this medium! I am an artist and jewellery maker, a wife and mother to two lovely children. Beautiful homes, food, nature and wonderful things happening around me make me ecstatic. That is why I started to write this blog-- to share with you all of these things. After all what good is any experience if not shared !
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19 Responses to The house of Choudhary Naunihal Singh

  1. chetna says:

    I must tell you that when I saw a notification of your new blog entry on facebook, I actually got excited . This new entry was a delight, like all your other entries. Please keep writing.
    It is wonderful to see that there are people who still make the effort to not only preserve their ancestral architectural treasures but also reside in them keeping the soul of such beautiful homes alive nurturing them with love and care.

  2. shikha chaki says:

    Hi Adity,this house is absolutely stunning.You can make out that the house has been preserved with love and care.It is truly heartening to know that the younger generation instead of abandoning is living in the house and maintaining it. Kudos !

  3. Uttora Ratna says:

    Having you here with usand being your assistant during your visits and researches, helped me to see a very different and interesting side to your personality. I feel very blessed to have a sister like you. Every trip was an eye-opener and this home was wonderful as I remembered it to be. The whole family was graciousness itself and opened the portals of the Haveli through the means of your blog. Congratulations!

  4. Gauri says:

    Amazing. Never imagined that a bungalow with such beautiful detailing exists in the very prosaic looking Kalyani Devi

    • Absolutely,Gauri. In fact, places like Kalyani Devi and chowk have many such beautiful kothis but perhaps very few as well preserved as this one. If you go on ricksha-as we did-you will be able to spot many gorgeous facades of old kothis but most are in stages of dereliction.

  5. Asoka says:

    What a lovely old Kothi… takes me back to Allahabad of yore…Ch. Naunihal Singh had an outstanding personality…

    • Thank you for reading my blog Mr Dar-and for your comment. You will remember many such places,I suppose- and I am certain you will have many stories of Allahabad and its people to share-perhaps you can do so ?
      Yes, everyone seemed to know Ch Naunihal Singh. He also always respected and supported my father in his work for the disabled-that is how we knew of him.

  6. Ingrid says:

    The pillars are so beautiful! A real piece of art.

  7. Vandana andLadlie Tandon says:

    Adity you have done a great job.While I had seen a little of the Kothi long long back I did not notice what you have shown.Keep up the good work.Regards,

  8. hello maam,
    my name is shreya and i’m a b.arch student. i m doing my thesis on traditional dwellings near lucknow. it will be a great help if you can give some more information on your house plans and elevation.

    • Hi Shreya, nice to know you are looking into traditional dwellings. So would that include mansions/havelis such as this one ? Wd you like information about elevation of this house in Gadia ? It might not be difficult to figure that out. Sadly, no house plan exists.

  9. Priya says:

    What a find your blog is…it is a such a pleasure seing such grand havelis which have been able to retain their character thanks to the descendents of those who build them, appreciating and willing to preserve their heritage. You are so lucky to have been able to visit this beautiful home which fills one with nostalgia of an era past… best wishes for the family of Ch. Naunihal Singh who have preserved their ancestors’ house so well…must try to see it, at least from the outside, during my next visit to Allahabad…

  10. Vernon Gosse says:

    Hi Adity, Great to read your Blog had heard of Chaudhari Naunihal Singh when I was in Allahabad but not for a moment did I dream that such a Lovely house existed therein,thanks for taking me on a ‘Tour’ of the same, enjoyed the trip.

    • Adity says:

      I am surprised myself as to how little we know of the places we live in. In fact, I myself had never been to this part of Kalyani Devi–it is actually still nice–because of Naunihal Singh’s family’s influence.

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