Ghalib was in my head, Ghalib was eating me from inside and I had to track Ghalib to his grave. After reading and researching about Mirza Ghalib and his adventures in my city of Calcutta (Kolkata) I had to meet the man in his hometown of Delhi. I found the perfect excuse to drop into the capital and thus began my search for Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan in the streets of Old Delhi. I found some books which talk about the poet and his house in Ballimaran which is of course in the Old Delhi locality.
How to Reach
Reaching his house on a car is a really bad idea since the streets are quite narrow and you would have to park the vehicle far away. Also considering the heavy traffic which comprises of cycle rickshaws the street comes to a halt quite often.
I would recommend that you take the Metro route and get down at Chawri Bazar or Chandni Chowk which falls in the Yellow Line. Both Chawri Bazar and Chandni Chowk Metro station are very near to Rajiv Chowk Metro junction thus if you are coming from other Metro lines then change here.
I opted for Chandni Chowk, once out of the station you have two option either to walk or take a cycle rickshaw. I had done both thus walking is definitely a good idea if you want to experience the streets of Old Delhi however if it’s the summer then just take a rickshaw. I had to pay around 20 Rs. for the short ride back and was definitely worth it.
Be it walking or on a rickshaw its good idea to use the GPS map on your mobile instead of asking anyone. If you do ask then chances are that they might not be able to give you the correct answer.
From the main road take the lane towards Ballimaran and then after about two hundred meters take a right towards Gali Qasim Jan. There are street signages but most of them are covered with posters thus very difficult to track. From the start of the lane within fifty meters, you will find the house of Ghalib or Ghalib Ki Haveli on your left. The house is clearly marked with signage on the outside thus difficult to miss.
Location of the House on Map
History of the House
Ghalib was born in Agra (Akbarabad) at a place called Kala Mahal on 27 December 1797. Ghalib moves to Delhi at the age of 11, his father had died when he was just 5 and was brought up by his uncle. In Delhi, he married Umra’o Begam at the age of 13 in the year 1812 and initially stayed with his father in law. Later he permanently shifts to another place in the city.
Delhi is the very place from where Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan started writing under the name of “Ghalib” thus we can clearly say that Ghalib the poet was born in this very city.
Mirza Ghalib spent his last years in this house, he spent around nine years in this house from 1860 to 1869. This house was actually never purchased by Mirza Ghalib instead was a gift from a Hakim (traditional doctor).
On 15 of February 1869, Ghalib died in this very house after falling into a coma on February 14. He was buried at Nizamuddin at the traditional graveyard of the Loharu family.
Ghalib Ki Haveli
Don’t get carried on with the word “Haveli” it’s not a big mansion neither is it a grand apartment rather is a collection of few small dark rooms at the ground floor of a house. This house was almost lost in time and was once a workshop where laborers used to manufacture cooking heaters. This house had actually turned into a small factory over the time.
Delhi government early at the beginning of millennium (1999 – 2000) managed to buy back the portion of the house which was once occupied by Ghalib and make it into a museum. However other portions of the Haveli still remains occupied by tenants.
What to See?
Basically, there is a small room on the right-hand side as you enter the Haveli. This portion of the buildings has some photographs and a stone statue of the poet. On either side of the wall, you will find clothes (not the original) but similar to the ones once worn by the poet. This is for representation only. You will also find photographs of the other houses around the country that were once occupied by the poet.
If you go straight from the door you will reach a fairly large courtyard which is surrounded by various exhibits. None of the exhibits were actually owned by the poet but kept nicely to depict the lifestyle of the poet. Inside a glass enclosure, you will find the poetries of the Ghalib beautifully kept and perfect for photographing.
Since this house is significant to the poet thus you should not be surprised if you find a group of young boys and girls gather up at the courtyard to perform poetries and other recitations. When I visited this place I was fortunate that a large gathering of college students, as well as senior poet, had come to Ghalib ki Haveli for an Open Mic session. All the guests were seated on the floor which was covered up by large mats and one by one they performed to an applause. Follow various event groups on social media to keep track of these events and plan your trip accordingly.
Overall it’s a good way to spend half a day around Old Delhi and getting to know Ghalib. My journey does not end here but takes me to his final resting place that is his grave. All that in my next blog till then happy traveling.
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