List of Havelis and Palaces

Haveli of Hakim Ahsanullah Khan

Hakim Ahsan-ul-lah Khan ki Haveli spans over an area of 2000 Square Yards that was built in 1730 during the reign of Emperor Muhammed Shah in what is known today as Lal Kuan situated near the Mehrauli-Badarpur Road in Delhi. The Hakim was a personal physician and chief confidante of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and a great friend of Mirza Ghalib, a renowned Urdu Poet in those times. He requested the Emperor to award Mirza Ghalib the honour to pen down the historical biography of the Mughal Empire and its reign.

The Hakim was born in 1797 and belonged to the afghan clan whose ancestors from Herat earlier migrated to Dal Lake in Kashmir and later to Delhi. His ancestors who were also renowned Hakims acquired the Haveli and served as the Hakims of the Royal Family. His son named Hakim Ikram-ul-lah Khan also became a Hakim and later, the Haveli was named after wife, Mehmooda-Un-Nisa. Lal Kuan also homes the ancestral Haveli or Palace of Empress Zeenat Mahal and that is also one of the reasons why the Hakim was very dear to the Emperor and his wife.

Hakim Ahsan-ul-lah Khan was a learned man who was highly knowledgeable in Persian, Arabic and Urdu languages and Unani medicines with interests in metaphysics, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy and poetry which made him good friends with Ghalib, Momin and Zauq. He published poetry books written by Ghalib and Zauq named 'Dewan' and 'Insha-E-Momin'. One of the few books that he wrote named 'Ahsan-Al-Qarabadin' that was first presented to his mentor, Emperor Zafar and a copy was presented each to the King of Jaipur and the Nawab of Rampur is currently very highly priced.

Hakim Ahsan-ul-lah Khan and his Haveli were made famous after the 1857 Sepoy Munity when he sheltered many people in this very Haveli. He was also nicknamed by people as 'Gangaram Yahudi' though there is no evidence to such derogatory remarks passed at this great Hakim, but if you check the meaning of 'Gangaram' which is a derivative of 'Parrot' and 'Yahudi', which means 'Renegade' and is a Jewish word, it can ascribe to the reason that the revolutionists thought that The Hakim was secretly working with the British Army and just parroted what the British asked him to do which was definitely not the case and we guess that was why his Haveli was looted and attacked. The Emperor and his wife Zeenat Mahal also defended the Hakim and were in turn charged of conspiring with the British Raj.

In fact, there were certain rebels who took advantage of the situation during this Mutiny indulging in looting Havelis and Mansions and the Hakim reported these incidents to Emperor Zafar on 30th May 1857 and appealed for those rebels to be expelled from the city at 1500 hours but unfortunately, it was of no good as access to the King was denied as this was the time when he rested in his Khwab Gah in Red Fort and spent time with his wife Zeenat Mahal.

The Mutiny failed and the Emperor made plans to escape from the Red Fort to Bareilly and then to Rampur from where his commander Muhammad Bakht Khan would help him cross the border and escape to Mecca. The wise Hakim persuaded the Emperor not to undertake such a tiring and dangerous route at the age of 83, but to hide in Humayun Tomb where he finally surrendered to the British after he was promised safe keep of his family by the British government, instead, Major William Hodson killed his sons and his grandson on the way to the Red Fort. The Emperor's trial lasted from 1858 to 1862 and during his exile in Rangoon in Burma; Hakim Ahsan-ul-lah Khan was allowed a few visits which comforted the very frail, sick and almost dying Emperor especially since he had always depended on the understanding and wisdom of the Hakim.

The Hakim's Haveli covered a large portion of Lal Kuan that looked like a huge campus in itself built with wide Balconies, Verandas, Arched Doorways, Huge spacious rooms, ornate ventilators and the Turkish style baths that all need renovation by ASI. Today, this Haveli is reduced to half and less attractive but fortunately deemed as a protected site by the Government that still requires rework. It is believed that a secret tunnel runs under a water canal that flows right up to the Red Fort which was used by the Hakim to visit the Emperor, however, today, it seems to have vanished and is untraceable.

The British had hijacked the Hakim's Haveli after the Mutiny failed but returned it later only after stripping it off its beautiful ancient Lamps and Chandeliers. After his Emperor was exiled to Rangoon, the venerable, thin and white bearded Hakim moved to Baroda and later died and was buried there in 1873 at the age of 76. His descendants include Nawab Ghalib Hassan Khan and the rest migrated to Pakistan. The ones currently present are Nasreen Ghalib and Najma who are the Hakim's great grand-daughters.

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