The Namak Haram Ki Haveli which means ‘the Mansion of a Traitor’ lies amidst the crowded streets in Ballimaran of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi. It is privately owned and an unprotected site built during the late Mughal era. It is accessible by local taxis and auto rickshaws including Metro Rail with Chandni Chowk as the nearest Metro link. This Haveli got its misfortunate name owing to the betrayal of trust and faith of the owner of this Haveli who lived here during the late Mughal and British period.
It is clearly said by many legendary folks that during the old era, Mansions and Havelis brought great fortune, luck and fame to its owner, however, the disloyalty and deeds of the owner can in turn bring great dishonour to their Havelis and owing to these anecdotes, the Namak Haram Ki Haveli was unfortunately deemed ill-famed due to the betrayal and deed of its owner named Bhawani Shankar Khatri. Let us take a look back at how this happened.
Bhawani Shankar Khatri was a great companion of Jaswant Rao, a well known figure and a Brave Maratha Warrior during the British reign. Jaswant Rao trusted Bhawani with his life as Bhawani was not only a good friend but also an intelligent and able man. Both of them serviced Maharaja Dhiraj Raj Rajeshwar Sawai aka Yashwant Rao Holkar, a brave Maratha King of Indore who was born in 1776 and greatly known as the ‘Napoleon of India’ by author, N. S. Inamdar due to his ferocious and determined valour to win over the British Raj and the Maharaja showed this by defeating the British Army on numerous occasions. During the Battle of Farrukhabad on 14th November 1804, Lord Lake of the British Army watched silently as Yashwant Rao Holkar proceeded towards Deeg in Bharatpur as he dared not attack the Maharaja and this action was greatly condemned by the Governor General of the British Raj. In fact, the British Government had even distributed the land and territory of Holkar amongst the other Indian Kings to keep them all divided but feared that if Yashwant Rao was not defeated soon enough, then these Indian Kings might join hands with him against the British.
Later, on being notified of this disappointment, Lord Lake and his Army formed an attack on 13th December 1804 on Deeg which was successfully resisted by King Yashwant Rao Holkar and the Jaat Ruler, King Ranjit Singh of Bharatpur who welcomed Holkar with support of his Army to battle against the British. On 3rd January 1805, Lord Lake along with other Generals and Colonels formed another attack on Deeg in Bharatpur that lasted for almost 3 months and is compared by all historical writers to the Battle of the Mahabharata fame. King Holkar was well praised by all and known to have cut off over 300 British Soldier noses and hence his ferocity and bravery was world famous. He even attacked the British Army in Delhi to free Moghal Emperor Shah Alam II from the British prison and was awarded the title of ‘Maharaja Dhiraj Raj Rajeshwar Alija Bahadur’ where ‘Bahadur’ means ‘the Brave one’ by the Emperor.
It was later that Bhawani Shankar Khatri along with Amir Khan Pindari betrayed Maharaja Holkar by taking the British side and they were also well awarded by the British for this act of betrayal. Amir was awarded a Jahgeer of Tonk while Bhawani got a Jahgeer in Delhi and the Haveli or Mahal in Shahjahanabad walled city of Old Delhi. Despite this betrayal, Maharaja Holkar and the Jaat King, Ranjit Singh did not lose hope; Daulatrao Scindia had decided to join hands with Holkar and Ranjit Singh only to be dissuaded by Kamal Nayan Munshi due to which he backed out but if he had just fought together with them, the three would have definitely defeated the British Army. The two, however continued to communicate with the rest of the Indian Rulers and later, on 17th April 1805, King Ranjit Singh signed a treaty with the British and Maharaja Holkar had to leave Bharatpur. In fact many still wonder why this was done as the two almost won over the British.
Even today, the betrayal of Bhawani Shankar Khatri resonates within the walls of his Haveli and hence, he was named the ‘Namak Haram’ where ‘Namak’ means ‘Salt’ and ‘Haram’ means ‘Traitor’ for being disloyal to his friend and King especially at the apex of the war of Independence and fight against the British when the King really needed his people and their loyalty. The Haveli or Mahal given by the British to Bhawani Shankar Khatri was named by all as the ‘Namak Haram ki Haveli’ which literally means ‘Traitor of the Salt of India’.
Today, the element of curiosity still lingers in this Haveli as to what may have later happened to the owner, Bhawani Shankar Khatri and is a main cause for attracting tourists. Like many Havelis around this Old city of Delhi, this Haveli depicts magnificent Mughal architecture with arched doorways almost seen in a dilapidated state partially covered in black colour due to the nearby shops selling charcoal; however, the first floor Balcony still retains its originality. The ground floor is seen with many small shops rented by people and also has a placard which reads ‘Heritage Building’ and a short description of its unique name. Most of the people living there do not even realise the significance of this Heritage property and maybe the main reason of its neglect.
The current residents of the Namak Haram Ki Haveli have disagreed to cooperate with ASI and are resisting Government interference and the government fears that by the time the authorities and the owners of this property reach a consensus, it might just be too late to save the remaining structure. However, for tourists and visitors, ‘Heritage walks’ are conducted by various travel agencies that do accommodate a tour around this Haveli.