Plan to restore Sajan Singh Haveli in doldrums

Lack of funds delays work on 130-year-old mansion


Imran Asghar December 04, 2021
It took wealthy merchant Sardar Rai Bahadur Sujan Singh three years to construct the iconic building, which is a masterpiece of British-era architecture. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

RAWALPINDI:

Work on the 130-year-old Sajaan Singh Haveli — consisting of seven gurdwaras and a temple in the heart of city’s most densely populated Bhabhra Bazaar area — could not be started as the provincial government did not release the funds approved for the restoration project.

Former Commissioner Capt (retd) Muhammad Mahmood, prior to his arrest in the Ring Road scandal, had gotten approval from the Punjab government to restore the historical mansion for Rs400 million. However, the provincial government did not release the funds.

The iconic building was built by Sardar Rai Bahadur Sujan Singh, a wealthy merchant some 131 years ago. Its foundation stone was laid in 1890 and was completed in three years. The 24,000-square feet building has four storeys and 45 rooms. Four of its large halls have Victorian-style furniture. But due to lack of proper maintenance, this very important cultural heritage is almost on the verge of collapse.

The restoration of a temple and seven gurdwaras was also part of the project.

Under the plan, streets of the inner Bhabra Bazaar and balconies of all ancient buildings were to be painted.

Under the plan, a library was to be set up on the ground floor and a cafe on the top floor where tourists could sit and know about the history of the mansion.

Under the plan, electricity poles, telephones and other wires installed in the streets near the Haveli were to be restored and a museum was to be set up on the second floor of the mansion. The museum would house antiquities from the British and Sikh periods.

Sources said that despite the approval of the project, funds were not released by the provincial government.

The Sajan Singh Haveli belonged to a Sikh family that left for India after partition. The family's other property was a royal palace on Mall Road, which now houses Fatima Jinnah Women's University.

Prior to this, a plan to make the Sajan Singh Haveli a campus of the Fatima Jinnah University was also under consideration but it could not be implemented.

The mansion is a masterpiece of British-era architecture and is a sight to behold.

The purpose of opening this mansion for tourists was not only to preserve the cultural heritage and introduce it to the next generation but also to promote the Pothohar culture.

Several attempts were made to take the version of Rawalpindi Commissioner Syed Gulzar Hussain Shah regarding the delay in renovation of the Sajan Singh Haveli, however, he did not reply.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2021.

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