Tuesday 20 August 2019

097 - Haveli of Diwan Amar Nath Chopra (Eminabad, district Gujranwala)

If you visit an old part of any town in Pakistan it is certain that in the narrow winding streets you will find some old houses with beautiful wooden doors and balconies hovering over the narrow lanes. And it is quite probable that a few of them are so big and imposing in their size and grandeur that they will captivate your attention and you cannot pass by them without praising their beauty or feeling curious about their past and present. One such haveli is of Diwan Amar Nath Chopra in Eminabad city. I visited this haveli on 8 August 2019. While searching for the haveli in the city I met Syed Waseem Ali, who is one of the many residents of this haveli. He was happy to know that I was looking for their haveli. He took me to the haveli and soon I found myself in front of the magnificent main entrance of this haveli, the view spellbound me for a few moments. But an unpleasant surprise was also waiting for me. I soon found that it was actually a cluster of at least five or six huge havelis and none of them has survived. Only a few remnants exist as a testament to past glory. The haveli under our discussion exists at  32° 2'35.69"N;  74°15'38.40"E. 

Syed Waseem sahib's maternal grandmother's family now lives in this haveli. He has a diploma of Associate Engineer in architecture. His maternal grandmother's family migrated from, Salwan, district Karnal, Haryana, who is still alive. His maternal grandfather's name was Syed Shaukat Ali, who died a few years ago. And they have been living here ever since 1947. As mentioned earlier, according to Mr Wasem, it was a cluster of several havelis, where the extended family of Diwans lived side by side. There were dozens of rooms and the system of ventilation was so great that fresh air reached all nooks and corners of the havelis and even in hot weather the atmosphere inside was always pleasant.  

The main entrance of the haveli Diwan Amar Nath: (08.08.2019.)

The main entrance of the haveli Diwan Amar Nath: (08.08.2019.)

Two adjoining havelis. (08.08.2019)

Another view of the havelis. (08.08.2019)

A large empty plot, where once a large portion of one of the havelis existed(08.08.2019)

The haveli on right side still has some old room. (08.08.2019)

A few remnants of a third haveli, in front of the haveli of Diwan Amar Nath. (08.08.2019)

Syed Waseem Ali. (08.08.2019)

A demolished section of the haveli, behind the main entrance. (08.08.2019)

The writer. (08.08.2019)

Now something about Diwan Amar Nath and the family, who owned these magnificent havelis. Following account of this family is given in the book "Chiefs and Families of Note in Punjab, 1939":
This family is well known all over the northern India by reason of the close connection for years past of many of its members with the Jammu and Kashmir State. Frome the commencement of the Maharaja Gulab Singh's reign until the death of Diwan Amar Nath in 1917, they practically monopolized the office of Diwan of Prime Minister, and thus incurred responsibility for much of the good or evil repute attaching to the rule of the Dogras in Kashmir. 
The family history goes back to Rai Ugarsen of Bikaner, who was Peshkar or Secretary to the Emperor Babar, whom he once accompanied on a visit to Punjab, and, marrying amongst the Kanungo Khatris of Eminabad in the Gujranwala district, settled there. Bishan Das, great-great-grandfather of Diwan Amar Nath, was employed as a writer under Sardar Mahan Singh Sukarchakia. His son, Amir Chand, became the Karkun or managing agent of Raja Gulab Singh in the Bewal ilaqa, made over to him by Maharaja Ranjit Singh; and he was afterwards designated as the Madar-ul-Maham of Jammu when that terriroty fell into Maharaja Gulab Singh's hands.  He died at Kidarabad (probably Qadirabad) in 1836 when on tour with his master, and was succeeded as head of affairs by his son, Diwan Jwala Sahai, who for nearly thirty years remained the confidential minister of the Maharaja, rendering important services to the British Government as the Mahraja's accredited agent. His loyal services during the Mutiny received the special acknowledgements of the Viceory. In 1865 Jwala Sahai was obliged by a stroke of paralysis to give over the Diwanship to his son, Kirpa Ram; but he continued to serve the State in the capacity of Governoer of Jammu. He was made a Companion of the Star of India in 1875. Diwan Kirpa Ram held the office of Diwan till his death in 1876. He was an oriental scholar of some repute, and was the author of several Persian books, including a history of Kashmir and the Gulab Nama or History of Maharaja Gulab Singh. he was slightly less conservative than his father, and was zealous in encouraging education, establishing hospitals, opening up thoroughfares, introducing silk and other industries, and improving the system of revenue collection. But his death at the early age of 44 prevented his undertakings from being brought to a satisfactory finish. Kirpa Ram was followed as Diwan by his son, Anant Ram, who kept the office for ten years. He was attacked with a brain affection, and was obliged in 1885 to resign his Diwanship in favour of his cousin, Gobind Sahai, son of Diwan Nihal Chand. 
 Mention must, however, first be made of Diwan Hari Chand and Nihal Chand, the younger sons of Amir Chand. Maharaja Gulab Singh gave the former the command his troops in 1836, and in this capacity he served the State usefully for many years, extending and consolidating the Mahraja's authority northwards beyond Ladakh, and to the west as Yasin and Chilas. When the Mutiny broke out he was sent to Delhi in charge of the Jammu contingent of one cavalry and four infantry regiments and a battery of artillery. He died there of cholera in 1857. Diwan Nihal Chand worked for several years as an assistant under his brother, Jwala Sahai, and was always a favourite of Maharaja Gulab Singh. In 1885 he was appointed confidential agen of the State with the Lietenant-Governor of the Punjab. He hastened to Delhi in 1857 on hearing of his brother's death, and took over the command of the troops, rendering useful service later on in connection with the trial of the Nawab of Jhajjar for participation in the rebellion. He died in 1872. His son Diwan Gobind Sahai, had been, from his earliest days, attached to the Court at Jammu. He acted as Mehmandar, or host, in the Maharaja's behalf on the occasion of visits of ceremony by high Indian officials. In 1868 he was employed in settlement work, and was instrumental in abolishing payment of revenue in kind in the districts of Jammu and Naushehra. He succeeded his father in 1872 as confidential agent with the Lieutenant Governor, and received the appointment of Motamid with the Governor-General in 1878. For his special services in this capacity he received a grant of fifteen hundred acres of culturable land in Tahsil Hafizabad, Gujranwala, during the viceroyalty of the Earl of Lytton. He succeeded to the Diwanship as already stated in 1885, shortly after the accession of Maharaja Partap Singh, but was soon afterwards dismissed and his office made over to his firsr cousin, Diwan Lachhman Das, younger son of Diwan Jwala Sahai. But he too summarily dismissed in 1888.
 Of the older branch, the most important member in recent years was, Diwan Amar Nath, who was appointed Governor of Jammu in 1893 and held that post till 1905, when he was made the Foreign Minister of the Kashmir State. He was given the title of Rai Sahib in recognition of his services in Jammu in 1905. He was made Prime Minister in 1910 and he held that post till his death in 1917. In recognition of his valuable services he was made a Diwan Bahadur and also granted the C.I.E. He owned upward of 10,000 acres of land in Gujranwala and the surrounding districts and enjoyed a share of large jagir from the Kashmir State which had been conferred on his grandfather, Diwan Jwala Sahai and his descendants in perpetuity. In addition, the Diwan received an allowance of four rupees per thousand of the collected revenue of the State. Diwan Amar Nath spent considerable sums in establishing a High School with an hostel and a dispensary in Eminabad, his native town. His son, Badri Nath, was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was called to the Bar. He also held the LL.D. degree of the Glasgow University. On his return to India he served as Private Secretary Maharaja Pratap Singh, but died in 1919 of cholera, leaving no male issue. 
Diwan Sheo Nath, son of Diwan Lachhmi Das, was also a large land-owner in Eminabadand the neighbourhood. Lachhman Das' share of the Kashmir jagir was confiscated on his dismissal from the post of Diwan in 1888, but was subsequently restored to him by the Darbar, when he regained the favour of the Maharaja and is now enjoyed by his grandson, Diwan Dhanpat Rai. The latter had also a distinguished career in the Kashmir State. After being educated at the Government College, Lahore, he was sent to the Punjab by that State to gain training and experience in judicial and settlement work. He received his training in the Hissar and Ferozepore districts and was appointed an Honorary Extra Assistant Commissioner by the Punjab Government. For a time he was attached to the office of the Director of Land Records, Punjab. In 1912 he was appointed as a Wazir-i-Wazarat in the Jammu State. During the Great War he rendered valuable help to the administration by providing a large number of recruits and large sums of money. In 1930 Diwan Dhanpat Rai was appointed Governor of the Jammu Province, which post he held for more than a year before his retirement. 
Of the younger branch, Diwan Gobind Sahai was the best known member of the family in British India, and owned upwards of eleven thousand acres of land in the Gujranwala district. He paid Rs 8,000 per annum in land revenue. He enjoyed a jagir of Rs 4,000, per annum granted by the Kashmir State to his father, Diwan Nihal Chand, as well as a jagir of Rs 3,500 from that State. He also owned property in Jammu yielding a handsome rental. His eldest son, Diwan Lakhpat Rai, was Secretary to the late Maharaja Ranbir Singh, for some time. Later he became Tahsildar and still later Wazir-i-Wazarat of Governor of Gilgit where he died in 1908. His younger brother, Narayan Das, died in the same year. 
Diwan Lakhpat Rai left two sons, Brij Lal and Daulat Ram. The former is now the head of the Diwan family in Eminabad. After studying in agriculture and being called to the Bar in England, Diwan Brij Lal returned to India in 1915 and has since been managing his own property. Daulat Ram is looking after the commercial business of the family. But the two brothers are living in a joint family. Brij Lal has been President of the Municipal Committee of Eminabad for twelve years, and has also been an Honorary Magistrate. In 1935 he was awarded the Silver Jubilee Medal.
As we noted earlier, it was not just one single haveli, but at least five or six havelis existed close to one another. At least three of them have some sections still standing. All these pictures given below were provided by Syed Waseem Ali sahib, which he took in October, 2009, when his maternal family started demolishing the main haveli, in which they were residing. It is to be noted that the havelis were allotted to different migrant families.  And they kept on altering or demolishing them according to their needs, resources and circumstances. 

The facade of the haveli of Diwan Amar Nath in October, 2009.

The above three pictures show the main gate and the beautiful wooden balcony above it. 

A wooden bar was used to close and secure the door from inside. 

The pictures given below are of havelis existed close to each other. These pictures were also taken in 2009.

The pictures given below were also taken by Syed Waseem Ali in 2009. They show the interior of the haveli. Different rooms, niches, doors, windows, stairs and floor. 

The walls of the rooms of the haveli were very beautifully painted. Though after many decades the paintings and colours had faded and damaged, even then the beauty was quite visible when the following pictures were taken in 2009.

As was the style and custom in the past, wood was extensively used in the construction and decoration of these havelis, as you can see in these pictures of beautifully carved wooden doors and windows. 

Due to issues of maintenance etc. the family decided to demolish this haveli of Diwan Amar Nath in October, 2009. These pictures show the saddest part of this story and that is the demolition of this huge haveli. 

Diwan Amar Nath besides some other public works, also built a school in Eminabad. The main entrance still carries a plaque, mentioning his contribution. 
The main entrance of a school, which Diwan Amar Nath had built in Eminabad. 
(Photo by: Syed Waseem Ali)

انگلو سنسکرت ہائی سکول ایمن آباد

تعمیر کنانیدہ دیوان امرناتھ صاحب فارن منسٹر ریاست جموں و کشمیر

An old temple in Eminabad. 

The above three pictures show two temples in Eminabad. (Photos by: Syed Waseem Ali)

For the subsequent history of this family and to see some pictures of this haveli taken in 2004, during the visit of Mr Mehirr Nath a member of this family; you may visit the following link:

It is interesting to know that one member of this large family Mr Mehirr Chopra son of Joginer and Kusum Chopra, came to visit their ancestral home in 2004. Luckily he visited this haveli before it was demolished and saw the glory of his home with his own eyes. He also took some pictures. The details of this visit can be seen on the above-mentioned link. At present the descendants of the Diwan family are scattered in many countries like India, Britain, Canada and USA. You will find many details about them on the link given above.

The following pictures were taken by Mr Mehirr Chopra during his visit to Eminabad in 2004. I took the pictures from a website maintained by his mother Ms Kusum Chopra. Whom I contacted during my writing this post.

Mehirr Chopra with the current residents of this haveli. (2004)

Mehirr Chopra with late Syed Shaukat Ali. (2004)

This was the facade of haveli of Diwan Amar Nath. Now the top two layers are gone, so is the building behind this imposing door. 

This haveli on one side of the main haveli does not exist anymore. 

This haveli is still partially standing. 

This is the main haveli, which does not exist now. 

A view of a haveli which was in front of the haveli of Diwan Amar Nath. It is mostly gone. Except for a few remnants on the right side. 

Syed Waseem also informed me that all these havelis were internally connected with one another and doors opened in verandahs and courtyards. For the easy passage for all the extended family who lived in different havelis. Together there were dozens of room (the link given above gives the number as 120). But no source mentions the date of construction. His family reached several months after the partition and at the time of their arrival already some refugees were living there. They allowed them to share a floor of this vast haveli. Later on they moved out after selling their share of the haveli.

Keeping in mind the circumstances it is probable that Diwans left most of the furniture and household things behind. But Waseem told me that when their family arrived there, the havelis were empty and people already have plundered them of any valuables left behind. However, they found some utensils with Diwan Kirpa Ram written on them. Which they sold long time ago. Two heavy wooden tables were there which are gone now. However, luckily a few items are still there, recent pictures of which are given below:

A wooden cupboard of Diwans. (Picture by: Syed Waseem Ali)

The front view of the cupboard. (Picture by: Syed Waseem Ali)

A wooden chest. (Picture by: Syed Waseem Ali)

A surma dani, used to keep Kohl. (Picture by: Syed Waseem Ali)

While looking at the splendid main entrance, one cannot help feeling sorry at the loss of such a magnificent piece of heritage. Even Syed Waseem sahib regrets losing such a masterpiece of architecture. But this is our collective failure. I wish we could still preserve the remaining such buildings and turn them into a tourist attraction.

Tariq Amir

August 23, 2019.
Doha - Qatar.