Ranjit Singh Haveeli
On November 13, 1780, Ranjit Singh, the future Sikh Empire’s leader, was born in this elegant haveli (mansion). Mahan Singh (1756-1792), his father, was the ruler of the Sukerchakia Misl, one of the many minor kingdoms that developed in the Punjab as Mughal power crumbled.
The mansion is shaped like a long rectangle, with a north-south orientation but a cant to the northeast in the direction of Gujranwala’s urban fabric. It was probably surrounded by more greenery and open space in the late 18th century, but it now stands in an exceedingly packed location surrounded by illegally erected makeshift houses.
Brick and plaster with wood insets make up the main facade, which faces south. Similar to Mughal-era architecture, the surface is organised as a bilaterally symmetrical group of rectangular panels, distinguished from one another by ornate engaged columns spanned by cusped arches. A short niche stands beneath each of the arches on the ground floor and higher level, alternately filled with brick benches, arched windows, and a single entranceway. In the vast bay above the main entrance, the profile of multiple gently curving bangala style roofs can be observed, a fashion that rose to prominence during Shah Jahan’s era, when the conquest of east India (today’s Bangladesh) brought this shape to the Mughal Empire’s attention.
The first and largest area in the building is a double-height reception chamber that runs the length of the structure. Despite the dark lighting and lack of furnishings, it’s easy to imagine this space as a powerful representation of Mahan Singh’s power, complete with luxurious chairs, brilliant mural paintings, and the soft flicker of firelight. Further into the building, there are two chowks (courtyards), one in the middle and one in the back. The place where Ranjit Singh is claimed to have been born is commemorated by a lonely plaque in the inner courtyard’s east room.