Tucked away in a narrow by-lane of Burhanpur, near Dilli Darwaza, we visited the beautiful wooden house of the Hathiwala family, traditional keepers of elephants for the armies of the Marathas and Mughals. Built by Govardhan Das over a century ago, the house was a defensive structure in itself with windows and doors that could be shuttered so well, even daylight couldn’t creep in. “Ye log bahut sampatti ke maalik hotey they” (They used to have a lot of wealth). That is why security was important, explained our guide Ghanshyam Malviya or Guruji, as we climbed the narrow wooden stairs behind him, to enter his friend’s home. Over snacks of shakarparemoong dal halwa, and delicious lemongrass tea, the Hathiwala family shared insights about the lives of their ancestors in Burhanpur, a hundred years ago.

Visit MP Tourism

Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy
Sumitra Hathiwala and her daughter Dr Siddhi peep out of their century-old mansion
Sumitra Hathiwala and her daughter Dr Siddhi peep out of their century-old mansion
Abhinandita Mathur
Paintings of gods and goddesses adorn the niches and walls, with photos of some of the Hathiwala ancestors hanging alongside
Paintings of gods and goddesses adorn the niches and walls, with photos of some of the Hathiwala ancestors hanging alongside


Abhinandita Mathur
Current residents of the haveli, Virendra Hathiwala who is an agriculturist and paper merchant, and his wife, Sumitra, a corporator in the local municipality, as well as a painter and poet
Current residents of the haveli, Virendra Hathiwala who is an agriculturist and paper merchant, and his wife, Sumitra, a corporator in the local municipality, as well as a painter and poet
Abhinandita Mathur
Forty Belgian glass lamps once hung from the mansion’s ceilings. Now, just four remain
Forty Belgian glass lamps once hung from the mansion’s ceilings. Now, just four remain
Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy
They take the adage ‘ghar ek mandir’ (home is a temple) quite seriously, joked our guide Guruji
They take the adage ‘ghar ek mandir’ (home is a temple) quite seriously, joked our guide Guruji
Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy
The brightly coloured Hathiwala haveli has exquisite paintings of Hindu deities in its wall niches
The brightly coloured Hathiwala haveli has exquisite paintings of Hindu deities in its wall niches
Abhinandita Mathur
Back in the day, security was simple. Residents would lock the blue door on the floor and drag a heavy almirah over it to ensure no thief could break in
Back in the day, security was simple. Residents would lock the blue door on the floor and drag a heavy almirah over it to ensure no thief could break in
A horse-cart outiside the haveli in Burhanpur
A horse-cart outiside the haveli in Burhanpur