Antique Haveli Temple Door Circa Mid 17th Century
350-Year-Old Haveli Temple Door: Architectural marvel showcasing Mughal influence.


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Wood & Iron


Circa Mid 17th Centaury

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Width: 175cmHeight: 242cmDepth: 32cmWeight: 500kg

About the product

Antique Haveli Temple Door Circa Mid 17th Century

The vintage and weathered Haveli Temple door along with its frame, dates back to the mid-17th century, i.e. 350 years from now, during the reign of the Mughal empire. The palace door comes from Gujarat, and most likely belongs to a medieval Haveli temple - since woodwork from houses usually dates back to 150-200 years ago, i.e. 1750-1800 AD, while those from Haveli temples date back to 1600 AD at least. Weathered by time and elements, this door retains its timeless beauty.

In the architecture of North-Western India, it is extremely likely to witness the generation of larger architectural forms from the aggregation of smaller architectural elements. One such quintessential element is doors and frames.

The establishment of the Haveli temple has a rather unusual origin, based upon the conception of the Bhakti cult of popular Vaishnavism. It is probably the Pushti Marga - a sect founded by Vallabhacharya in the 15th century which seems to be the first to conceive of the Haveli temple. The tradition follows the Vaishnava belief in which the deity has to be housed in a ‘palace’ on Earth. In this residence, carvings and ornamentation were added, often containing religious themes. 

The state of Gujarat, lying on the western coast of India has produced some marvels in art and architecture. Also a state with a major seaport throughout Indian history, this effectively helped the natives with economic prosperity and these trade relations helped in exchange for artistic thoughts among communities which are evident from the influence of art and architecture. 

The money that they brought in from their trade relations with Africa, West Asia, and  Europe helped immensely to create a class of architecture that illustrated the prosperity of a Gujarati household. The traditional houses in Gujarat were built on the technique of “half-timbering”, to withstand earthquakes which were prevalent in West Asia.

In Gujarat, despite the rest of the country slowly moving towards an almost exclusive use of brick or stone, the tradition of wood carving continued to prosper until the end of the 19th century. In architecture, intricately carved doors (tied together with bonding timbres) acted as a cage that held the house together. Due to this peculiar structural technique, the woodwork came to inhabit a dormant visual role and these enormous, magnificent Gujarati doors served the dual functions of advertising the owner's luxury to guests and bystanders alike while offering the necessary protection from any attacker. The exquisite carvings on the doors and lintel, which are inspired by local legends or Hindu history, represent the people's creative luxury.

Also during the medieval ages, the society was feudal in nature and the feudal lords controlled vast tracts of land which when combined with their active involvement in sea trade and money-lending businesses helped them to create domestic structures that pronounced their wealth at first glance. The genesis of haveli (palace) architecture lies in the wealth of this feudal class and these marvellous havelis were a sight to gaze upon and they also became symbols of their wealth and prosperity.

With wealth, comes an abject need for better protection. The grihadwara (main door of the house) is the first line of defence against any intruder. The evolution of these massive and cumbersome doors in havelis was the result of the need for better security. Although,  these doors were massive but greatest possible care and expense were given to them which was a symbol of prosperity and well-being. After all, the first thing visitors notice about a house is the door.

The structure, the design, and the motifs all were due to the desire for status. It gave an idea to the guest about his host. This trend of prestigious entrances was inspired by royalty where the gateways to the palaces were enormous and richly decorated, which was imitated by aristocratic havelis. 

In Hindu culture, the door has always been an important part of the architecture. The carving on this piece has been done on structural parts, keeping in line with the tradition of rarely inserting a carved piece for ornamentation. The running and meandering pattern found on these doors, including this piece (more visibly on the frame), was often part of the woodwork on doors. This is due to the structural limitations of the material itself, which is linear in form - and makes executing large carvings increasingly difficult. 

After carving by incising to a shallow depth and rounding off edges, the woodwork is then tinted with a kind of varnish giving it a dark shade or by applying Bel-Tel, an almost black protective coating to protect the door from climatic conditions and providing retaining properties to the clarity of the carving. 

In the door, you see predominantly floral and geometric running patterns on the frame, with clear Mughal influence due to the Islamic inhibition of using figural motifs, yet indiscriminately distributed among Hindu and Jain houses as well. The geometric carving of the bell-shaped dome along both sides of the door represents the lotus dome structure. These are essentially eight-ribbed Indian half-domes, where each miniature dome also represents a lotus flower enclosed in the chakra/wheel of Vishnu. The bell is also one of the symbols of vibration, the cosmic creative force, a symbol that played an important part in early Hindu and Buddhist traditions and later transformed into the ‘Pathan’ dome in Sultanate and Mughal architecture. 

Double tolla

Tolla is a pair of wooden structures protruding out of the corners of the door frame. It is an example of Abyssinian stone architecture incorporated by the Gujarati artisans into their craft. It is a saddle-shaped piece of wood which was used to clasp and support a load.  A double tolla door was constructed with a pair of tolla above and below the door frame.  The outer frame was constructed to hold the shutter and to support the wall above it while the door opened against the inner frame. The chief mechanisms of locking the door were the chain and staple, the rings, the latch, the bar and the padlock. 

Single tolla 

It is identical in construction to a double tolla door but lacked the lower tolla which was replaced by a large wooden sill whose depth was equal to the width of the wall. The total width was slightly more than the frames of the door to project the sides into the wall holding the frame in place. 

Since the subcontinent’s ancient history, Gujarat has been well-known for its woodwork, and only with colonial influence did this tradition greatly weaken. Today, to be able to find remnants of such wood carvings from inside houses and havelis be it columns, jharokas, gates, roofs, etc, is certainly not a common site, making them rather rare and priced collectibles. The very designs found in these detailed wood carvings would also evolve to be used in textile wood-block prints. As doors such as this one live, the houses they once inhabited have now largely disappeared.