Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
It was once a place brimming with activity. Hundreds of travellers on their way to Delhi would take shelter in one of the many rooms of this huge multi-storeyed haveli and enjoy the delicacies lovingly served by Chabili Bhatiyaran. And as the news reached far and wide the place came to be called as Chabili Bhatiyaran Ki Sarai. Who was this lady and how she came to stay here no one knows. All that is available with ASI is that it is a protected monument belonging to the late Mughal period. It is also known as Sarai Pipalthala and Badli Sarai.
Situated on GT Road, near Adarsh Nagar in Delhi the sarai was initially a large enclosure surrounded by arched cells and entered through the gateways on north-west and south-east. During the first war of Independence in 1857, it was held by the Indian troops.
Today only the gateways of the sarai remain, as also traces of original rooms. The arched cells were dismantled in early years of the 20th century. The gateways have battlements on the outer face, a domed chamber and steps leading to the terrace from either end of the rear side. The gateway on the north is slightly better-preserved.
The enclosure has been totally disfigured. All around the left-over monument are residential buildings. The ASI has very graciously put an iron grill around the area but the new buildings stand centimeters away from the gateways. The grill too is broken at a number of places.
For drug addicts, the building serves as a safe haven. The outside area is for the residents to use according to their free will: in the mornings it becomes a lavatory while during the day young boys can be seen playing cricket. Heaps of garbage near the entry gate and on its rear also tells a sorry tale of neglect by the concerned officials and the people alike. The area along the boundary grill on the GT Road side is used by hawkers to sell their wares and fruit and vegetable vendors. A family has also come to stay in the premises.
There is not a speck of grass in the entire area, though there are plenty of mounds of earth. Sources say some excavation work was carried out in this area early this year (some walls have been unearthed and can be seen from the surface, bell-shaped structures of marble were also unearthed during the excavation and can be seen lying there) but owing to shortage of funds the work was stopped midway. “Tenders for the work will again be floated in March and work will begin again,” said a source.
Despite being a protected monument, the ASI has not deemed it fit to put a board proclaiming it as its property. There is no chowkidaar, even the gate is broken and without unlocked.