The European styled architecture  of the Dawoodi Bohra havelis in Siddhpur  is a fusion of French and Italian influences. A new photo exhibition will showcase the town’s  architectural charm and its rich past. These living spaces of the community represent a nostalgic visual of the bygone days.
The European styled architecture of the Dawoodi Bohra havelis in Siddhpur is a fusion of French and Italian influences. A new photo exhibition will showcase the town’s  architectural charm and its rich past. These living spaces of the community represent a nostalgic visual of the bygone days. Pic courtesy/ Abuzar N Zakir & Saifee Merchant

What: Author Abuzar Zakir is writing a short book on Siddhpur & The Dawoodi Bohras, set for a July 2015 release. It includes a short history on the rich heritage and culture of Siddhpur, in north Gujarat, along with a pictorial tour of the town and how it transcended from Old Siddhpur of vernacular basic architecture to a Siddhpur of high Renaissance architecture. The havelis and palaces owned by Siddhpur’s Dawoodi Bohras have been influenced by french and Italian styles of architecture. As a prelude to the launch, a project in the form of a photo exhibition featuring Siddhpur Heritage and its Palatial Havelis, is underway.

Interiors of the Najmi Hall, Siddhpur
Interiors of the Najmi Hall, Siddhpur

The Zaveri Cottage of 360 windows
The Zaveri Cottage of 360 windows

How: Siddhpur is important to Bohra Muslims, an affluent Muslim community spread across the world. They have contributed to the development of Siddhpur. Their old havelis and mansions, some over 100 years old, have a European essence. A walk through Bohra Vad is like a stroll through the lanes found in the English countryside. They were so enamored by the style of living in 19th century Europe that as a sign of opulence and to gain respect in the community, they recreated a slice of Europe. This, was done by imitating the Victorian architecture.

Najmi Hall — a community hall made by the Dawoodi Bohra community for sermons and exhibitions
Najmi Hall — a community hall made by the Dawoodi Bohra community for sermons and exhibitions

The interiors of one of the first bungalows of Siddhpur, built by Late Khansaheb Esmailjee Hasanbhoy Totanawala, nearly 100 years ago.
The interiors of one of the first bungalows of Siddhpur, built by Late Khansaheb Esmailjee Hasanbhoy Totanawala, nearly 100 years ago. Pics courtesy/Abuzar N Zakir, Saifee Merchant

Where: In the 10th century, Siddhpur was at the zenith under the Solanki rulers. The ruler Siddhraj Jaisingh built his capital at Siddhpur, from where it got its name. During the reign of Gaekwads, before the 1900s, Siddhpur’s Dawoodi Bohras were not only prosperous but also generous and worked towards making Siddhpur into a flourishing town of the 19th Century. The Dawoodi Bohras built new Siddhpur (land adjacent to the railway line in 1902) in American Deco-style havelis and palaces. They were philanthropists who loved their motherland.