Omar Hayat Mahal (built 1923)
The Omar Hayat Mahal is a five-story wooden haveli (mansion) built by Sheikh Omar Hayat in 1923. Local lore holds that it was intended as the residence for his newborn son, who was born in the same year. However, the son died shortly after his marriage 15 years later and was buried in the ground floor chamber alongside his mother, who died the same year. These graves are still present today.
By the late 1930s the mansion had begun to fall into disrepair as the descendants of Omar Hayat's servants took up residence there. Later, the organization Anjuman-e-Islamia Chiniot attempted to convert the mansion into a girls' school, but it was converted into an orphanage instead. By the 1970s the upper story was in such unsound condition that the local municipal authorities demolished it. The level beneath it was itself destroyed in the 1990s when heavy rains caused it to collapse.
Although the mansion is currently being used as a library it remains in precarious condition. The inside and front facade are relatively well preserved due to restorations conducted during the late 1980s. However, the partially destroyed upper floor and exterior woodwork is not protected from the elements and the lack of effective drainage means that continued damage to the building is inevitable. One can only hope that the local authorities in Chiniot will recognize the value of this cultural treasure and take action to protect it.
The approximate location of the mahal is 31.719402' N, 72.980038' E (WGS 84 map datum).
All images copyright 2014 Aown Ali
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