Without a soul in sight, the abandoned mansions of Sidhpur remain perfectly preserved in all their pastel glory. Rows and rows of these magnificent structures, known as Havelis, line the empty streets of Sidhpur where once the interiors of these stately structures bore the same opulence as the exterior.
The Dawoodi Bohras – a close-knit Shia Muslim trading community – migrated here in the 18th century from Yemin to settle in the area of Gujarat. Ultimately they would be responsible for the construction of these opulent quarters. And like the brightly colored facades of their mansions, Bohras women wore burqas in various vivid shades – a rarity compared to the primarily black burqas of other Muslim communities.
The Havelis were not only heavily influenced by Victorian architecture, but also incorporated elements of European, Islamic, and Indian styles as well. The primarily wooden houses are narrow but deep, each centered around a small courtyard to help aerate the hot and dry climate.
"For all their visual magnificence, architectural splendor, and historical significance, why are they abandoned?"
In the now-empty homes, delicate detail can still be found in the doorways, staircases, floors, and ceilings. Geometric tiles and detailed friezes still grace the walls where parties and dinners were hosted at ornately decorated tables beneath glittering chandeliers.
So for all their visual magnificence, architectural splendor, and historical significance, why are they abandoned?
Nomadic in nature, the Dawoodi Bohras historically traveled abroad following where trade took them. They have since settled outside of Sidhpur in cities like Mumbai and Ahmedabad in India and also in regions in Europe and Eastern Africa. A wealthy community, some Bohra families return to visit and maintain the Havelis, once the homes of their ancestors. Seeing these abandoned pink, blue, lime and mint dwellings is simultaneously breathtaking and puzzling – yet it is also an experience that reveals the beauty of a bygone era.
Story: Kelly Murray