Haveli is a traditional townhouse or mansion in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, usually one with historical and architectural significance. The word haveli is derived from Arabic hawali, meaning "partition" or "private space" popularised under Mughal Empire and was devoid of any architectural affiliations. Later, the word haveli came to be used as generic term for various styles of regional mansions, townhouse and temples found in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Courtyards are a common feature in South Asian, whether they were mansions or farm houses. The traditional courtyard homes of South Asia were influenced by the ancient principles of Vastu Shastra which state that all spaces emerge from a single point, that is the center of the house.
The earliest archaeological evidence of courtyard homes in the region dates back to 3300 BCE. Traditional homes in South Asia are built around a courtyard, and all family activities revolved around this chowk or courtyard. Additionally, the courtyard serves as a light well and an effective ventilation strategy for hot and dry climates of South Asia.
During medieval period, the term Haveli was first applied in Rajputana by the Vaishnava sect to refer to their temples in Gujarat under the Mughal Empire and Rajputana kingdoms. Later, the generic term haveli eventually came to be identified with townhouse and mansions of the merchant class.
All these elements join to form an enclosure and give the chowk a composed secured feel. The architectural built form of havelis has evolved in response to the climate, lifestyle and availability of material. In hot climates where cooling is a necessity, buildings with internal courtyards were considered the most appropriate. It acted as a perfect shading technique, while also allowing light inside. The arcade along the court, or the high wall around it, kept the interiors cool.
Many of the havelis of India and Pakistan were influenced by Rajasthani architecture. They usually contain a courtyard often with a fountain in the centre. The old cities of Agra, Lucknow and Delhi in India and Lahore, Multan, Peshawar, Hyderabad in Pakistan have many fine examples of Rajasthani-style havelis.