Heritage Bruised: Puma Ad Graffiti ‘Defaces’ An Old Delhi Alleyway

Puma is facing flak after it spray-painted a heritage building for an advertisment. 

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The latest ad campaign of German sportswear company, Puma, has invited trouble after a heritage building in Chawri Bazaar, Delhi, was spray-painted for an advertisement.

Old Delhi's Chawri Bazaar is an ancient maze of buildings and by-lanes and alleys. Crumbling walls, weather-beaten doorways and arches echoing a rich bygone era.

This is what this ally looked like before Puma painted over a section of its walls.


The ad campaign, ‘Suede Gully,’ has gone viral. But not many viewers know that for the shoot, Puma spray-painted an 18th century building, and an entire old Delhi alley, angering locals and heritage activists alike.

Watch the ad here:

Puma hoped to grab eyeballs with their video, but culture expert and Convenor of INTACH Delhi chapter Swapna Liddle alleged that in their attempt to market their new line, the sportswear company ended up “tampering with the structure and its history.”

Liddle told The Quint that by spray painting the building, Puma has permanently damaged the “carved sandstone, limestone plaster, and Lahori bricks.”

It is legally and ethically wrong to tamper with this structure. History lies in the old stones; if you change their colour, you lose the history.
Swapna Liddle, Convenor, INTACH Delhi chapter

Until recently, the owner of the building was unaware that the structure was listed as one among 554 heritage sites in old Delhi, and fell under the ‘haveli’ category.

And Puma, it seems, was equally unaware.

The owner, Arun Khandelwal, loved the graffiti on his walls. "This is a private property and the graffiti is making the area look more beautiful. The area is looking better now, it is more lively," he told The Indian Express.

Perhaps unintentionally, but Puma has broken certain heritage laws in India as per Section 23 of the Delhi Bye Laws for Conservation and Protection 1983.

However, the company issued a statement that it took prior permission from the owner of the building and was unaware that the structure was a heritage site.

Before carrying out the execution of art on the walls, we had taken permission from the owner of the property and as the property was a private one, we took his permission as that is all that is required. The owner wasn’t aware that his property is protected as a heritage property and hence we were not made aware.
Heritage norms are made because some things are too important to leave to an individual’s taste and judgement, and history is one of them.
Swapna Liddle, INTACH Delhi chapter convenor

Abu Sufyan, a local, has held many heritage walks in old Delhi. He got the authorities’ attention to the issue via social media.

Purani Dilli is more like an orphan – even the government doesn’t pay heed to it. If it would have been a European country, authorities would have turned it into a museum. Authorities, locals, and private owners have been completely negligent. We need to preserve our heritage culture.
Abu Sufiyan to The Quint

Shopkeepers around the area have mixed feelings about the walls. Naveen Sharma, a resident of Chawri Bazaar and a shopkeeper in the area, says that the campaign has brought attention to old Delhi and believes that it beautifies the area.

Other shopkeepers seemed disappointed by the street art.

The graffiti makes the place look scary, its just ruining the walls. 
A shopkeeper

“I liked it. It’s good artwork but they have spoilt the heritage. Foreigners come and discuss the architecture of this; it is said that the bricks are from Lahore,” said Jyotendra, a shopkeeper.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi needs to reach out to the people who own heritage buildings and make them aware of these laws. Planning permission has to come from the MCD after it is referred to the Heritage Conservative Committee.
Swapna Liddle, INTACH Delhi Convenor

It is unclear what will happen with these walls. The decision now lies in the hands of the MCD and the Heritage Conservation Committee.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Vandalism   Old Delhi   graffiti 

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