Ever since I began following my passion for traveling religiously, Delhi has amazed and stunned me with its diversity and vibrant outlook each time. Be it the slender lanes of Nizamuddin or the posh areas of Connaught Place, the city has its kitty bag full of surprises for wanderers like me.
This time I meandered through the old lanes of Old Delhi, famously known as Chandni Chowk (Moonlit Square).
Originally, Chandni Chowk refers to the straight road which connects Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid along with numerous shops and other famous structures such as Shishganj Gurudwara, Town Hall etc. on its sides.
The nomenclature is believed to derive from the fountain pool on the roads during medieval times which glistened during full moon lights and lately the whole area of old Delhi has been customarily referred with the name Chandni Chowk. Although, there are myriads activities and places to see around Chandni Chowk, but below are the few places one should never miss from its itinerary.
Start the voyage through the bygone lanes of Chandni Chowk with the blessing of almighty at Jama Masjid, the largest mosque of Delhi. Built during the reign of Mughal emperor Shahjahan in 1650 A.D, this elegant structure can accommodate around 25000 devotees at a time.One has to go through a flight of steps built from red stone to reach its façade which leads to its giant courtyard.
As I entered the courtyard, my eyes were mesmerized by the aesthetic combination of red sandstone and white marble used by Mughals to build the mosque. The interior walls and arch of the mosque are decorated with artistic designs which were prevalent during those times.
The best part is yet to come, by paying a meagre amount of Rs. 30 each, one can engross himself/herself in magnificent panoramic view of entire old Delhi and Red Fort from one of minarets of the mosque.
Once you have taken the blessings at the mosque, go and shop a bit from the renowned Meena Bazaar situated right in front of the eastern entrance of Jama Masjid.
The congested alleys of Meena Bazaar is a minefield for shopoholics and one can spot everything in this market like clothes, electronic items, old coins, crockery, posters, dry fruits, utensils, carpets and the an unending list of miscellaneous items at dirt-cheap price.
Apart from shopping stuffs, you can find the herbal cure to most common health ailments such as gastronomic problems, joint & muscle pains and numerous others which are still famous among the locals.
The Meena Bazaar turns the clock back in past when such markets were common and offers beguiling experience to city dwellers and the tourists who are habitual to present day mall/shopping complex environment.
KHARI BAOLI (SPICE MARKET)
The market is one of the many gems of the Chandni Chowk or old Delhi. Khari Baoli refers to an ancient step well built in around 1550’s, however, surprisingly nothing remains of this ancient step well presently nor is this place famous for the same.
Khari Baoli is famous all across the globe for its wholesale grocery market and is credited to be the largest spice market in Asia. The first sight as you enter this market would be the contrasting coloured spices ranging from red chillies, turmeric roots, cinnamon, black pepper etc. that too with multiple varieties of them displayed immaculately in gunny bags with prices.
There is no dearth of varieties in this market and it will never leave you disappointed if you are looking for something (as long it pertains to spice and grocery items).
Almost all the retailers, restaurants, hotels (even the big ones) etc. across New Delhi and in the northern region buy their stock from these centuries old shops of Khari Baoli.
PARANTHE WALI GALI
When you have rambled and discovered the magical charms of Chandni Chowk, Paranthe Wali Gali is the perfect destination to feast upon and have a delicious end to the sumptuous jaunt.It is the famous gourmet lane of old Delhi which have a special place in the heart of the locals and the foodies. However, most of shops which existed at the time of its inception have now closed but three have survived through the time and presently being run by seventh generation of the same family.
The shops here have an eclectic range of Parathas (sort of stuffed bread) with exotic fillings such as Kaju, badam, rabri, khoya, mattar, gobhi etc. served with a spicy potato curry, mint and tamarind chutney, pickle and sweetened mashed pumpkin.Many of the great personalities such as Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Jayaprakash Narayan have been regular admirers of the Parathas from these shops in the past.
Photo Credits: “Chhatrapal Singh fotography II