Monday, July 4, 2011

Heritage Walk in Chandni Chowk

I first heard about a Heirtage Walk in  Chandni Chowk from a fellow traveler while Rediscovering Delhi with my daughters in the HOHO Bus started by Delhi Tourism during the CW Games.

Organized once a month by a private organization, i had originally planned to take his walk in winters but somehow couldn't coordinate my timings.  Six months later i finally decided to take this up, inspite of  the scorching heat of Delhi.

The schedule for the two hour walk was 7.30 a.m.  My daughters and I were amongst the first to reach the Digambar Jain temple, which was the meeting point with the Walk Coordinator.

We crossed the bustling Darya Ganj sabzi mandi and the popular Sunday Bazaar, just before reaching Chandni Chowk.  Soon more and more tourists armed with sling bags, sun glasses,  water bottles, walking shoes, cameras  and comfortable gear gathered at the meeting point. We were a motely group of over  50 people, including NRIs and foreigners.   Soon the Walk Coordinator introduced herself and we set foot for the Walk.

Chandni chowk in Old Delhi was originally called Shahjahanbad.

 The walled city was established in 1650 AD By the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.  it was designed by his daughter Jahanara Begum Sahib.

Originally a canal ran through the middle of the street as a part of water supply scheme.  It is said that moonlight reflecting in its canal earned its name Chandni Chowk which means 'Moonlight Square'.

Our first stop was our venue itself, the Digambar Jain Lal Mandir

which was established in 1656 with a Bird Hospital established in 1929.  Just  adjacent to that is the white Gauri Shankar Temple

 which built by a Maratha General Appa Gangadhar in 1761.

Right opposite, across the road is a Flower market

 which caters to these two popular temples.  

We walked towards the  Central Baptist Church

 which was built in 1814 and now runs a school as well.

Right across the road is a Jalebi Shop

 which dates back in time.  I would have loved to savour the sweet but it was not part of the walk.  I sure will try it next time i visit Chandni Chowk.

 Moving ahead we stopped by Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib. 

 The 9th Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur and his folllowers Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Dyal Das and Bhai Sati Das were executed by the Mughals in 1657 AD.  The Gurdwara in the form of memorial was built  in 1783 after Delhi, the then Mughal capital was captured by the Khalsa under command of Baba Baghel Singh.

Next we viewed the Sunehri  Masjid with now faded golden domes .

It was built in 1721 by Roshan-ud- Mohammed Shah.

Next we stopped by the Fountain at the Chowk.

 Just in front of it is a Sikh Shrine and we could see people paying their respects. We also saw the famous.   centuries old Sweet shop, Ghantewala Shop, established  in 1790,

at the Fountain Chowk Market.

Moving ahead we we entered the famous, five generation  old  Paranthewali Gali.

It was early morning and already the prepartaions were on,

 and customers seated to eat the famous paranthas.

As we walked ahead we saw two of the many Old Gates

 of the walled city which still exist,

though now partly covered by shop extensions on the main road.

 Next we headed for the famous Town Hall

which has a statue of Swami Shradhanand

We next stopped at the old  still preserved and famous Choonamal Haveli,

which is believed to be massive and having more than 150 rooms!

Next we moved on the right side of the road, towards Neel  Katra. Many of these katras have temples inside the residences like this one:

Our penultimate stop was the famous Fatehpuri Masjid.

 Here you have to take off your shoes, but remember to carry them with else they are stolen by urchins and beggars.

The very ordinary entrance belies the huge expanse of the interiors of this  Masjid which is in  sharp contrast to the kuchas,   galis and   katras of the Chandni Chowk  market. It was built by Fatehpuri Begam in 1650, one of the Queens of Shah Jahan.

Our last stop was the Gadojia Market in Khari Baoli. As our Walk Coordinator led us to the last  leg of our Walk of  heritage discovery, we could smell the strong odor of spices.  We  entered a dark enclosure with even darker stairs, all the way up to the  rooftop on the third floor. The view from here was like this :

Here in the fresh air we finally rested for a few minutes and paid the money for the guided Walk.

We had been walking for more than 2 hours and even at 9.30 in the morning we were sweating profusely.  Understandably we decided to trace back out steps to the Jain Temple and our car by a rickshaw ride.

The Walk was a peep into the oldest market in Delhi, and still the busiest and also Asia's largest wholesale market.

Steeped in the twisted lanes, narrow streets and crowded bazaars is the main commercial centre of  old Delhi.  And yes, it is a peek into our Heritage. Besides the history, it has important places of worhsip of  Jains, Hindus, Sikhs, Christian and Muslims,  and the winding streets and commercial  interiors reflect a natural unity, secularism and diverse ethnicity  of the people of our country.

 Such is the importance  history of Chandni Chowk, that it has been filmed  several times by Bollywood.  The most recent being Delhi 6, starring Sonam Kapoor and Abhishek Bacchan.

While the paranthas and jalebi are famous, you also have the option of eating at Haldirams and Mac Donalds. Yes, Chandni Chowk has kept pace with the changing  palate preferences :)

But there is one thing that bothered me.  We have politicians and counsellors from every ward of the constituency of Delhi including  Chandni Chowk. But the amount of garbage, especially inside the galis need to be taken care of.  After all it is our more than 300 year old heritage.  So if you plan to take this Walk,  be prepared to see the down side of this .  But it is indeed a heritage than we can be proud of and need to conserve for posterity.



  1. thank you for the lovely virtual walk!

  2. This was an excellent round up. I used to go there regularly nearly two decades ago and could drive all the way to ghanta ghar. I have not gone there in recent times. Your post has made me curious to go there again.

  3. @Zephyr I believe the ghanta ghar was demolished.

    I too plan to visit it on a working day to see it in its full glory

  4. I wouldn't mind doing a Heritage Walk myself but I think I will till Winter. I'm not as brave as you are :)

  5. @ Purba lol. Not a bad idea :)

  6. Hi Abha. Wonderful trip through your eyes, and camera)! My (dear departed) Dad-in-law for the first time ever treated me to gulab jamun at Ghantewala Halwai's when we went shopping for my marriage. My eyes went moist on seeing the pic. Chandni Chowk da jawaab nahin.

  7. great commentary.Excellent description of chandni chowk.Its a very novel way of rediscovering our heritage.But why didn't you stop by for the jalebis and the parathas.!

  8. @ Harjeet Yes, in my next trip i def want to savour 3 things.... paranthas, which i had 25 years backwhile shopping for my marriage. and jalebis and mithai from Ghatewala.

    @ Hemant The walk did not include time for eatables. Ill have to do it on my own :)

  9. Wonderful photos of Chandni Chowk, Delhi!

  10. superb blog Abha, I cannot stop missing paranthewali gali... my most favorite thing in Delhi!

  11. @ Raji welcome to my Blog. Yes, they r yummy !

  12. Wow Abha that was wonderful. Gives a new perspective on a city one might have known for a long time. Must find out of there's something like this in Pune. Loved the virtual walk :-).. only one regret.. all those shops of jalebis and paranthas and you didn't get to sample anything... maybe next time you could go on a tasting tour!

  13. @ Tulika Since i am in Delhi i can visit Chandni chowk to savor paranthas and jalebi anytime i go with my family. This Walk was specifically to discover and experience the heritage of this market.

  14. The pictures of Delhi,India, made me feel very good :) I love travelling so much...

  15. @ Cognize Happy that you liked the pics :)

  16. It is to inform all of you that this is Prachin Kali Mandir at Katra Neel Street in Chandni Chowk.

    Its a very popular and very beautiful temple in Chandni Chowk area.

    In every period of Navratra; these is a huge crowd of worshipers.

    I suggest to every one, please come once in this temple and see the art and beauty of this temple and take blessings of goddess Kali Mata.

  17. Amazing blog. As I read it, it felt like I was in chandni chowk myself right now. I have been to Chandni chowk many times but never felt the way I did when I read this.