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 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
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.
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.
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.