We met at 8.00 in the morning at Digambar Jain Lal Mandir opposite Red Fort. The mandir is famous for the bird hospital in its premises. Those who turned up included faculty members and students of IGNOU and Jamia Milia Islamia, members of the Delhi-based theatre group ‘Sangwari’, two government officials and students of Delhi University. Kanika Singh, the walk leader introduced the walk and briefly gave a history of Purani Dilli: how the city would have looked like during Mughal rule; the gardens, mansions, bazaars and sarais; and how Shahjahanabad changed with British influence, and was drastically altered after 1857 and then again in 1947.
We walked ahead to Gauri Shankar Mandir and the SBI building. The latter was part of Begum Sumroo’s estate. We reached Dariba, the Great Street of Jewelers. The famous jalebiwallah at the entrance to Dariba was beginnings his day’s work. The Sisganj Gurudwara, marking the place of Guru Teg Bahadur’s matrydom, was our next stop. The place was buzzing with activity for celebrations marking Guru Ramdas’s birthday. Right opposite was the ‘Fountain’ commemorating the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur’s companions. Adjacent to Sisganj is Sunheri Masjid from where, it is said, Nadir Shah watched the massacre of Delhi’s citizens.
We crossed Parathewali Gali and walked towards Town Hall. All along the street we saw late 19th-early 20th century buildings. The Town Hall stands where Jahanara’s serai and garden existed. The chowk here is the original ‘Chandni Chowk’. A little ahead we could see Chunnamal’s haveli which is one of the best preserved residences in old Delhi. We went to Kunniji Maharaj’s Shivalaya in Katra Neel and then to Fatehpuri Masjid. The walk ended at Ghalib’s haveli in Ballimaran which is now converted into a memorial.
All this was a good two hours’ exercise and naturally we were famished. All of us happily made our way to Parathewali Gali.
(posted by Kanika Singh & photos by Rajesh Ranjan, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)