Chandni Chowk or ‘moonlight square’ is the main thoroughfare in old Delhi. So much so, that the name is sometimes used synonymously with purani dilli or for the entire old city. The heritage walk in Chandni Chowk starts from the Digamber Jain Lal Mandir, the oldest Jain temple here. The shrine is contemporary to Shahjahan’s time but most of the temple building dates to mid-18th century. Right next to it is the Gauri Shankar temple, which was a small shrine to start with, in the 18th century, but now is one of the most prominent landmarks in the area. On the other side of the road are flower shops selling dhatura (a poisonous weed) and bel (fruit with a hard outer shell) which are especially offered to Lord Shiva. Next stop was the SBI building built in typically colonial style, with its Romanesque columns, doors with fanlights and semi circular arches with prominent keystone. Nearby is the Central Baptist church, one of the older churches in Delhi, built just after 1857. A few steps away is the ‘Old Famous Jalebi walla’ shop famous for its…what else…but jalebis! They sell huge pieces of jalebis rich in desi ghee and a 250 gms helping is enough for a single person. This famous shop is at the entrance to Dariba Kalan, the street of silver jewelers. The fountain chowk was the next stop on the heritage trail. There are a couple of interesting things to see around this square. The Sisganj gurudwara marks the martyrdom place of Guru Teg Bahadur in 17th century who was beheaded by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb when he refused to convert to Islam. 3 of the Guru’s followers were killed with him and the chowk now has a museum of Sikh history named after them. Adjacent to the gurudwara is the Sunheri Masjid said to be the place from where Nadir Shah watched the massacre of Delhi’s population when he raided in 18th century. ‘Ghantewala’ the oldest halwai shop, still in business, had its old premises on the chowk. Now it has moved shop to another location on the main road and one can also order sweets online! We passed the parathewali gali on our way to Town Hall. The large space in front of the Town Hall originally had an octagonal pool which reflected moonlight which gives the street its name. Add to this scenery a stream of water running its entire length from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid and one can only imagine its splendid effect. A little ahead on the street is Lala Chunna Mal’s haveli in Katra Neel. Katra Neel is also famous for its numerous shivalayas or shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva. As one walks into Fatehpuri Masjid at the end of the street, one can immediately feel the striking contrast from the hustle and bustle of the main road. The mosque complex has a soothing, peaceful air to it. We ended our heritage walk at Ghalib’s haveli in Ballimaran.
(posted by Rajesh Ranjan & Kanika Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)