This Sunday morning we marched out for a walking tour of the city of Shahjahanabad. The focus of the walk was the main street of Chandni Chowk, which runs perpendicular to the Red Fort. I started with a brief introduction about the history of what is today called old Delhi. The first landmarks of interest are two very old temples: the Digambar Jain Lal Mandir, the oldest Jain Temple of the city & adjacent to it was a Shaiva temple called Gauri Shankar Mandir. Braving the chaos and traffic we reached State Bank of India building which is built on the estate of Begam Samroo. The lady was known to be a beautiful Kashmiri dancing girl and a shrewd military leader. Asia’s biggest electronic Market- Bhagirath Palace is also built on her estate. Our next stop was the lane Dariba Kalan which since the time of Shahjahan is well known for silver, gold and diamond jewellery. However, it has also seen the brutal massacre of Persian invader Nadir Shah in 1739. Right in front was the 120 year old Jalebi Wala shop which even today remains one of the busiest and the most favorite eating spots of old Delhi. We then reached Sis Ganj Gurudwara, a site where ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded by Emperor Aurangzeb on the account of Guru’s refusal to adopt Islam. Sunheri Masjid stands next to the Gurdwara. This is where Nadir Shah stood up and saw the infamous massacre of the city. After a few steps we took a detour from the main street that led us to Paranthewali Gali. This ‘lane for fried bread’ finds mention in every guide book to Delhi. Passing through Kinari Bazaar we reached a mahallah/neighborhood called Naughara. Next on the heritage walk was a city square, which now is identifiable by the Town Hall. It once contained an octagonal pool and reflected moonlight or Chandni in the night sky. Thus the market square came to be called as Chandi Chowk or moonlight square and by the late nineteenth century the entire street became famous with this name. Walking a few more steps amid the heavy traffic and loud vehicular sound we entered into Katra Neel which was once a rich cloth market and also bears a testimony to the sacrifice of freedom fighters involved in 1942 Quit India’s Movement. Here we looked at a shivalaya or Shiv temple, which are practically hidden away from the visitors gaze. The neighbourhood is dominated by the haveli or mansion of Lala Chunnamal. The main street of Chandni Chowk ends at a congregation mosque, Fatehpuri Masjid, a mosque older than the Jama Masjid. Exit through the North gate towards the spice market in Khari Baoli. A warehouse called Gadodia Market in Khari Baoli is the last stop of our heritage trail. We climbed up the several flights of stairs to the rooftop which offers an excellent view of the city. Gadodia Market was built by the British & is a good example of colonial architecture, although there are many additions to the building, including a new block constructed in the central courtyard. Our walking tour was a small attempt to make ourselves aware of the fact that history is not something gone and dead but is something which remains well entrenched in our present. A careful observation of our surrounding will reveal many layers of our past. I would like to end by thanking all the participants on the heritage walk to old Delhi. I hope to see you again on our walks.
(posted by Niti Deoliya & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)