It is a truism that the city never sleeps. Yet this restless, constant activity is what always amazes us. This was my first thought as we gathered for a heritage walk in old Delhi this Sunday morning. Old Delhi is known for many things: the grandeur of the Mughals, the street food, the bazaars, its havelis and we hoped to capture a little bit of all of this as we rambled through its streets.
Our walk starts at Digamber Jain Lal Mandir, the oldest Jain temple here, and well known for its charitable bird hospital. Next to it is the Gauri Shankar temple, built by a Maratha nobleman. We walked on the main street of Chandni Chowk till the fountain. This roundabout is surrounded by historical landmarks. The most prominent is of course the Sisganj Gurudwara which marks the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur. The fountain chowk has become a memorial to 3 of the Guru’s followers who were also tourtured and killed. There is now a museum named after Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das, Bhai Dyala at the fountain chowk. Next to Sisganj is the Sunheri Masjid where upon it is said, stood Nadir Shah (the Persian ruler who raided Delhi) as he watched the massacre of citizens of Delhi. The chowk also has an old signboard where Ghantewala Shahi halwai was located earlier. Now the shop has moved location a few meters away; it has also moved with the times, as one can now order sweets online!
We weaved our way through the parathewali gali and Kinari bazaar to the Naughara, a group of havelis which still retains its traditional appearance. Our next stop was the Town Hall, which stands on Jahanara’s garden & sarai. These were replaced by the British with the Town Hall and Old Delhi railway station. The pool of water which gives the street its name as ‘Chandni Chowk’ or ‘moonlight square’ was also located here. A little further is the Chunnamal’s haveli, one of the most prominent landmarks of Chandni Chowk. It covers a very large part of Katra Neel. We walked into Katra Neel, into one of the numerous shivalayas that are located there. These are small shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Close by is Fatehpuri Masjid, located at the end of Chandni Chowk. It is one of the most serene places in old Delhi. Entering the Fatehpuri mosque is a start contrast with the crowd and chaos of the street. The expanse of the courtyard welcomes the visitor like no other place in Shahjahanabad. Fatehpuri is an active mosque and madrasa and often the locals approach the visitors for a friendly chat. Next to it is the famous Chaina Ram sweets’ shop, known for its Karachi halwa.
The finale of our heritage walk was the rooftop view of old Delhi from Gadodia Market. This is a warehouse in the Khari Baoli spice market.
(posted by Kanika Singh & photos by Pushpa, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)