This walking tour combines some sites of historical interest with food stops. Our starting point was Jama Masjid, the main congregation mosque built by Emperor Shah Jahan & is still an active mosque. It is one of the biggest in South Asia, the other competing mosques being the Badshahi Masjid in Lahore & the Taj ul Masajid in Bhopal. However, much of the grandeur & beauty of the mosque is lost because of poor maintenance; which is surprising, given that the management collects a lot of money in form of camera fees & does not hesitate to extort money for hideously coloured gowns which are mainly given to foreign visitors, even if they are covered from head to toe! But it is a pleasure to visit the mosque on Id ul Fitr. The courtyard is filled with people in their festive best, children playing around, adults chatting & greeting each other. Not to mention the food bazaar which is held all through the month of Ramzan. A great variety of non vegetarian delicacies are prepared & served. This heritage & food walk concentrates on vegetarian fare only. We negotiated our way through the lanes of Chawri Bazaar, the street between Hauz Qazi chowk & Jama Masjid. The first food stop is Jain Coffee House known for its fruit sandwiches. It is a small corner tucked in the grain market of Raghuganj. The next stop is the little known Ruknuddaulah Mosque. It is a pretty mosque with elegant carvings of floral designs built during the reign of Akbar Shah II who was the second last Mughal emperor. Nearby is the Hira Lal Chat Bhandar, 120 years old shop with four generation running it. Though they serve a variety of savoury items, the best bet here is kulle. Kulle are made of fruit or vegetable bases filled with chickpeas, pomegranate seeds & topped with lime juice & a dash of spices. Ashok Chat Bhandar at the end of the street was our stop of golpappa chaat. The shop is located at the busy roundabout of Hauz Qazi. A mosque which is a namesake is almost hidden away behind shop fronts advertising a variety of hardware. The Hauz Qazi masjid is a late-Mughal period mosque, which has certainly seen better days. The jharokha above the entrance looks like a shabby window today. Another street which takes off from Hauz Qazi is the Sita Ram Bazar. The Kuremal Kulfiwala here sells a mind boggling variety of Kulfi starting from stuffed mango, Litchi, Custard Apple, Falsa, Balck Currant, Jamun, Rose, Rabri Pista, Kesar, Chiku, Anar, Khatta Meetha, Paan & pretty much any flavour one can think of. The last stop on our heritage walk was a mid 19th century haveli recently restored by an NGO. By the time we conclude our walk, we can see pigeon keepers of old Delhi, perched on their respective rooftops, calling out & direct their own flock of pigeons against the competing flock. It is amazing to see these birds fly in formation, speed up & slow down, turn & glide at the whistles of their master!
(posted by Niti Deoliya & Kanika Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)