Our Chandni Chowk heritage walk starts at the historic Shri Digambar Jain temple, opposite Red Fort. The foundation of the temple dates back to 1656. Gauri Shankar temple, which is next to Jain temple, was built in the middle of 18th century by a Maratha courtier of the Scindias. Both temples, though they are more than 200 years old, have modern building structures and it is difficult to imagine what they once looked like.
The next stop was the almost decrepit Fort View Hotel building, one of the first to be allowed to be built by the British in the area after the 1857 demolitions. Next to it is the State Bank of India office, an early 20th century structure undergoing renovation. It’s often mistaken as Begum Samroo’s palace. We took a detour inside the Bhagirath Place, to see the remains of Begum Samroo’s haveli, inside the market. Bhagirath Place is now one of the largest markets of electronic goods. Our next stop was the Central Baptist Church, built in 1858, and one of the early churches in Delhi. Sis Ganj gurudwara, the site of martyrdom on Guru Tegh Bahadur was our next stop. It stands next to the Sunehri Masjid from where Nadir Shah, the Persian Shahanshah, witnessed the killing of Indians on 22nd March 1739. We also walked through the Parathewali Gali and Kinari bazaar. The next stop was Lala Chunna Mal’s haveli. Lala Chunna Mal was a powerful banker and merchant, who bought Fatehpuri Masjid when it was auctioned in 1857 by the British. The haveli is in Katra Neel, which has one of the biggest concentrations of Shivalaya or temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. We visited one such temple. A walk through Katra Neel also reveals the large havelis where once the city’s wealthy moneylenders live. After crossing Katra Neel and walking in the back lanes we came across old havelis that have now been turned into dharamshalas, schools, warehouses etc. But the old grandeur remains, the ornate doorways conveying the history they withhold. The back lanes took us to the St Stephen’s Church, built in 1867. The Cambridge Brotherhood, who founded St Stephen’s College, were originally based here. The stop on this heritage trail was Fatehpuri Masjid, built by Shah Jahan’s wife Fatehpuri Begum. Fatehpuri Begum had shops constructed along the outer walls of the mosque and the rent accrued from these shops was used for the mosque’s maintenance. The shops still run to this day outside the masjid.
(posted by Hemant Arya & Pushpa, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)