A heritage walk in old Delhi is always exciting: the noise, the colourful sights & the delicious smells of food being prepared, adding to the general enthusiasm of visitors & locals alike. This Sunday, seemed a little less crowded than usual. Of course the shrines like the Digamber Jain Lal Mandir, the Sisganj gurdwara and Gauri Shankar temple were bustling with activity. In contrast, the Fatehpuri Masjid at the end of Chandni Chowk is remarkably peaceful. We started our heritage walk at Digamber Jain Lal Mandir. This walk covers interesting points along the main street of old Delhi, the Chandni Chowk. A few places where we venture into a narrow lanes of the city: the Parathewali Gali, the Moti Bazaar, Naughara, Katra Neel and perhaps the highlight of the walk, the spice market. On the way are the some of the most famous stalls of street food in old Delhi: well known shops like Ghantewala, Tiwari Brothers, Parantha shops, Chaina Ram, Old & Famous Jalebiwala and smaller but equally well known players like kulfiwala at Nai Sarak, Natraj for Dahi bhalle, faluda at Fatehpuri and many more. There are a few specialized bazaars on the old Delhi trail: the cycle and camera shops at Esplanade road, the Bhagirath Place for electronics and medicines, the Dariba Kalan for jewellery, Kinari bazaar for laces & decorative items, Ballimaran for spectacles and footwear, Katra Neel for cloth and Khari baoli for spices. All this mindboggling variety within walking distance of each other! Each spot in old Delhi seems seeped in history. These are the very lanes designed so lovingly by the Mughals. In fact, old Delhi is remarkable for the number of buildings put up by the women of royal family: Jahanara, Akbarabadi begum & Fatehpuri Begum being the most prominent. Begum Samru’s estate stood on prime land opposite Red Fort and is now the site for Bhagirath palace market. A little ahead is SBI building, typical of colonial architecture. The fountain chowk and Sisganj gurugwara mark the martyrdom place of Guru Teg Bahadur and 3 of his followers. The Sunheri Masjid on the same square is the place where Nadir Shah stood to watch massacre of Delhi’s citizens. Today the Town Hall and Old Delhi railway station stands on Jahanara’s serai and gardens. Fatehpuri mosque narrowly escaped being demolished after 1857 and today is one of the most beautiful places to visit in old Delhi.
(posted by Kanika Singh & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)