Old Delhi is in a true sense what we call Delhi and rest I would say is all around it. I loved the energy of this place as it’s very warm and welcoming. What makes everything special here is that every interaction you have in Old Delhi, you are touched by the warmth with which shopkeepers, street vendors or anyone else would talk to you and share their lives with you. As if you entered a friends place and now you will be taken care off. You can do the free tasting at food stalls before you buy, and they have same rates even for foreigners, who can move with ease as no hawker or beggar is running behind them. Residents go about doing their regular chores and all the people visiting are just their guests, and this has been going on for centuries.
I met Prem Sharma, a professional travel guide and a very close friend at Chawri Bazaar metro station for our walk. Being January it was surprisingly very comfortable and a bright day, making our walk even more wonderful.
A 10 minutes walk brought us to our first destination Jama Masjid. Towering over Old Delhi this reminder of Mughal era, which first opened its door on 23rd July 1656. The Mughal architecture was known for balancing everything, like the two minarets, which were used for calling out at prayer times in both morning and evening. What makes it special is that even women are allowed in this very beautiful complex for connecting with the holy one. Beauty lies in the details, so soak in the architecture and the stories surrounding them. You get Burkhas on rent and are a must for any women entering the complex
If it weren’t for Haveli Dharampura you would not have never come to know how people used to live in those days with such grandeur and taste for finer things in life. Now being run as a Hotel with Welcome group managing the show, it has 13 rooms, two restaurants and a classical dance performance on weekends with a fixed menu. The restoration was done over 6 years with the efforts of Vijay Goel and a restoration Architect.
You never know what you may find in the narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk, I was lucky to bump into a street vendor who had just finished baking a fresh lot of Nan Khatai (Biscuits made with a mix of Maida and Besan) just a few steps from Haveli Dharampura.
Just a couple of turns and the hustle and bustle of Kinari Bazaar welcome you. It was named Kinari Bazaar because of all the vendors selling Kinaris (borders), used in garments like Lehngaas, Kurta, etc; worn in weddings. Kinari Bazar is about all things related to weddings, i.e. clothes, jewellery and food. Trousseau shopping in Kinari is both fun and appetizing.
Shopping here is a very special experience, if the shopkeepers get to know that you are interested in a product, immediately they’ll ask you what you would like to eat. Really what are my options, well you can have Daulat ki chat, Kachoris, Samosas, Natraj ke Bhalle, Khurchan at Asli Meerut Ki Gajak, Old and famous Jalebi and Paranthe Wali Gali. It’s all so overwhelming.
Daulat ki Chat– introduced by Daulat, it is basically milk foam served with Kesar malai. It’s like eating whipped crème but much better. Many vendors sell it and it is a must try.
Asli Meerut wale – Two shops opposite each other sell the most amazing Rewari, Gajak and Malai ke laddoo. Gajak is slim and very well flavoured. Do try them before you buy.
Hajari Lal Jain Khurchan Wale–
A milk dessert made by repeating the process of reducing milk on low heat. Apart from Khurchan, you get other desserts too but it beats them all hands down.
Jung Bahadur Kachori
The most delicious looking Kachori, with Aloo ki Subzi and few condiments like green chillies, pudhina and kachalu ki chutney (Taro Root).It is not until you take a bite of fresh and crispy Kachori with a delicately balanced curry that you realize that it is no ordinary affair. I fell silent when I started eating and only lifted my head to ask for another plate.
Paranthe Wali Gali
The world famous parantha wale gali has seen many greats like Nehru family, Akshay Kumar and others come and go. What has remained constant are the crispy pan fried paranthas.
Nau Ghara & Haveli Architecture
Walking thru Kinari Bazar you’ll come across a Delhi Tourism board with Nau Ghara written on it placed on one side of the entrance leading to this lane. It literally means nine houses. They are all owned by Jains and have a special community centre for their celebrations, and a beautiful Jain temple at the very end. Colonial and Persian architecture inspired designs, beautiful detailing at all the entrance doors, lovely balconies and the music of the temple bells makes you realize that there is so much beauty right in the middle of Kinari Bazar. The basic layout would remain same, i.e. guest room (baithak) and shops on the ground floor and living rooms on first and second. Balconies facing the streets are a mix of wooden handrail above a metal mesh in different designs. Women in those times were not allowed to come out of the houses unaccompanied. So to buy stuff from street vendors, a basket tied to a rope was lowered for the vendor to put items in.
Walking thru Paranthe Wale Gali you step onto the main Chandni Chowk Bazar. Being a wholesale market you are surrounded by big shops, eateries and more Havelis. We took a left started walking towards Khari baoli and crossed Chunna Mal Haveli on our right. A very old and well preserved Haveli of a very wealthy merchant of his times, who was brave enough to refuse a loan to Bahadur Shah Zafar.
Kahri baoli apart from being one of the biggest wholesale spice markets in India is also a hub for vegetarians. With places like Giani Di Hatti ke Chole Bhature, Dal Makhni of Kake Di Hatti, Ram Parshad Makhan Lal and much more. Terrace above the registry office gives you a bird’s eye view of the whole market and it’s totally worth it.
Rikshaw to Chandni Chowk
Finally, we went to Sis Ganj Gurudwara Sahib, it was here that the ninth Sikh guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded on orders of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb for refusing to convert to Islam.
Right next to it is Sunheri Masjid on the terrace of which Nader Shah stood and orchestrated a massacre of 30000 people
On the opposite side is Town hall from where we walked to Chandni Chowk metro station to have a hot cup of tea and end our walk. It was a very overwhelming experience, and one, which I would recommend you to take.