WALKING AROUND OLD DELHI
Walking in narrow Lanes of Chandni Chowk
The solitary lanes of Old Delhi are so much royal in their demeanour that even the bankrupted rickshaws that take you around a completely different world, would greet you with a red carpet treatment! Interesting, isn't it? A medieval city catapulted through a time warp into the 21st century - that's Chandni Chowk for you. Soaked in the erstwhile Mughal aroma, the erstwhile city of Shahjahanabad, still pulsates with the mindblowing aroma of 'attar' and succulent 'kebabs'. When Shah Jahan built his new capital here in the 17th century, the most bewitching element was a high red sandstone wall, punctured by 14 colossal gates. Today, you can see colourful houses nestling cheek by jowl to bustling shops, creating a complex arena of royal shades. Wander around in cycle-rickshaws or 'tongas' (horse carts) to unveil the forgotten mystery, or opt for the best way to explore..walking. So as the cliche goes, people who get places are the ones who..Keep Walking!
Start your walking itinerary from the foot of Red Fort,
the eastern end of Chandni Chowk and north of Jama Masjid and head
straight towards the chaste white spire that you can see across. They say,
if you start your journey from a holy shrine, you will end up in good.
Let's see.. Nestling within a small marble courtyard surrounded by a
colonnade is this famous Digambar Jain Temple, glittering with gold and
divinely lit by butter lamps offered by the devotees. Don't miss to see
injured birds being treated at the Jain Bird Hospital, roosting in the
temple compound. Continue along Chandni Chowk, crossing the inevitably
straight Esplanade Road, and turn left at the next street, there's a
'Jalebi Wala' sweet shop on the corner. Refresh yourself with a delicious
plate of hot 'jalebis' before you enter the famous Dariba Kalan or the
'street of the incomparable pearl', famous since the time of Shah Jahan as
delhi's gold, silver and jewellery market. You will be amazed to see that
the jewellery here is sold by weight rather than by the piece - it seems
no great value is placed on the craft of the jewellers themselves.
Walking around Old Delhi
Where Dariba Kalan makes a slight bend to the left at shop no 1658, take the narrow street to the right. This muddled array of shops is called as Kinari Bazaar, famous among Delhites for wedding ceremony accessories - hair-braids feature prominently, as do amazingly intricate garlands made from tinsel and crisp, new Rs 5 and Rs 10 notes! Take the first lane to the right - there is a red letter box right by the entrance - and this takes you back to Chandni Chowk. Turn right and after 50 m you will come across the Ghantewala Sweet Shop, a 18th century sweet shop dominating the landscape. It is said that the recipes remain unchanged today, the flavour that once made the emperor's elephant stop outside the shop and ring its bell (Ghantewala : Bell ringer). Close by, on the same side of the road, is the 18th century triple-domed Sunehri Masjid, that still tell the tales of bllod and blade. In 1739, Nadir Shah, the Persian invader who carried off the peacock throne when he sacked Delhi, stood on the roof of this mosque and watched while his soldiers carried a bloody massacre of the city's inhabitants.
Soothe your eyes with the hiemal waters of the Victorian
era fountain, known today as the Fountain Chowk. It is near the site of
the old police station (kotwali) and it was here that the British, having
effectively wiped out the Mughal lineage by murdering the last Mughal
emperor's children during the Mutiny in 1857, put their bodies on public
display. Turn left and enter the labyrinthine lane that pulsates with the
mindblowing aroma of non-veg delicacies. That's Karim's for you, serving
food to Delhiwalas for over 80 years. Go straight across the small
intersection, down the lane with a large upright steel post blocking the
way for anything larger than a push bike. This lane is known as
Churiwalan, and is probably the best example of a pre-partition Old Delhi
streetscape. If you have time, don't forget to enter in one of those
houses that still has the colonial air in it, blended perfectly with
highly decorated ground-floor stone gateways and enclosed upper floor
wooden balconies with exquisite woodcarvings.
After around 150 m it comes to a T-junction with a yet larger street and lines of curious shops and more interesting shopkeepers, the Sita Ram Bazaar. Enjoy a glass of chilled 'lassi' (buttermilk) while munching some delicious snacks before you move ahead to other enchantments. Turn left along Sita Ram and at the first right hand curve take the small lane on the left heading uphill. After five shops turn left again and zig-zag uphill to a dead end. Enter the colossal walled courtyard housing the Tomb of Raziya Sultan, the only women ever to have ruled Delhi. If the courtyard is locked, you can ask one of the local shopkeepers to unlock it. Get along with him into a completely new world..untouched by the hands of modernity except the lock that made you stand outside. The man might tell you interesting legends about the ruler, her kingdom, about the revolt that made her flee to Karnal in Haryana and about the deadly end of a romantic novel.
Walking around Jama Masjid
Although there are many ways to explore Old Delhi, there are some pre-defined circuits that could entice you and your holiday en masse. Every new corner and every fresh curve gives a new route to catch your dream of roaming amidst a Mughal ambience. And yes, dont hesitate to ask for directions once you feel that you are lost or otherwise. So what are you thinking? Put on your boots and splurge on...
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