Old Delhi – the walled city of Delhi was originally known as Shahjahanabad and was the abode of the Mughals back in the colonial era. Emperor Shah Jahan adorned it with majestic mansions, beautiful gardens, and baroque mosques. Old Delhi is a world apart from the modern New Delhi, which is full of century Indian mansions, crammed up lanes, and cycle rickshaws. I hopped onto a cycle-rickshaw which whizzed me through narrow alleys, the aromatic spice market, the riotously colourful bangles market called the “Churiwali Galli”, the wedding essentials market, and the paper market. The tiny lanes were jam-packed by rickshaw-pullers that ferried passengers around. On either side of these alleys were ruins of ancient Indian mansions still standing proud, bearing memories of their lost grandeur.
Red Fort: My journey into this old world started with the wondrous Red Fort, which is a UNESCO’s world heritage site. Standing proudly in the center of Old Delhi, the fort dates back to the start of Mughal power. The name of the fort comes from the red sandstone it is made of and the majestic red fort took 10 years to complete.
Chandni Chowk: The famous Chandni Chowk had an array of mosques, temples and also Delhi’s oldest church, St. James Church. I learned from the friendly, well-aware rickshaw-driver that Digambar Jain Temple is one of the oldest temples in Delhi. The Gauri Shankar Temple which is renowned for an 800 year old lingam; and the Sisganj Gurudwara, the place where the ninth Sikh guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed by Aurangzeb, were bustling with pious pilgrims.
The Bazaars : Khari Baoli, Asia’s biggest spice market – was a treat to my senses owing to the pleasant aroma of spices that lingered in the air. Kinari Bazaar after which I bagged some cheap imitation gold and silver ornaments from I also bought copper and brass souvenirs for my friends from Chawri Bazaar and a couple of books for my nerdy cousins from Nai Sarak- the most extensive stationery in Delhi. Dariba Kalan, popularly known as the “Jeweler’s lane” was the go-to place for attractive trinkets and accessories. The tri- gilt-domed Sunehri Masjid, Fatehpuri Masjid and Jama Masjid- India’s largest mosque- were nothing short of historic beauties.
Karims: Then I concluded my trip to Old Delhi by making one last stop at the famous Karim’s for their authentic Mughlai cuisine that was a delicious explosion of great flavours in my mouth. By the end of the day, I was completely mesmerized by Old Delhi. Now I know why it is impossible to not be charmed by the nostalgic ambience and vivacity of this historic part of Delhi.