After coming to Delhi, we have been to Chandni Chowk quite a few times - but mostly as foodies to enjoy a great breakfast at Karims and then back home. Once we followed it up with a visit to Red Fort, but other than that hadn't done much exploring in the famed streets of Old Delhi. Till I signed up with a couple of friends last year for a Heritage Walk organised by INTACH.
So, one February morning the three of us met up, parked our cars at the nearest Metro station and took the train to Chandni Chowk. A short cycle rickshaw ride from there and we reached the starting point of the walk - opposite the Gurdawara Sisganj. Below are some of the sights we saw - To be honest, I wouldn't call all of them beautiful, but the walk certainly did a lot to gain an insight on life in times bygone.
Below - The Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib is built at the site in the Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi, where the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded on the orders of the Mughal emperor in 1675 A.D., Aurangzeb, for refusing to convert to Islam. Before his body could be quartered and exposed to public view, it was stolen under the cover of darkness by one of his disciples, Lakhi Shah Vanjara, who then burnt his house to cremate the Guru's body. This place is marked by another Gurdwara, Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib. The severed head ("Sis") of Guru Tegh Bahadur was brought to Anandpur Sahib by Bhai Jaita, another disciple of the Guru. It was cremated by the Guru's son, Gobind Rai, who would later become Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Guru of the Sikhs. The Gurdwara at this place is also called Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib. Courtesy wikipedia
One of the many heritage buildings from a different century; and Ghantewala, the famed sweet shop - we had the most amazing ras malai ever and also packed some more sweets to take home.
Parathewala Galli - a sore disappointment after all the stories we had heard about it - we even came back after the walk ended just to have breakfast there. While we could have taken the deep fried parathas in our stride as part of an old tradition, there was hardly any stuffing whatsoever inside the parathas!
Anyway, the better part of the tour was seeing some of the remaining samples of the lovely architecture of that era - painted tiles, arched doorways, carved jharokhas; some of it had been painted over in garish colours....
But then there were the others who had lovingly added to the architecture by furnishing the inside with antique pieces.
Some more pics from the walk - including a Jain temple from the 19th century with some lovely inlay work and tiles.
We ended our morning by climbing up the stairs of the Jama Masjid for a splendid view of the Old City resplendent in the morning sun.
The guide for our walk wasn't very impressive and most of his commentary seemed aimed at the foreigners in the group. But while we tuned out most of what he said after the initial half an hour, we did enjoy the experience of being taken around one of the oldest marketplaces - something we may have had trouble negotiating on our own.
Also since we were there early one Saturday morning, most of the shops were closed - it was only when we were on our way out after breakfast, that we saw some of them open - like this amazing shop selling only bangles!
The harsh truth about a heritage area in a country fighting for space, is that one can't simply cordon it off to preserve it. It houses many, many people and is the workplace for even more. Its preservation is fraught with complexities and has to be balanced with the needs of the existing owners of the havelis who may want to sell out to builders of commercial buildings and shift to more spacious quarters in the suburbs.
Besides INTACH, the India Habitat Centre also organises walks to most of the important landmarks in Delhi - log on to their website and keep abreast of their planned walks. There is also this place I found quite recently - I hope to be able to join one of their walks and will report back when I do.