CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
Delhi | AttractionApril 3, 2009

Chandni Chowk

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If you are in Delhi one of the most important adventures you can experience is to stroll one afternoon at Chandni Chowk, in the heart of Old Delhi. You must first be very relaxed and rested. I even suggest you take your morning off at the Oberoi Spa before facing what's coming in this busy - extremely busy - commercial center.

Chandni Chowk was once a grand processional thoroughfare that led from Red Fort to Jami Masjid. When it was laid out in 1648 by Jahanara Begun, Shah Jahan's favorite daughter, a canal ran down the center of the stately tree-lined avenue.

The Shajahanabad's most elegant boulevard is now a wide avenue extending from Red Fort to Fatepuri Masjid. It is still the heart of Old Delhi, where both religious activity and commerce mix happily together. All along it's length are shrines sacred to various communities. The first is the Digamber Jain Mandir.

Next to it is the bird hospital for sick and wounded birds. Loud chants, clanging bells and calls of vendors selling flowers and vermilion powder surround the Gauri Shankar Mandir, dedicated to Shiva and Parvati, which has a linga said to be 800 years old.

Very interesting is the Sunchri Masjid. This "Golden Mosque" with three gilt domes was built in 1722. On March 22, 1739 Nadir Shah stood on its roof to watch the massacre of Delhi's citizens. The temple is sick and it's interior is extremely elegant. I will elaborate more in the next post on Religion.

Chandni Chowk or "The silvery moonlit square", was then lined with merchants' shops and the grand residences or Havelis of noblemen and merchants. What's fun today is to stroll through the Bazaars with a camera and a pocket full of small denominations of rupees. My favorite is Kinari Bazaar.

Tightly packed stalls sell all manner of glittering gold and silver trimmings such as braids, tinsel garlands, and turbans for weddings and festivals. Old Delhi Bazaars are legendary.

An English visitor to these bazaars over hundred years ago wrote in praise of the "Cashmere shawls, gold and silver embroidery, jewelry enamels and carpets" to be found here. My favorites are Raja shawls in tones of red and crimson at a price of 125 rupees. They are going to look extremely aligned with the rigor my dark blue Armani suits.

I am walking in the crowd with my camera in one hand and the eyewitness travel guide in the other. The smell of food, birds and smoke from rituals in temples nearby makes me slightly dizzy. I am told that nearby we can go to Karim's. Tucked away in a narrow lane of the South of Jami Masjid, it is Delhi's most authentic eatery. It was named after a legendary 19th century chef, and the restaurant is now run by his descendants.

Maybe I am tired. I wonder why I don't always do what I recommend people do on my trips. I should have had a massage at the spa before coming here...anyways now it's too late. By the way, this is the perfect spot to get in and protect myself from the constant noise and street movement.

Menna Bazaar. This very traditional textile and saree shop is simply impressive. Hundreds of colorful embroidered textiles from all the regions of India lay neatly organized in piles, one on top of the other. Traditional Rajastani motifs blend in with very rich and intricate designs from Varanasi and Kolcatta. Mr. Narender Ahuja, the manager for 30 years, is proud to open and show me, passionately - as if each and everyone piece he had embroidered himself.

Silk crepes, georgettes and brocade sarees are also found in those shelves and I am assured they can be shipped worldwide. My driver and bodyguard Gurbinder Singh talks to them in Hindi. They all laugh, possibly at my enthusiasm. I am making my last calculations, 10.000 to 12.000 rupees for each saree I picked. I better leave this place now.

I am on my way to Darib Khalan, the jewelry lane and where artisans have worked for over two centuries. Churiwali Gali has garlands of glass bangles strung along rods to match every saree or lehenga. This lane is popularly called "The Bangle Lane". Paradise, my girlfriends.

Khari Baoli is Asia's biggest spice market. It spills across this streeet, which derives its name from a step well that no longer exists.

The great thing about the city's modernity is that this great wholesale Katras of Chadni Chawk and Jami Masjid still retain that souk-lke quality. Like in Marrakech, Jerusalem or Istanbul, its narrow streets are lined with shops whose goods spill out onto the pavement and shopping still means vigorous bargaining for a bewildering array of goods.

With my hands full of shopping bags, I decide to buy fruit from a woman who just threw a tomato at my head as punishment for having taken a picture of her in front of Bollywood stars' posters.

Reconciled and proud of my afternoon, I decide it's time to go back to the Oberoi and take that massage I missed in the morning. I jump on a cycle-rickshaw and am carried to my car. Chadni Chowk is still alive in my mind, so alive that I will come back to it sooner that you think...

Joelle's Picks:

The Saree Shop: Meena Bazaar: 1852. Chadni Chawk, Delhi -110006/ph +91 23265112.23277624 -E-mail: meenabazaar@hotmail.com

Marriage and Dramatic goods: Prem Collection: 2179,kinari Bazaar, Dariba Kaian, Delhi, 11006/ Ph +91 9811034744

The source: Eyewitness Travel

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