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Yeh nahi dekha, toh kuch nahi dekha (If you have not seen then you haven't seen anything)!
Chandni chowk is one of the oldest and the busiest markets of Old Delhi. The name is derived from a Urdu word and actually means the moonlit market. It was a part of the legacy of the Old Delhi and still retains its rustic charm.
History of Chandni Chowk Market
Chandni chowk was built in the 17th century under the guidance of the great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who was also responsible for shaping Old Delhi as we know it today. The famous market was designed by Shah Jahan’s daughter Jahan Ara. Even till date it remains one of India’s largest wholesale markets. From sareers to cameras and from spices to stationary you name it and Chandni Chowk market has it, and has it in plenty. This densely populated market has become an indispensable part of Delhi and has been adding colours to the culture and traditions of Delhi for more than three centuries now.
It runs right through the middle of the walled city, from the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort to the Fatehpuri Mosque. During the reign of Shah Jahan the market place for famous for its silver merchants and some historians believe that the market got its name from here. Silver is called chandi in Hindi thus the modification to chandni chowk. The market was given a square shape and at the center was a pool which was meant to reflect moonlight. That’s where the market got its name – the moonlit market or the moonlit square.
At that time the market was divided by canals which were a part of the water supply scheme. These canals are now closed.
The area was divided into three sections –
Lahore Gate to Chowk Kotwali – also known as the Urdu Bazar
Chowk Kotwali to Chandni Chowk – also known as Johri Bazar
Chandni Chowk to Fatehpuri Mosque – also known as Fatehpuri Bazar
Chandni Chowk Food
Great cuisine has always been a part of the Mughal culture, and when the area has been influenced by the Mughal culture, traditions and customs for such a long time, it is obvious that those traces would not fade away. Old Delhi has always been known for its mouth-watering food.
And when we talk about great food Chandni Chowk shall always win hands down. Be it the traditional non vegetarian dishes or the sweets you shall be on a unique culinary experience when you visit chandni chowk.
Chandni Chowk parathe wali gali is one of the most famous places till date.Some of the famous food joints are:
Natraj Dahi bhalle
The Jalebi Wala
Chaina Ram Sindhi confectioners
Jung Bahdur Kachori wala
Ram Parshad Makhan Lal
Gianiji ka falooda
Paranthe Wali Gali
As the name suggests this is an entire lane that is dedicated to delicious paranthas. From the usual aallo, paneer to the exotic cashew and almond parantha this is heaven for foodies. The narrow lanes have shops after shops selling paranthas. These shops have been there since ages and generation after generation they deliver great taste and quality service. They are fried in pure ghee and are served with raita, pickles and a wide variety of chutneys.
Some of the most famous shops are –
Pandit Devi Dayal’s shop
Kanwarji Bhagirathmal Dalbhajiwallah
Kanhiya Lal Durga Prasad’s Parantha shop
I am sure your mouth must be watering, so the next time you are around the area, do give your taste buds a one of its kind culinary experience.
Shopping and the bazars of Chandni Chowk
The entire market of Chandni chowk has been divided into smaller bazars that are famous for a particular category. And in that bazar you would find a huge number of shops selling the same kinds of goods.
The most famous ones are –
Khari Baoli – spices, herbs, dry fruits
Dariba Kalan – pearls, natural perfumes popularly known as ittars, gold and silver jewellery
Moti bazar – shawls and pearls
Tilak bazar – chemicals
Kinari bazar – zari and zardosi patchworks, exquisite laces
Katra Neel – cloth market (cotton, satin, silk, crepe and much more)
Bhagirath Palace – electronics, medical equipment, allopathic medicines
Nai Sarak – this is a book lover’s delight. It connects the main Chandni chowk to chawri bazar and has a plethora of shops that sell college and school books.
The product categories that one can buy in Chandni Chowk are –
Dry fruits and spices
Automobile spare parts
Computer repair and sales
Camera Market in Chandni Chowk
For all the photographers, professional or budding Chandni Chowk is a delightful place. Apart from the picturesque shots that you can capture which would talk about the love, warmth and the pure feeling of this place, you can also buy some great accessories for your cameras. Not many people are aware that there exists Asia’s largest camera market in Chandni chowk. Ask anyone for the photo market on the Esplanade Road, and you shall reach your destination. Adorned with hundreds of shops the street is always buzzing with activity. It is a wholesale market and you get everything - tripods, filters, lenses, albums, batteries and more.
Saree and Lehnga Shopping in Chandni Chowk
Are you getting married in the near future? Is there a wedding in your house soon? Confused about your bridal shopping? If the answer to these questions is yes, then Chandni chowk is the one stop solution for all your needs.
From designer sarees to fancy dress materials and lehngas Chandni Chowk is one place that would totally mesmerize you. Since it is a wholesale market you would never fall short of choices. Net, chiffon, georgette, silk, designer crepe, cotton…the list is endless. With a wide variety of designs, colors and the latest trends this is the place where designers pick up their stuff. And yes the rates are quite affordable. Retailer from various parts of Delhi and the country flock this wholesale market to get good quality stuff and then sell it at much higher cost at retail shops.
Some of the well-known shops for sarees, dress materials, suits and lehngas are –
Kishan Chand and Sons
Hare Krishna Textiles
Shree Bhawani Saree Bhandar
Shri Ram Sarnam Saree shop
Nazakat saree shop
From Nai Sarak to Katra Ashrafali road and the very famous cloth market these shops are scattered all around Chandni chowk and have been a part of the legacy that he area has.
How to Reach
One can easily reach chandni chowk by metro. The two stations that usually serve the area are Chandni Chowk, the underground station and Chawri Bazar. Since the area is very densely populated and the lanes are very narrow, it is advised that you take public transport to avoid chaos.
The beauty of Chandni Chowk is such that even film makers could not resist themselves. It comes as a refreshing change from the urban lifestyle of malls and cafes that we regularly see. It is a perfect blend of religion, traditions, a legacy that has been going on from generations and some customs that speak volume about what we are. Although it is a part of Old Delhi, it is evolving with time but has not let its old world charm and feel fade away. Come and be a part of this celebration – celebration of life, of colors, of flavors and aromas. Chandni Chowk as, is and shall always be timeless.