Chandni Chowk as planned and built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan and his daughter Jehan Ara was a unique market place through which a canal ran. The water in the canal reflected the moon and the stars and hence the name “Chandni Chowk” was given to this place which meant “Moonlight Square”
Although the canal dividing the main road in Chandni Chowk does not exist anymore the name remains and so does its reputation of being the oldest and busiest collection of wholesale and retail markets in Delhi. Located opposite the Red Fort, Chandni Chowk extends from the Lahori Gate of Red Fort in the North to Fatehpuri in the south. The many markets of Chandni Chowk area extend from Ajmeri Gate to Jama Masjid and also beyond Fatehpuri and Old Delhi railway Station.
Chandni Chowk is a one of its kind commercial place, one that exudes history, tradition, variety and culture. The famous Jama Masjid and other Masjids coexist harmoniously here along with a historical Jain Temple, the Sis Ganj Gurudwara, Churches and Hindu Temples.
Markets in Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk is an exceptional market place as it is a place from where one can source almost everything that you need. There are many wholesale markets here from where traders from all the small towns and villages in the neighboring states come to buy goods that they sell in retail back home.
Chandni Chowk is not only one road but extends to areas surrounding the main road as well. There are many markets in this area. Some of noteworthy markets in Chandni Chowk area are:
- Nai Sarak a street where one goes for school books, professional and IT books, stationery and also to buy or repair musical instruments.
- There are Wholesale Textile markets in the narrow lanes and bi-lanes or Katras and Kuchas of Fatehpuri
- Dariba Kalan is the street where you can buy all kinds of jewellery and silver ware
- Kinari Bazaar is the place to go to buy laces and traditionally embellished borders and motifs that are used to make traditional Indian clothes
- Bhaghirath Place is a wholesale market for Pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and electricals and light fittings.
- Chawri Bazaar is the wholesale and retail market for paper, stationary and hardware.
- Ballimaranis famous for footwear and eyewear.
- On the footpath near Jama Masjid there is a Flea market that is set up daily and where you can buy old books, antiques and a pot pour of rare articles at bargain prices
- Old Lajpat Rai Market is where one goes for electrical and electronic goods.
- Cycle Market for cycles and photographic materials like cameras etc.
- Moti Bazar as the name denotes is for pearls. You can also get shawls and other woolen items here.
- Khari Baoli is a busy wholesale and retail market for cereal grains, lentils and pulses, dry fruits, spices and other groceries.
- Tilak Bazar is well known for chemicals and laboratory glassware.
History of Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk has existed for over four centuries as a principle commercial place of Delhi. Some things modern have replaced some redundant things yet essentially Chandni Chowk is a symbol of a diverse cultural tradition that has imbibed the old and is not away from the new. There are markets that are selling the same goods that they sold to the Royal Families of Shahjehanabad and where there were horse drawn and hand pulled carts, there is the swank metro that connects you seamlessly to the rest of Delhi.
As part of his new Capital city Shahjehanabad, Emperor Shah Jehan planned this unique market place for the royal families and the common citizens. His favorite and talented daughter Jahan Ara begum designed Chandni Chowk as a crescent shaped market with a canal running in the middle. The name Chandni Chowk could have been derived from the moon and stars reflecting from the canal or from the famous Silverware market with master silver craftsmen and derived from the word “Chandi” which means Silver.
The main Chandni Chowk market lies in the center of the walled city of Shahjehanabad. It extends from the Lahori Gate of Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid. There were three sections into which the market place was divided to begin with:
- The section closest to the Royal residence was called the Urdu Bazaar and was located between Lahori gate and the Chowk Kotwali, the police post near Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib. This section was destroyed in the Sepoy Uprising of 1857 and the beginning of the war for independence. The famous urdu poet Ghalib has noted this destruction in many of his couplets.
- The second section was called the Johri Bazaar and extended from Chowk Kotwali to Chandni Chowk. There was also a clock tower in the square which was later demolished.
- The third section from Chandni Chowk to Fatehpuri Masjid was called the Fatehpuri Bazaar and had shops of diverse goods.
Chandni Chowk Specialty
Chandni Chowk is really special in many ways. Apart from the busy markets that sell almost everything a man needs and the delicious Indian Food that one is able to enjoy, there is an ethos here that is very Indian. The age old buildings, the crowded streets with people and vehicles of all sorts, the narrow winding lanes and bi-lanes with historic residences or “havelis”, the truly secular atmosphere and an atmosphere of prosperity among the squalor is what you can find here and nowhere else.
If it is Indian clothes you are looking for you could go to no place better. The variety and range in Indian sarees, men’s attire, women’s fashion wear is vast. There is something for every pocket and for every taste. There are whole markets for books, footwear and leather goods, electronic and electrical goods, household goods and more.
It is also important to understand that Chandni Chowk with its congested roads and crowded shops is a place rife with pickpockets, hustlers and touts. Beware of these and take care of your belongings.
Chandni Chowk and its surrounding areas are conservative and it is best to dress to cover knees and shoulders.
Eating Joints of Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk is the right place to go to enjoy traditional Indian food and sweets. There are places here that have been selling the same stuff for hundreds of years and are famous for these delicacies all over the world as they have retained their unique taste and quality as yet. Thus when one is eating the famous Paranthas of Paranthewali gali, one is not only gorging on its delicious food but also experiencing history. Most of these famous eating places are managed by families that are in the same business for more than a century. There are specialist halwai shops (Indian sweets and savories makers), chaatwalahs or Indian spicy street food vendors etc. who have always been there
Some of the well –known eating places in Chandni Chowk which tourists find interesting are:
- The Ghantewala Halwai
- Natraj’s Dahi Bhalle
- Kanwarji Bhagirathmal Dalbhajiwallah
- Bikaner Sweet Shop
- Gianiji ka Falooda
Attractions of Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk is the right place for tourists wanting to understand the culture and tradition of India, its commerce and its many trades and crafts. You can spend whole days here exploring the myriad lanes and bi-lanes at Chandni Chowk.
- Jama Masjid
- Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir
- Fatehpur Masjid
- Sunehri Masjid
- Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib
- Central Baptist Church
- Chawri Bazar
- Chunnamal Haveli
- Gali Paranthe Wali
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