Location: One of the 17th century’s historic markets in Old Delhi is ‘Chandni Chowk’ that has been the oldest and busiest marketing place, especially for wholesale goods, located in the central north Delhi, India.
Etymology: The literal meaning of the word ‘Chandni Chowk’ concludes the meaning ‘Moonlit square’.
Built by: Mughal Emperor ‘Shah Jahan’
Designed by: Shah Jahan’s daughter ‘Jahan Ara’ in 1650 AD
History: ‘Chandni Chowk’ symbolizes the fusion of medieval world’s modernity and tradition. The foundation of this place brings the readers back to age when Shahjahanabad was established by the admirer of art Emperor ‘Shahjahan’.
Princess Jahanara was the favourite daughter of Mughal king ‘Shah Jahan’ to whom he designated the authority of drawing the sketch of the hub where marketing could be followed specifically. She designed it square in shape and added more feathers of elegance to it by adding a pool in the centre of it that disperses the glimmering glow on its watery surface in the light of moon. It was probably this feature in mind of ‘Jahan Ara’ that proved ‘perfect nomenclature’ for the market place. Besides, this square used to have ‘vendors of silver’ in large number that also went coinciding to its perfect nomenclature as the word silver means ‘Chandi’ in Hindi. ‘Half Moon-shape’ was given to the original structure of the shops forming the complex.
Chandni Chowk stretched from the Lahori Gate of Red fort to Fatehpur Mosque (Masjid) where a canal floated through the middle of the street of the walled city as being a channel of water supply. During the initial years of its establishment, it used to have three divisions that are laid ahead:
- Lahori Gate (Lahori Darwaza) to Chowk Kotwali: This division, known as Urdu Bazar, was built closed to the royal residence that was called the encampment market. Ghalib witnessed the ruin of that market during the 1st war of India’s Independence in 1857. The language Urdu had been drawn from this encampment.
- Chowk Kotwali to Chandni Chowk: A clock-tower (Ghanta-Ghar) was built replacing old pool that was demolished in 1960s. Afterwards, this division was originally known as ‘Johri-Bazaar’.
- Chandni-Chowk to Fatehpuri Mosque: This division was famous as the ‘Fatehpuri Bazaar’.
Since it was the grandest marketing-hub, a grand procession used to be passed through the city during Mughal rule till 1903.
The buildings are still known as:
- Haveli: It is a big mansion having a big courtyard, spacious chambers surrounding its four sides and one more courtyard at the exterior that is completely walled. The largest Haveli in Chandni Chowk is the Chunnamal Haveli.
- Kucha: It’s an area occupied by the accommodations owned by the people sharing common attributes, especially their occupation, for example, Maliwara (the gardeners’ neighbourhood) and Ballimaran (the oarsmen’s neighbourhood) .
- Katra: It’s a separate zone reserved for craftsmen and tradesmen sharing the similar trade who usually lived and worked together.
Overview: It is the most congested marketing place where historical residential areas on both sides are separated by narrow lanes (galis). This peculiar street is studded with many religious shrines assigning the co-existing religions marking a unique cultural harmony. These religious places laid below express the idea of ‘unity in diversity’:
- Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir:
- Hindu Gauri Shankar Temple:
- Christian Central Baptist Church:
- Sikh Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib:
- Muslim Sunehri Masjid
- Muslim Fatehpuri Masjid
It is the place from where the famous ‘Haldiram’ began his journey to fame as a reputed brand dealing in processed Indian puddings. There are so many other confectioners and restaurants that are extremely famous apart from the women’s dress materials highlighted with zari and chikarkari:
- The Ghantewala Halwai
- Natraj’s Dahi Bhalle
- The jalebi wala
- Kanwarji Bhagirathmal Dalbijiwallah
- Bikaner Sweet Shop
- Paranthe wali Gali
- Annapurna Bhandar
The Glory and dignity of ‘Chandni Chowk’ complex reach to its apex due to presence of some historical mansions that tell the saga of their golden past. These are:
- Begum Samru’s Palace
- Naughara mansionsin Kinaari bazaar
- Khazanchi Haveli
- Haveli of Mirza Ghalib
- Chunnamal Haveli
- Haveli of Zinat Mahal
- Haksar Haveli
- Haveli Naharwali s