Before you get any weird ideas about the title, no, this is not about walking instantly or walking for an instant only; rather, a heritage walk for instagrammers! The NatGeo Moment Awards India is inviting entries & this event was planned as part of their build up to the competition as exclusively for those using Instagram. Delhi was the first city where this Instawalk was planned. Delhi Heritage Walks collaborated with NatGeo to design a heritage walk in old Delhi. The idea was to trace a heritage trail at a site which would provide ample range and opportunities for photography, while exploring the lesser known areas in the city. The purpose of a heritage walk is to get to know the stories behind monuments, the people who built them, lived in them & the change in the fabric of history over time. A group of 20 people were selected for this event & we all met on the sultry Saturday morning (8 jun 2013) to explore Purani Dilli. The walk started at Digamber Jain Lal Mandir, one of the best known landmarks in the area. It’s the oldest Jain temple here & stands out in the skyline with its deep red coloured towers. The temple is much more than a religious shrine: it has a library of old manuscripts dating back several centuries & the premises also have a charitable bird hospital. Next to the Jain temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. In the photo below, the Gauri Shankar Temple can be seen as the one with the white domed structure behind the Digamber Jain Lal Mandir, the red one.
Across the road from these two shrines is a small flower market which caters to devotees.One of the chief offerings to Gauri Shankar Temple is a poisonous weed called ‘Dhatura’
Saturday is a working day in the old city & the markets open around 11 am. But that doesn’t mean that it is all quite & serene. There are devotees making early morning visits to numerous shrines, labourers rushing to their factories & collecting at labour chowks to begin their day of work, children practically piled on rickshaws on their way to school, vendors supplying milk & bread to homes-all of these daily activities were captured by the instagrammers as we negotiated the by lanes of old Delhi.
The next stop Sisganj Gurdwara, one of the most sacred of Sikh shrines in the subcontinent. It is here that the ninth Sikh Guru, Teg Bahadur was martyred along with 3 of his followers. The gurdwara stands at the Fountain Chowk (which has been converted into a shrine in memory of the followers of the guru who died with him. Another gory story attached to this Chowk is related to Sunheri Masjid. It is said that the Persian invader Nadir Shah stood on the terrace of this very mosque & ordered the massacre of citizens of Delhi. His raids are (infamous for the 2 very important artefacts he took away & we still talk about them: the Kohinoor & the Peacock throne.
Moving on to more pleasant experiences, this chowk has a number of famous eateries. A few steps before the gurdwara at the mouth of Dariba Kalan is the jalebiwala. On the chowk is the Bengali restaurant Annapurna. Ghantewala Shahi Halwai, the oldest sweet shop here which traces its work back to the Mughal kitchens is also located here. In fact, now you can order sweets online too; they certainly have moved with the times!
A few steps further down Chandni Chowk takes us to Parathewali Gali. Natraj Dahi Bhalle wala is closeby but doesn’t open this early. The same is the case for Kunwarji’s shop & the famous kachori wala nearby. However Paratha (Indian fried bread) shops start their day early & were already calling out to us as we passed by them in to Kinari Bazaar. The food is extremely tempting but this time we contend ourselves by clicking photos only!
Kinari Bazaar is a very colourful market, full of glitter & jazz. It has laces, accessories, wedding items, costumes, & decorative items of all kinds. And don’t be mislead by the small size of the shops. Most businesses here only deal in bulk, have warehouses elsewhere & carry out transactions of huge sums of money every day. Many merchants here are extremely prosperous. At the same time, poverty of the workers can’t be ignored as well. As we walk around the streets, we see beggars, homeless and labourers who live hand to mouth existence in Delhi. These are the many shades of the Channdi Chowk painting. Much of the older architecture of havelis & shops in old Delhi lies behind hoardings & encroachments. Still there are places where one can see traces of carvings peeping out from behind the modern mess. One neighbourhood that retains some of its original look is a group of havelis in Kinari Bazaar called Naughara.
From Naughara, we move on to the site which gives the street of Chandni Chowk its name. Way back in the 17th century, when the city was planned as a capital for the Mughals, the main street of Chandni Chowk had a canal running through its middle with an octagonal pool. One can only imagine the grandeur of this canal running from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid. All this water reflected moonlight & hence the street was named ‘moonlight square’ or Chandni Chowk. The canal is long gone. And in the same area now, stand theTown Hall & a statue of Swami Sharaddhanand, a nationalist leader.
The next stop on our heritage walk was the Fatehpuri Mosque. It is a large congregation mosque built by one of the wives of Mughal emperor, Shahjahan. Her name was Fatehpuri Begum. It is a grand old structure & offered a welcome respite to our group, from the hustle & bustle of the city. Walking into the courtyard, one is almost teleported to another world, that’s how serene the ambiance of the mosque is.
The last stop on this instawalk was a warehouse called Gadodia Market in the famous spice market in old Delhi. We climbed several flight of stairs of Khari Baoli to get to the terrace of this building & were treated with a magnificent view of the city all around us. We could see the spice market, peep into the courtyard of Fatehpuri Mosque, the golden dome of Sisganj Gurdwara, the towers of Gauri Shankar & Jain temples, the olde Delhi railway station and minarets of Jama Masjid & other local mosques dotting the skyline. The event was wrapped up with a quick bite & a group photo. Here’s a snapshot of instagrammers in the mosque taken from a far off vantage point.
Delhi Heritage Walks has many more such walks planned, if you’d like to join these walks, you can check out their calendar. The content for this post was provided by Kanika herself. Kanika Singh is studying for a Phd in history. She is team member, Delhi Heritage Walks, which organizes such heritage walks to lesser known areas in Delhi. All she needs is an audience and then you are in for a 2 hr lecture, ateast!
See blog.delhiheritagewalks.com for more photos & description of walks led by the team. Today’s article’s content was provided by her and I’ve attended a DHW event myself and have been spreading the word about them, you too should give it a try!