When you think of Old Delhi, what immediately comes to mind is its melt-in-mouth delicacies and street food, unbeatable architecture and a history so rich that you have to pause for a second. This is a place that holds plenty of intrigue for photographers and travellers alike, not to mention the people who’ve called the place home for years now.
1. The first electric tram service was introduced to the city in 1908 and ran till as late as 1963.
Old Delhi, or the former city of Shahjahanabad, was once the headquarters of the Mughal Empire with its colourful bazaars and clean streets. Although, it has evolved a lot since then – what with traffic and an increase in the hustle bustle of life – it retains a certain charm even today that makes it one of Delhi’s most frequented places.
2. The first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad visits Old Delhi in a horse-driven carriage.
A trip to this part of Delhi makes for a wonderful lesson in the city’s culture, food and rich history. According to some, you can’t call yourself a true Delhiite if you’ve not been to this part of town. For those who haven’t been, what’s holding you back?
3. Chandni Chowk Town Hall, 1913.
PLACES TO SEE
1. The Red Fort
The imposing red stone fort, or Lal Qila, was built by Shah Jahan between 1644 and 1656. One of the most visited spots in Old Delhi, the Red Fort shows traces of Mughal brilliance, and honours India’s struggle for freedom. Architecture buffs will appreciate the fort’s design that boasts a blend of Indian, Persian and European design sensibility, while photographers will be delighted to see how brilliantly the red stone translates to film.
Pro tip: The entry will cost you Rs 10 and there’s no charge for photography; understand that you’re entering an area with large crowds; be careful of your belongings and carry your own water.
2. Khari Baoli
The market on Khari Baoli road dates back to 17th century and the name itself refers to a step well which was used for various purposes. Only now Asia’s biggest spice market stands here. The smells and colours are enough to leave your brain tickled for years. Don’t be thrown off by the numbers either – for a market that crowded, it’s known to run a pretty organised show.
One of the best things about visiting here is the countless stories the shopkeepers are willing to trade if only you ask them, right down to the source of the spices you’re buying. And there’s plenty to choose from, like, chutneys, pickles, dry fruits, rice, herbs, pulses, unrefined pink salt, nuts, tea, you name it.
Pro tip: Grab some sweets while you’re there; the place is known for different varieties of burfi and rasgulla.
3. Chandni Chowk
This place deserves a separate mention on the list, and if for nothing else, visit here for the circus called life. One of the busiest markets in Delhi, Chandni Chowk at first look may intimidate a few; plenty of traffic, people, overpowering smells and noise is enough to make any man turn around. But once you get past that, the place can easily inspire a poet or two. That much life in one place creates its own magic.
It was established in 1639 by a Mughal emperor and after surviving a little more than three centuries, the market now sits lit up in neon at night. It is said that people travelled from as far as China, Turkey and even Holland to trade here. Be it shopping, eating or simply taking a stroll with you camera, there’s something here for everyone and one trip here is a must.
Pro tip: there are plenty of Old Delhi walks and tours that you can opt for and tour this side of the city.
4. Jama Masjid
Right opposite the Red Fort lies a little slice of peace in the form of one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid. This is yet another structure built by Shah Jahan around 1656 and can hold a whopping 25,000 people at one time. Interestingly, the structure’s design is heavily influenced by both Hindu and Mughal architecture.
Each Friday sees proof of the architectural brilliance of a structure built to hold a whopping 25,000 people at one time; this is when Muslims turn up in large numbers for Namaz, and this is one of the reason why the Jama Masjid is also referred to as the Friday mosque.
Pro tip: time your visit; non-muslims can only attend the 7.45 am prayer session.