A web of electrical wires, people running into one another, rickshaws running in between tight lanes, good food, shopping and the hustle bustle – this defines a very colorful and vibrant “Chandni Chowk”.
Built in 17th century by Mughal emperor of India Shah Jahan and designed by his daughter JahanAra, the market was once divided by canals to reflect moonlight, and is now one of the busiest and largest wholesale markets in India. Even though today Chandni Chowk appears choked with congestion, it retains its historical character. One of the most famous mosque of India, Jama Masjid, is built in its vicinity and the street leading to it has several famous shrines, belonging to coexisting religions, lending the street a genuine cultural harmony.
The charm of the Chandni Chowk lies in its markets and their Indian-ness. From authentic Indian food and sweets to sarees, books, shoes and leather goods, electronic and consumer good, name it and you get it at wholesale prices in Chandni Chowk.
Crossing the street brings you back to the sheer excitement of the shouts of salesmen, a boy pushing a heavy cart warning people in his way, people negotiating over a deal. As soon as you go into the narrow alleys, the hustle diminishes. Here, you can find small, quiet shops selling silver, an old lonely man selling mangoes on the street, monkeys running on the roofs. Chandni Chowk also boasts a temple and a mosque, among other sights, but the main attraction is the endless theatre of every day life that unfolds right under your eyes.
Apart from walking around to take in the wares of the silversmiths, bicycle repair shops, washing machine outlets, wedding dresses, food outlets, and almost anything else you could think of, it is also great to just stop somewhere and let the frenzy go by. I stood on the central reserve of the road from where you get a close view of the traffic. The serious, sweaty faces of the bicycle-rickshaw drivers driving with heavy loads behind their backs, women walking by with their colorful saris whirling behind them like a flag, cows walking the street, salesmen trying to lure you into their shop.
Chandni Chowk has also been featured into numerous Bollywood films and has been shown in full character in movies like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Chandni Chowk to China, Delhi – 6.
A bird’s eye view of this place can show you how a small (or big) world exists of its own in the heart of Delhi. It is a place that has retained its charm and gives you a sneak peek of the 19th century in the 21st century.