Old Delhi, History of Old Delhi, About Old Delhi, Architecture of Old Delhi, Walls and gates of Old Delhi, Shopping at Old Delhi, Food at Old Delhi, Accommodation at Old Delhi, Basic Difference between New and Old Delhi.
About Old Delhi
Old Delhi is a walled part of New Delhi, founded by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1639 and originally named Shahjahanabad. It remained the capital of the Mughals until the end of the Mughal dynasty and was later rechristened Old Delhi by the British. It offers spectacular pieces of architecture, a mouthwatering variety of food, and a living, breathing piece of history.
History of Old Delhi
Delhi has been the capital of India for centuries, even though it was never officially declared so until just after Independence. Any other state could have been the capital, but Delhi had to be it. It has that majestic aura since the time of the Mahabharata. According to scriptures, Delhi was called Indraprastha at that point, and it was the capital of the Pandavas (sons of Pandu). This period dates back to about 3000 BC. After the Pandava reign, Delhi passed on to many rulers and dynasties.
The story of Old Delhi and New Delhi begins at the time of the rule of Mughal emperors. To be specific, it starts with Emperor Shahjahan. According to history, Shahjahan shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi in 1639. The state was already significant back then during the reign of his grandfather Emperor Akbar, and Shahjahan always wanted to be as powerful as him. Therefore, he re-shifted his capital and named it “Shahjahanabad”.
Shahjahan was also a lover of architecture. Therefore, during his reign, many mosaic and magnificent monuments were built. Many of these still stand today as a testament to his incredible reign. Some of these are Taj Mahal in Agra and Red Fort in Delhi.
Old Delhi architecture is a spectacular example of Mughal architecture, with plenty of charisma and nostalgia. While walking the bylanes of old Delhi you realize every wall has a story to tell. Old Delhi is a walled city shaped roughly like a quarter circle with the Red Fort as a focal point. The old city was surrounded by a wall enclosing about 1500 acres with 14 gates. Although the walls have largely disappeared, most of the gates are still present.
The Red Fort is named for its massive walls of red sandstone and its proximity to the Salimgarh Fort. It was a political and ceremonial center for the Mughals. Constructed in 1648 by Shah Jahan, the architecture reflects the fusion of Persian and Timurid traditions, along with a huge beautiful garden. It was designated a UNESCO World heritage site in 2007. The Red Fort has an area of 254.67 acres enclosed by 2.41 kilometers of defensive walls, punctuated by turrets and bastions varying in height from 18 meters on the river side to 33 meters on the city side. The fort is octagonal, with the north-south axis longer than the east-west axis. The marble, floral decorations and double domes in the fort’s buildings exemplify later Mughal architecture.
Located in Chandni Chowk, Jama Masjid is one of the largest mosques in India. Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1644 and 1656 at a cost of one million rupees, it has three gates, four towers, and two 40m high minarets constructed of strips of red sandstone and white marble. The mosque is built on a red sandstone porch which is about 30 feet from ground level. The courtyard can accommodate 25,000 people. The Red Fort stands opposite to Jama Masjid. The floor is covered with white and black ornamented marble to look like a Muslim prayer mat. Beside it, a thin black border is marked for worshippers.
Basic Difference between the Two Cities
The differences lie in the lifestyle and area. New Delhi is your typical metropolitan city with all the amenities and luxuries you ever dreamed of. 5-star hotels and multiplexes are common here. Living facilities are much much better. It’s India’s nuclear and political centre. The Prime Minister and the President of the country live here. The city is active and buzzing 24×7. Everyone is in a hurry, and I’m sorry, but not everyone is very hostile. Industrialisation and modernization have affected human bonds significantly. During the festival period, a little celebration is common, but pretty soon, everyone goes back to their daily lives and mundane routines or resort to clubs and pubs to celebrate.
Old Delhi, on the other hand, is all about small and interconnected lanes. The buildings are very close to each other. Besides not being modern, it does feel as if Old Delhi is still Shahjahanabad. Joint families are quite common in this city, and people are amiable and helpful. The food you get here is fantastic. The residents may be a little conservative in their thinking and outlook, but many families are changing this norm with proper education. Whatever it may be, one thing is for sure: Old Delhi truly portrays the soul of Delhi. It gives you a glimpse of how Delhi used to be during the Mughal reign.
Many of the historical attractions are in the Chandni Chowk area and the Red Fort. In addition, Old Delhi also has:
- Ghalib ki Havelithat is in Ballimaran is famous for Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, the renowned Urdu and Persian poet.
- Salimgarh Fort
- Mumtaz Mahal
- Gali Qasim Janthat is in Ballimaran is famous for Mirza Ghalib’s haveli, and that of Hakim Ajmal Khan
- Razia Sultana’s (Delhi’s only female ruler before Indira Gandhi)— tomb near Kalan Masjid
- Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque
- Lal Mandir, Delhi’s oldest Jain temple
- Fatehpuri Masjid
- Khari Baoli, Asia’s biggest spice market
- Zinat-ul Masjid, Daryaganj built in 1710 by one of Aurangzeb’s daughters
- Rajghat, Mahatma Gandhi’scremation site memorial
- James Church (near Kashmiri Gate) built in 1836, Delhi’s oldest church, built by Col. James Skinner.
Some of the historical mansions include:
- Begum Samru’s Palace of 1806 (see now called Bhagirath Palace.
- Naughara mansions in Kinari Bazaar, 18th century Jain mansions.
- Khazanchi haveli
- Haveli Sharif Manzil that is in Ballimaran is famous for its Aristocratic Hakims and their Unani practice, and that of Hakim Ajmal Khan
- Haveliof Mirza Ghalib, Gali Qasim Jan that is in Ballimaran
- Chunnamal haveli, Katra Neel
- Haveli of Zeenat Mahal, Lal Kuan Bazar
- Haksar Haveli, Bazar Sitaram, where Jawaharlal Nehruwas married in 1916 to Kamla Nehru.
- Haveli Naharwali, Kucha Sadullah Khan, where Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan was born
- Kucha Chelan (Kucha Chehle Ameeran), where the Persian descent inhabited
Walls and gates
It is approximately shaped like a quarter cìrcle, with the Red Fort as the focal point. The old city was surrounded by a wall enclosing about 1,500 acres (6.1 km2), with 14 gates.
- Nigambodh Gate: northeast, leading to historic Nigambodh Ghaton the Yamuna River.
- Kashmiri Gate: north.
- Mori Gate: north.
- Kabuli gate: west.
- Lahoi gate: west close to the Sadar Railway station, Railway Colony, including the tomb of Syed Abdul Rehman Jilani Dehlvi.
- Ajmeri Gate: southeast, leading to Ghaziuddin Khan’s Madrassa and Connaught Place, a focal point in New Delhi.
- Turkman Gate: southeast, close to some pre-Shahjahan remains which got enclosed within the walls, including the tomb of Shah Turkman Bayabani.
- Delhi Gate: south leading to Feroz Shah Kotlaand what was then older habitation of Delhi.
The surrounding walls, 12 feet (3.7 m) wide and 26 feet (7.9 m) tall, originally of mud, were replaced by red stone in 1657. In the Mughal period, the gates were kept locked at night. The walls have now largely disappeared, but most of the gates are still present. The township of old Delhi is still identifiable in a satellite image because of the density of houses.
The famous Khooni Darwaza, south of Delhi Gate and just outside the walled city, was originally constructed by Sher Shah Suri.
Chandni Chowk : It is the perfect place to shop in. This densely populated market has been around for more than three centuries and was once visited by merchants from Turkey, China and even Holland. You may buy curios and souvenirs from here. Dariba Kalan is known for its pearl, gold and silver jewellery and attar (natural perfumes). Gulab Singh Johri Mal, established in 1819, are well-known manufacturers and exporters of attar. A visit to Khari Baoli is a must for the spice-lover — don’t forget spices are what connected India to the West. Kinari Bazaar is the best place to look for zari and zardozi trimmings and tinsel. The cloth bazaar of Katra Neel offers all kinds of fabrics such as silks, satin, crepe, cotton and muslin. Bhagirath Palace is Asia’s largest market for electrical goods and also offers medical equipment and allopathic medicines. Moti Bazaar is famous for shawls and pearls and Tilak Bazaar for chemicals.
Nai Sarak: A popular book-shopping destination in Old Delhi is Nai Sarak. Connecting the main Chandni Chowk Road with Chawri Bazaar, Nai Sarak has numerous wholesale and retail shops selling college and school textbooks. Just a left turn from the famous Paranthewali Gali will take you to Nai Sarak. You will also find shops that sell only stationery items. The market remains closed on Sundays.
Chor Bazaar: Located near the Red Fort and Lajpat Rai Market, Chor Bazaar literally means “Thieves’ Market”. From electronic items to designer clothes, you can find everything here. Prices are enticingly low but the life of the product can’t be guaranteed. You have to depend on verbal assurances and on your own judgement.
Chhatta Chowk: The Chhatta Chowk Bazaar, which dates back to the 17th century, was meant for ladies in veil. In this covered thoroughfare leading up to the Red Fort, the caravan traders would lay out their wares and move away. The ladies could then come and make their choice without being observed. Today, the market has 40-odd shops selling artificial and semi-precious jewellery, embroidered bags, hand-painted wall hangings and ‘antiques’ with dubious authenticity.
Daryaganj Book Market: Be it the latest best-seller or an out-of-print book, Delhi is a hot destination for buying books. Stretching for more than a kilometre, the Daryaganj Old Book Market is often referred to as the world’s largest weekly book market. It is organised every Sunday.
Most of the books available here are used. Besides the throwaway price, the availability of a wide variety and out-of-print, difficult-to-find books draws buyers here. From fiction to medical sciences, architecture to cookery, comics to atlases, classics to magazines, and management to hobbies, name any genre and you can find it here.
Food is a religion in this city. The narrow gullies of old Delhi have an overwhelming variety of cuisines to offer. The heavenly aroma of food literally liberates the taste buds here. Acclaimed by national and international food guides, the food will never fail to tempt you. The cuisine is generally dominated by meat, and also offers delicious hot parathas, chats, and sweets. The famous Paranthe Wali Gali is a narrow street located in Chandni Chowk and has a series of shops offering parathas, a fried Indian bread which is stuffed with fillings and served with mint chutney, tamarind chutney, pickles, and curries. Over 30 variety of parathas are available. The Ghantewala Halwai is one of the oldest sweet shops in India, founded in the year 1790. It is famous for its sohan halwa and Karachi halwa along with badaam barfi, kalakand, pista samosa and mootichoor ladoo.
Chandni Chowk and Chawri have many street joints that offer spicy and tangy chaats, dahi bhalle, tikki, kulle fruit chaat, and phirni (a sweet dish). Karim’s Place is very famous for its kebabs. It is situated in the area of Jama Masjid. It was established by Haji Karimuddin with the idea of opening a dhaba in 1913. All meat lovers must make a pit stop at Karim’s for their wonderful kebabs and divine mutton nahari.
Delhi is one of the India’s busiest entry points. It has a wide range of accommodation available from deluxe five star luxury hotels, with top-notch restaurants, 24-hour coffee shops, swimming pools, travel agents and shopping arcades, to middle-range hotels and guest houses offering good services and a comfortable stay, down to economical tourist lodges. There are a few Tourist Hostels, Working women’s Hostels, Service Apartments, Camping Sites and Dharmashalas as well.