360-Degree View: Chandni Chowk’s Havelis Take You Back in Time
On World Heritage Day, The Quint travelled to Delhi’s Chandni Chowk to see history come to life.
The bustling and congested streets of Shahjahanabad, famously known as Chandni Chowk, hold evidence of Delhi's rich heritage. The havelis, made years ago, have the power to teleport anyone into history. But, somehow the people who live on these streets do not appear to have the faintest idea about its history.
Upon reaching Chandni Chowk, I asked for the way to Mirza Ghalib's Haveli and to my surprise only a handful of people knew the place.
To put it into perspective, Mirza Ghalib's Haveli has been declared a heritage site and is under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The haveli has a small museum which displays Ghalib's possessions and his work.
After reaching the haveli, I stumbled upon a small group of tourists and their guide, Sunil Narhwal. The 31-year-old guide has been in the business for five years and takes 10-12 people around the locality and explains the history of the area.
A payment of Rs 300 got me on board for the rest of the trip.
The next destination was Fatehpuri Mosque, a beautiful specimen of Mughal architecture built in 1650 by Fatehpuri Begum, one of Shah Jahan's wives. An old guard asked us to remove our shoes before entering the mosque. The mosque is right in the centre of Chandni Chowk.
Right in front of the mosque is Chunnamal ki haveli. This is one of the biggest havelis in the area and has over 128 rooms.
From the exterior, the haveli looks quite underwhelming, something one might easily miss.
The haveli was guarded by a rather unwelcoming guard who didn't let us in. The haveli belonged to Rai Lala Chunnamal, who was once the richest merchant of the city and his family still resides in the building.
It is said that the poverty-stricken Mirza Ghalib would stand in front of Chunnamal’s illuminated house and scowl at his opulence.
Chunnamal ki Haveli is quite famous and has featured in Bollywood movies (like Delhi 6), but it is still not a heritage site.
After our failed attempt at entering the haveli, the group was headed to Red Fort and Jama Masjid. I asked Sunil for other havelis in the area and set out for them myself.
While looking for Kinari Bazar, I entered Parathe wali gali. It was lunch-time and I could not resist the smell of parathas and lassi.
Parathe wali gali opens into the Kinari Bazar area. It was a Sunday and most of the shops were closed. Before leaving, Sunil had told me about a haveli in the Kinari Bazar area called Naughera Haveli. It got its name because nine families used to live together in its houses. The haveli is now inhabited by Jains and even has a temple.
There are many other small and big havelis in the area, some of them have been modified while others have been shut because of their dilapidated condition.
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