Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Heritage Walk to Chandni Chowk

On fourth of febuary, we went to our third heritage walk conducted by INTACH Delhi chapter.I wondered what they would show in this heritage walk, because it was about Chandini Chowk. Admittedly it was well known in Delhi for being a shopper's paradise, I was still a little queasy as the preview showed only a few dilapidated buildings. But,  the walk turned out to be extremely rewarding because now I can truly say, I have seen old Delhi.

Our walk leader was Ms. Jaya Bassera. You might remember her from my post on Lodhi garden.. The
 first was Mehrauli Archeological park.
Owing to the lack of  proper planning, We were half an hour late and so, we missed the first three places. But it was OK , as I felt after the walk, that the most interesting portions of the walk was not missed by us. Our first stop was the Central Baptist Church.This church was famous for being the second oldest church in Old Delhi, the first one being somewhere near Kashmiri Gate. I won't elaborate as what I remember from the walk is not consistent from the information in the internet.

Our next stop was the Sis Ganj Gurudwara. There are two reasons why this Gurudwara was special.It was here, where the ninth Sikh guru was beheaded by the Mughal army as they thought he was trying to convert Muslims into Sikhism. Hence the name Sis Ganj. The second reason is  that, this Gurudwara is different from the others as Red sandstone was used abundently in it's construction. Normally, only white marble is used.

Then we stopped just beside the Sunehri Masjid. I found it to be a very sorry sight indeed. It was built by a noble man in Muhammed Shah's court  and the three domes were laid with bronze plate which  gave it a golden colour and hence the mosque was known as Sunehri Masjid ( Golden Mosque). The mosque was on the upper floor whereas the lower floor had shops. These shops generated the revenue for the maintenance of the mosque. I guess the shops were not doing any good right now for the mosque did not look maintained from the outside.

Muhammed Shah Rangeela was the last of the Mughal rulers. When he realised that he could not fight Nadir Shah from Persia, he opened up the Gate of Delhi to prevent the plunder and unnecessary killing by Nadir Shah's army. Peace reigned for 3 months but after that an incident took place which resulted in the same carnage that Muhammed Shah so wanted to prevent. Apparently Nadir Shah overlooked the murder of innocent civilians, sitting in this mosque and the fountain was heaped with the corpses by his army.

Our next turn was to the kinari bazaar.  On our way,we passed the Gantewala sweets shop (established in 1790) and the Paranteawala gali which had stuffed paranthas. Our walk leader took us to the Kinari bazaar and I understood why everyone said " if you want to go shopping for a wedding, Go to Chandini Chowk" . Kinari means "Edge" and this lane has 'n' number of shops selling all kinds of different beautiful Zari and other decorative items for sarees and chunnies. For a person who loves to decorate her/his dresses, this place is literally heaven.

From here she took us to the ruins of an old haveli . The ruins she took us to, were of a Nau garhana( 9 houses connected by a common area). Unfortunately only the common area remained. It remaindered me of my grandparents home.  Built before independence,even my grandparents home are not there in their initial form now. But here in Old Delhi,there were some houses which still had the old architecture and these were a delight to the eyes. From Naugarhana we went to the Katra kushal rai street which still houses many of the old haveli's with their ornate stone carved facades.

    The ruins of the Naugraha. No one knows whether there were rooms. There was this raised platform on either sides, maybe for musicians and dancers.

I loved these doors. They remind me of day bygone.

Then we went to the Shri Digambara Jain Naya Mandir.This is one of the most beautiful temples I have seen. The entrance was adorned with pink flower motifs and exquisite peacocks motifs. Unfortunately my hubby could not take a good picture as the camera is not allowed into the temple. I have never gone to a Jain temple and I don't know a Jain so I learnt a lot of things about their faith in the temple. The interior had real gold decorations  and beautiful murals that I cannot describe.  The interior sanctum is not electrified as the electric lights harm the murals. Hence, even though it was built more than two centuries ago, it has the original paints.I learnt something about their culture.

The end of our walk was  in front of Jama Masjid. We saw a lot of shops selling beautiful beads and other wares on our way there. Ms Bassera said that if at all one gets lost in the numerous by lanes in Old Delhi, one only has to keep on walking and they would reach some corner of the Jama Masjid. The lanes were planned liked that. reminded me of 'All roads lead to Rome concept' :). I liked that.

AS took this photo when he came to Delhi. We did not enter the Masjid after the walk.

The Jama Masjid was built on a raised ground. And it stood on a raised base so that it could be visible from every place surrounding the Masjid. One noticeable thing about the Jama Masjid was that though it was built by ShahJahan whose structures are all extremely decorated and beautiful, this Masjid is extremely plain. Only red sandstone, white marble and black marble were used. The black marble can be seen in the dome. The lines on the dome give it an appearance of a cut onion and hence the name Onion Dome.

Jama Masjid also played a part in the Indian Independence struggle.Apparently during the time of the revolt of 1857, Jama masjid was one of the venues where people could meet and discuss their plans for overthrowing the British. So, at the time of uprising, the prayers at Jama Masjid were stopped and this was converted into a cantonment for British Soldiers. However once the rebellion was suppressed, the people were allowed to continue their prayers.

And with this, Ms Bassera wrapped up the walk. It was a really interesting walk as only after this walk did i feel that I saw Delhi. After this walk we went to the Parantewala Galli and tried 5 different kinds of Parantha (Stuffed Flat Bread). Then we went to meet ND for our Brunch at Karims.

It was a wonderful day. Cannot wait for the next walk.

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