When Shah Jahanmade his new city of Shahjahanabad – the area we call Old Delhi today – his daughter Jahanara built the romantically named moonlight square – Chandni Chowk as the main imperial street. Once a board arcade with water channels and fountains, it is now a labyrinthine, often choked, area, proud of its age and even of its energy and bustle. An important wholesale commercial centre of Delhi, indeed of North India, the busy area has old quarters, area lanes and by lanes that lead off the main road, and might still give you a chance to walk in the footsteps of the poets Ghalib and Zauq, but it is really hard to imagine Mughal imperial procession going down the road any more.
The main of the Red Fort, goes past the old Town Hall, and ends at Fatehpuri Masjid. Packed with loud shops, screaming billboards and insistent vendors, it may have changed unrecognizably over the centuries, but there are obvious signs of its pedigree, not least the old religious establishments of practically every faith in the city, a Jain Temple, a Gauri Shankar Temple, The Central Baptist Church and Gurudwara Sheeshganj.
Traditionally, only the rich and influential had their havelis or business establishments here and a walk around the galis of Chandi Chowk area still lead you to balconies with intricate Jaalis, beautifully framed windows and delicate columns. Yet other building has come up in new glowing avatar. As for the markets, you can find clothes, cameras, jewellery, bridal dresses, leather, scents…. And, of course, some of the most famous and prized food in the capital: Purani dilli ka khana.
Directly across the Red Fort, Chandni Chowk as inaugurated by the unmissable red sandstone Digambar Jain Mandir. Originally buklt in the mid – 17th century, with the permission of Jahangir, the temple got its towering Shikharas only in the 20th century. The temple is famous for a bird hospital that dates to 1926, and has special words and ICUs for injured or sick birds. The Gauri Shankar Temple right behind was built by a Maratha military chief, Appaji Gangadhar, in 1761.
Gurudwara Sheeshganj was a memorial built for the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur and his three disciples who were beheaded on the command of Aurangzeb in 1675.The Gurudwara was built in 1783 by Baba Baghel Singh, a Sikh military general, at the very site of the execution. Located opposite the Sheeshganj, the Central Baptist Church dates to 1814, its porch and pillars and memorial tablets making its shy presence felt among the more assertive domes and Shikharas of Chandni Chowk.
Sunehri Masjid is known as the place where Nadir Shah stood in 1739 and watched the massacre he had unleashed on the citizens of Delhi Chandni Chowk ends at Fatehpuri Masjid, a graceful mosque that was built by Fatehpuri Begum, one of Shah Jahan’s wives, in 1650.