Chandni Chowk and shopping in Delhi are almost synonymous with one another. Chandni Chowk is as old as Delhi and is the busiest market in the city and fact, in the country. It is active because its shops, which are heritage establishments themselves, offer the best street foods, spices, and goods.
Chandni Chowk market was built by Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Shah Jahan, the 5th Mughal Emperor who had an impeccable taste in town planning, in his walled city of Shahjahanabad or what is the Old Delhi of today. He built the market so that his eldest daughter Jahanara could buy whatever she wished. Jahanara also designed the main market center of Chandni Chowk.
The market was designed around a large pond of water and is said to have got its name from the moon’s light reflecting off of it. Chandni – Which means moonlight and Chowk means junction. The market was designed in orderly sections and gardens and stately buildings. The exchange also had a serai or a rest house for the weary merchants from Asia and Europe.
The market grew with artisans, and professionals stayed back and set up their establishments and grouped themselves according to their occupations, which is how one finds the market grouped out today.
Clash of empires
The British imperialist bought many changes to the design of the market. The British altered the existing structures to their liking; for example, they built the town hall in one of the gardens and took over the Red Fort.
Chandni Chowk today is characterized by narrow and crowded streets lined with heritage structures, both big and small. Chandni Chowk can be overwhelming for the new, but once one takes the market into their stride, he/she would want to become a repeat visitor. Chandni Chowk redefines shopping and is world-famous for all the right reasons.
A few reasons it is the famous world over are
- Paranthe Wali Gali: There is a whole market dedicated to one food item, which is lined up with heritage establishments selling hundreds of varieties in Chandni Chowk.
- Silver Market: Dariba Kalan which means the ‘street of the incomparable pearl’ is a 17th-century silver jewelry market which is still in business in full swing
- Asia’s largest spice market: Khari Baoli, Asia’s largest spice market, has various other goods on offer such as nuts, dry fruits, herbs, grains, and pulses.
- All-inclusive wedding shopping: In Chandni Chowk, one can buy goods ranging from clothes to invitation cards to decoration items for their weddings.
- A Spiritual Experience: All faiths peacefully co-exist in Chandni Chowk. The mosques, temples, Gurudwara, Churches that live in close vicinity are bound to offer a spiritual experience to the visitor.
The market is open every day of the week except Sunday when the majority of establishments are closed, but a few of them remain open.