The Cultural Hub that is Delhi!

India’s capital which has been reflecting the diversity of the nation and a range of cultural tradition since times immemorial, has been a show window to the whole country for a long time.

It is said, that the best way to experience Delhi, with its years of legacy is through the eyes of a passionate Delhiite, someone who offers you a perspective beyond the hustled lifestyle of the city, to explore the city’s soul. The landscape of Delhi is dotted with ample heritage buildings and structures which are intriguing enough to arouse curiosity even the busiest person urging him/her to step out from their tightly packed schedules and explore these places. You just need to pan at the right places.

‘Delhi Walks’ was conceptualized keeping the local cultural perspective in mind, the fact that the ‘right places’ or the heritage scattered all over Delhi’s nook and corners, waiting to be explore and discovered on foot by some passionate people about the city’s heritage and diverse history. By curating earthly experience to connect travellers with the city’s colorful past, thus providing a context for the present development of the city. These experiences are curated keeping in mind the larger narrative of the cultural amalgamation that the city boasts of.

You name a cultural experience, and the city has the experience right from the heart of the locals, residing there. While you are in North Delhi, you will experience how the medieval culture as well as the British monuments and the bloody remains of the first war of independence, coupled with the trails and the struggle for space right after partition had resulted in a culture which is a mix of typical Punjabi with a tinge of Mughal etiquettes can be seen in present days. The overarching grandeur of British monuments that have stayed back as a legacy keeps reminding us of the British influence on us.

When you travel towards the central part of Delhi, the central arcaded roads, with planned roundabouts which are built in the lap of greenery and wide roads which make you feel the British Raj at its best, every time you see the monuments.

From Central Delhi, we move right towards South Delhi, which was the centre of first habitation by all the invaders and rulers who came and ruled over Delhi. South Delhi has a mix of cultures from the 7th century A.D to the medieval monuments and overarching ruins which reflect a lot about the transition that Delhi was going through in the medieval past.

The Abode of Djinns

Djinns are a part and parcel of Delhi life. They are the spirits tending to the faithful seeking help. On Thursdays, the Djinns are busy when thousands turn up with various concerned letters for them.
Imagine a newly built city, oddly 650 years back on a Friday, bustling with people, arriving from the main western gateway with bastions on either side. Right from there, they would enter one of the two smaller gates into the palace interiors, with the exotic Tas-i-Ghariyal playing in the background to announce the time of the day. From the smaller gates, meandering through the garden of grapes, to Ashokan Pillar on left and the imposing Jami Masjid on the right, the new city used to be a favorite place for pleasure trips for people. With a variety of transport options available, the entrance of the citadels from the western side led to a waiting hall flanked by dual gates. Single storied guard rooms lined at the entrance interiors.
Welcome to the fort city of Feroz Shah Kotla, built by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq in the 14th century which is between a famous cricket stadium and Delhi’s Ring Road. In the stonewalls of the city, believers of 21st century still stick their letters to the Djinns, light candles and diyas and the believers pray.
Every Thursday, people from various corners of Delhi come with their prayers and letters, with a belief that they would be heard and solved by the Djinns. I happened to meet a lady, a mother of five young children, who had come with photocopies of her letters.
The new city complex of 14th century, there were three palaces which were exotically named as The palace of grapes (Mahal-i-angur) for the Maliks and Amirs; Mahal-i-chajja-i-chobin for personal attendants and; Mahal-i-bar-I ‘amm or the palace of public court for the public. Now all these lie in ruins as they indistinguishable from any other ruins. The Jami Masjid had cloisters four in number, in a rectangle, is a small domed roofs which are supported on 260 stone columns which have 16 feet high, having a 25 feet high central octagonal dome, which contained the Emperors ordinances.
The circular Baoli was the king’s personal swimming pool which had considerable ornamentation. The water conveyed from two overhead water tanks were surmounted with chattris. With the ruins of Jama Masjid, the 42 feet and 7 inches high pale pinkish tapering Ashokan Pillar, and the Sultans most ambitious construction project, it is a sight to watch and retell the story with the same vigour.

First shop, then Drop!

Ever thought, if you could shop your heart out, and feast on some delicious food? Here are some places which you can look out for!
The haveli of the maverick Urdu poet is what is popular in Ballimaran. There is a lot of controversy related to the name Ballimaran. While some point out that it refers to the maker’s of balli’s or oars, whereas the later editions refer to the name as ‘Billimaran’ which suggests the killers of cats! Yet another rendition to the name Ballimaran is that it was named after the wooden poles used for anchoring boats in the Yamuna and the canals that ran between Fatehpuri Mosque and Red Fort, which are the opposite directions. The area occupied by Punjabi business community that converted to Hinduism from Islam in their holy dip in the Ganga- following a miracle performed by a Muslim saint. Post-Partition many residents migrated to Karachi which is now in Pakistan. Predominantly a Muslim area, the place is known for footwear, optical frames and a noted family of Hakims who are practitioners of Yunani medicine.

Chitli Qabar Chowk:
What do you expect in a marketplace? Convenience, air conditioned comfort and electronic payments? Probably we all do, but we often forget that these are fairly newer developments and at least in India, the mom and pop stores ruled the roost till the 90s and they still do in smaller towns.
In a metropolis like Delhi, the best way to experience a typical Indian bazaar is to visit Old Delhi which never fails to live up to its legend. Bazaar Chitli Qabar is one of those markets hidden inside the narrow alleys of Old Delhi and which are now somewhat overshadowed by more prominent landmarks.
The market probably derives its name from a small qabar (grave) that is located in the midst of the market. It’s protected by small houses covered with grills and is surrounded by various shops that go about their business nonchalantly.
The entire locality of Bazaar Chitli Qabar is a smaller, more congested and more homely version of the more commercialized Chandni Chowk found nearby. Narrow alleys, even more tightly packed shops selling everything from apparel to metal works to flowers can be seen; there are traditional bakers preparing large round shaped breads which you’re more likely to witness in a Middle Eastern souk and roads choked in perennial traffic jams; everything in this place is as far removed from your typical urban existence as it can be.

A Sunny afternoon date with Old Delhi!

Shahjahanabad in the afternoon, is bustling with people at all corners of the walled city. Whether it’s the shopkeepers shouting at the top of their voices, or the customers looking for their perfect piece of cloth, border that they are looking for, meshed wires, right above, watch your step, don’t stumble on the wires. You are yet to see the beauty and charm that the Walled city is!
If the heat is a spoilsport for you, you should see how the locals find solace in the sturdy roofs of mansions and throng for afternoon prayers under the shady dome of mosques that reflect impeccable imperial architecture. With all this hustle, the walled city of Shahjahanabad still is the go-to place for tourists from all walks of life, where only in the afternoons you will encounter chock-a-block alleys starting from the main street of Chandni Chowk through the narrower alleys like Ballimaran, Kinari Bazaar, and Dariba Kalan. A rickshaw tour around the bustling city of Old delhi will be an experience unforgettable, as you see the bustle on streets but once you hop on the rickshaws, you can indelibly be lazy while taking a leisurely tour with ‘Rickshaw Tours’, a flagship vertical of ‘India City Walks’ that curates offbeat city experiences. A rickshaw is a light two-wheeled passenger vehicle drawn by one or more people. The custom made rickshaws owned by ‘India City Walks’ have been designed keeping in mind the heritage, history and culture that the historic city has to offer as well as the comfort and safety of the travelers who come to explore the city of Old Delhi.
The route and the experiences have been designed as a part of the tour by ‘India City Walks’ to ensure that you spend very little time to get baked in the gorging sun and enjoy a swift, memorable ride around the walled city, the city which was commissioned by the Emperor Shahjahan. The tour starts from Jama Masjid, as we tell you the stories related to the mosque which is one of the largest in Asia. Right from the experience of the cool marble precincts to the elaborate central wall we tell you the story which makes the mosque come alive. After the mosque, we can hop into the royal carriages, which are comfortable and cushy rickshaws, to step away from the Mughal magnificence to the present day bustling city of Old Delhi. ‘India City Walks’ takes you through the main street of Chandni Chowk, literally translated as moonlit square, as the moonlight would reflect over the tank which would provide water through streamlets to the whole city, while you relax and sit in the rickshaw, we do the storytelling for you.
From there, we take a straight route to Asia’s largest spice market which is brimming with the strong smell of spices, there to absolutely mesmerize you and take you for a flavored ride. The whole of Chandni Chowk, is a mixed bag, while the main street of Chandni Chowk, has heritage temples and spiritual places like the Digambar Jain Mandir, Gurudwara Sis Ganj or the Central Baptist Church, all in the same route, the heart of the city has a small shop which has been serving masala Soda’s for 120 years, to beat the heat and give you the lost energy.
India City Walks will titillate your senses when the rickshaws take you around the busiest and the colorful alleys. Be it Ballimaran the one stop lane for footwear, optical and colorful bangles, or the wedding market, Kinari Bazaar which has the best designs for colorful wedding stores. Either sit on the rickshaw, or get down, admire the beauty of the lanes at your own leisure.
An afternoon in the city of Old Delhi lets you experience the quirky delights in a new way. The lazy, sunny streets might be the best time to experience the unique charm that should not be missed out on, especially when it is captured by ‘India City Walks’ rickshaw tour.

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