Delhi’s Hidden Museums

Museums form a part and parcel of our lives, as they are the show window to the culture and heritage of our past. A place where the material remains of our past are kept, reflecting the cultural legacy that we come from. Delhi being the heart of India has been the most preferred place for showcasing the cultural heritage of India. While people were mourning for the burning down of the National Museum of Natural History, there are many lesser known Museums which many people don’t know about. There is a list of gems which celebrate the artistic, cultural and historical importance of these treasure troves.

Replica Museum:

Replica Museum inside the Siri Fort complex gives us a glimpse of ancient and unique replicas which give us a hint of the rich and cultural traditions of our historical past. It was inaugurated during the Commonwealth Games in 2010, the conception and execution was done under Indian Archaeologist K.K Muhammad. The replicas focus on Indian heritage, and are made by the students of Patna’s College of Arts and Crafts. The replicas made with fiberglass are no less majestic than the original pieces. Right from the Fasting Buddha of the Kushana period to other modern day artefacts, it is a great experience to visit the place. The museum not only has the replica artifacts but also houses the Astitva Gallery, which keeps having exhibitions time to time.

Where: Siri Fort Sports Complex
Entry: Free
Timings: 10 am to 5 pm

Archaeological Museum:

Qila-e-Mubarak or the Red Fort which was the residential complex of the Mughal Emperors since Shahjahan’s time, is now a main tourist spot in Delhi. The grandeur of the Fort, houses a Museum which is less known amongst people. The Archaeological Museum which is also called as the Mumtaz Mahal houses gems for history lovers, as it stocks relics like pottery, antiquities from the Mughal times, coins, jewellery, seals and a lot more artefacts which were interestingly, found in the excavations at Purana Quila in 1955 and then again from 1969 to 1973. There are also objects dating back to to the Mauryas, Sungas to those from Kushanas and Rajput era and even the Sultanate period. While one section displays the artifacts from 2nd and 3rd century, there is another section which focuses on the relics of the First War of Independence of 1857.

Where: Red Fort
Entry: Free
Timings: 9 am to 5 pm Daily (Closed on government holidays)

Ghalib Museum:

The Museum as the name suggests, is dedicated to the poet Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, his time and life. Situated in Nizamuddin, as we walk towards the dargah, the museum is seen on the third floor of the academy, which has an auditorium and a library. Two rooms of the museum are dedicated to with a statue of Mirza Ghalib smoking a hookah at the entrance. There is also a storehouse which houses the replica’s of Ghalib’s favourite food like shahi kofta, murghmusallan and jalebi along with his plate and glass tumbler. Ghalibs books, rare photographs and important documents along with his handwritten pages are kept there. There are seals and coins which date back to the Mughal era are also kept in the museum. The rooms only happen to be open if you only ask the officials to open it for you.

Where: Nizamuddin, Near Dargah
Entry: Free
Timings: 9 am to 5 pm

National Police Museum:

Established in 1991, this museum is located in the ground floor of CBI headquarters. The museum is a real reflection of the tough world of the police force and a detailed insight into the skills along with the investigative methods used by both, the Indian as well as an insight into the International investigative methods. The museum is a showcase of all objects and methods used by Indian as well as International Police Forces. In the museum, don’t get scared if you stuble upon gruesome pictures of criminals, weapons and even counterfeiter equipments used by police over the years. Apart from equipments, remnants of challenging case studies are also in display. The cherry on the cake being, the different uniforms from different countries. The only thing to remember is, you need special permission for photography.

Where: CGO Complex, Lodhi Road
Entry: Free
Timings: 9 am to 5 pm (closed on Saturday, Sunday and government holidays

Musical Instruments Gallery Museum :

If you have an ear for music, do visit the Musical Instruments Gallery at FerozShah Road. It is a treat for music enthusiasts, showcasing around four hundred instruments which provide an information on these instruments and other collectibles kept for display.

An experiment with Gastronomic Delights of Old Delhi

‘India City Walks’ an organization with excellence, takes Old Delhi food tasting experiences, to a different level by ingenuously blending the taste of the city of Shahjahanabad with the comfort of our cushy rickshaws as you hop into the royal carriages that the Old city has to offer for an exquisite, out of the world experience through the cultural alleys.
A Food tour coupled with rickshaw tour lets you taste some delicacies, while you explore the history of these delicacies, how they were curated and consequently went on to become the family secrets. Unlike the regular experiences, this memorable experience is curated by ‘Rickshaw Tours’, a flagship vertical of ‘India City Walks’ was conceptualized to let you sit back, relax while we take you through the history of the place in a comfortable ride. The custom made rickshaws which are owned by ‘India City Walks’ have been designed keeping in mind the culture, heritage, history that the historic city has to offer, coupled with comfort and safety of the travellers who come to explore the city.
We begin our journey with a brief history about the emperor who built the city, with the imposing grand structure Jama Masjid in the background. As we climb onto our beautiful carriages painted in the bright colours of the Mughal structures we take you through the bustling lane of the beautiful, colourful Kinari bazaar amidst the romantic glittering laces which will instantly transport you back to an old world. With all that rush, a stopover at Naughara or the lane of nine houses to experience serenity within excitement before we head to taste delectable fried flat breads.
As we enter the paranthewali gali, a narrow lane filled with shops selling flat breads of different flavours, we enjoy the overload of senses and fight between heart and brain to taste the delicious fried paranthas or kachoris or glassful of lassi as much as you would be enjoying having them. But the taste enhances once we tell you about the story of how it was conceptualized. You could try one of the stuffed breads with equally delicious gravies or kachoris filled with a mix of lentils and secret spices swimming in tomato gravy or perhaps have a glassful of thick lassi. We are sure to make you absolutely spoilt for choice and can taste everything keeping in mind the plethora of delicacies we have kept lined up for you.
This is was just a trailer. After satisfying your initial hunger pangs we hop on to our rickshaws and ride towards Fatehpuri Masjid, the end of the main street ChandniChowk, which has various experiences to offer for our taste buds through the many lanes as we stop in front of the Town Hall or Begum kiSarai for an interesting story about the colonial structure by our explorer as you sip away on an ice cold banta (lemon soda).
From Town Hall, we ride towards Asia’s largest Spice Market, where you can smell the freshly grounded spices the smell of which lingers in the air as you dig into the concoction of vermicelli in cooked milk and dry fruits giving a frozen cold feeling in the mouth. If you thought the thick glass of Lassi was the only sweet that the walled city had to offer, you might be proven wrong!
The city is known and proven haven for non-vegetarian delicacies, as we head towards another part of the walled city which has lines of shops selling non vegetarian food, you have a plethora of choice to choose from. Right opposite Jama Masjid, the aroma of the charcoal grilled kebabs and the spicy, sweet gravies reach you even before you reach the place! To finish it off, we have kulfi, Rabrifaluda, as desert to finish your meal in a royal manner!
This gastronomical journey comes to an end at Jama Masjid, from where we started our journey and we bid you farewell with lots of memories and cultural imprints of Shahjahanabad!
The advantages of taking a food Rickshaw Tour with ‘India City Walks’ is that you can gorge into the delicacies without exhausting yourself physically and our promise is by the end of our tour, you and your belly will be left satisfied and the soul fulfilled!

The auspicious 9 days of Hindus: Navratri experience

Navratri, which literally translates as nine nights, are the nine auspicious days for Hindus where they worship different aspects of Goddess Durga in different parts of India. A normal Navratri festival includes ritualistic puja, fasting as well as elaborate celebrations for nine consecutive days. The festival follows a lunar calendar that is why there is never a fixed date for Navratri any year. The main theme which circulates in Navratri is the triumph of good over evil. The experience is out of the world as you see the cultural amalgamation and get to experience the different versions of the same festival differently.

Goddess Durga is the epitome of power, purity, and an embodiment of a supreme Goddess. The sgoddess has nine aspects and thus this festival is dedicated to the worship of these aspects. Each aspect is celebrated every day and thus makes it a nine day long festival.

The origins of this festival can be traced back to the Vedas. Durga, a combination of trinity of goddesses, which includes goddesses like Saraswati, Parvati and Lakshmi are also worshipped with goddess Durga.

A simple Navratri celebration would include thousands of people from villages and cities gathering in one small shrine to pray in front of the god. It is important that the thoughts and mind is pure though out these nine days. Chanting of mantras and folk renditions of bhajans are a usual phenomenon during these nine days. All these nine days, the only thing that the devotees wish for is strength to fight against the evil. There are fasting rituals as well attached to these nine days. While some refrain from any sort of cooked food, and live on fruits and milk, the adopt meals prepared without the use of onion and garlic.

Different parts of the country celebrate differently. While in East, especially in West Bengal, people celebrate the Goddess Durga version, where huge idols are made, with beautiful pandals , and celebratory mood sets in. In Gujarat, people perform community dances which are called Dandiya and Garba respectively, though out the night. With colorful and elaborate dresses for both men and women, Dandiya is indeed the time when the whole community comes together for merriment.

The whole city of Delhi waits for Navratri celebrations as there is a riot of colours, and celebrations all around. While we keep saying, Delhi is the show window to all the cultures of India, the nine days in Delhi are spent fasting, feasting, and many celebrations. The whole city is decked up with different vibrant colours, women come out in their best of the sarees, men and children wear their traditional attire. Don’t be amazed if you see some women wearing saree not in the usual manner, they are portraying a fraction of the different styles of saree draping.

The Festival of Lights: Colorful Diwali Experience

I saw my friend’s mother, immersing a silver coin in a tumbler of milk, sprinkling in all the rooms of her house, on the night of Diwali, after all the rituals. I quietly went and asked her why was she sprinkling milk in all the rooms, pat came her reply “so that prosperity touches each corner of the house”. Diwali celebrations are festooned with firecrackers burning, colorful lights adorning the houses and a lot of exchange of sweets. Nation-wide, Diwlai is celebrated on Amavasya that is the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin according to Hindu calendar. The festival marks to drive away darkness to make space for the light of knowledge. Diwali is also known as the festival of lights where each house is adorned with beautiful lights and earthen pots, in this modern world which trace back to the rich and glorious past of India.

A simple Diwali ritual consists of the sound of firecrackers, homes are decorated, sweets are distributed and hundreds of lamps are lit in and around the house. The most sought after festival in India, it is by far the most glamorous festival as well.

The story of Diwali is complex as each region and states of India celebrate differently. While some, especially, in the North believe that it is the day when Lord Ram’s coronation was celebrated in Ayodhya after his battle with the demon king Ravana, for which Ayodhya and Mithila, Ram’s wife Sita’s homeland were lit up with rows of lamps to welcome their righteous king after their exile for 14 years.

He festival of Diwali has three days of celebrations, where on the day of Diwali doorways are hung with torans of mango leaves and bright marigold flowers, rangoli’s with different vibrant coloured powders are used to decorate the courtyards and the main ritual area, bright lamps are lit up around the whole house. In East, there is a tradition to use rice powder paste to make the footsteps of Goddess Lakshmi to welcome her and shower her blessings over the members. The paste is also used to make beautiful decorative designs which is called as Alpona. It is believed that if, on the day of Diwali if we buy some jewellery or silver coins, it assures prosperity for the rest of the year. This is why shopkeepers keep their shops open on the day of Diwali. And Diwali becomes the main commercial month where markets look for an outburst of shopping experiences.

All the simple rituals and practices of Diwali have some significance and a story to tell. The illumination of homes with lights and the burning of firecrackers is an expression of respect towards the gods to attain wealth as well as have good health throughout the year, with knowledge peace and prosperity working towards. In fact, in one of the legends, the sound of the fire crackers is an indication of the Earthly people towards the gods, making them aware of their plentiful condition.

The tradition of gambling in Diwali also has a legend attached to it. It was believed, Parvati played dice with Shiva on this day and she commanded whoever gambles on the night of Diwali will have a prosperous year ahead.

In delhi, like in many other states, the festivities start from Dusshera itself, where people set out on a shopping spree, whitewashing, redecorating their shops and houses. Market places are replete with streamers of various colours, fair’s crop up everywhere. Many people abide by the Diwali rituals, to buy new kitchen utensils, wear new clothes. It is a sight to be not missed, especially in the heart of India!

Tracing the Sufi Roots: Sheikh Nizamuddin

A veteran Sufi saint and the disciple of Baba Farid-ud-Din Shakar-i-Ganj, entombed in Delhi in an area which was earlier known as Ghiyaspur, it was the area where Kaiqubad- the grandson and successor of Balban shifted his capital from Delhi. Located 5 miles from modern day Delhi is Ghiyaspur, today known as the Nizam-ud-Din area deriving name from the veteran Sufi saint entombed here. Despite the fact that the saint died some 700 years ago the shrine even today is a active pilgrimage site where people from all walks of life are welcomed and no discrimination is done on the basis on religion, caste or creed. The main shrine of Shaikh Nizam-ud-Din is surrounded by a number of other tombs like that of Amir Khusro who was the most beloved disciple of Shaikh Nizam-ud-Din, the saint was so close to Amir Khusro that his last wish was that Khusro should be buried near him but due to constant rebellion by the peerzadas after the death of Shaikh Nizam-ud-Din Amir Khusro could not be buried near him and he was allotted a place at what was known as chabutra-i-yaarani, where Shaikh use to deliver a sermon to his disciples.

Jahan Ara Begum the beloved daughter of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan also lies buried here; she built a tomb for herself in her life time. Other later Mughal emperors like Muhammad Shah rangeela during his reign the central Asian invader Nadir Shah attacked Delhi and took away the famous Kohinoor diamond and Takht-i-taws i.e. the peacock throne of Emperor Shah Jahan. A medieval historian named Zia-ud Din Barani is also entombed here; he has to his credit the composition of great Historical works like Tarikh-i-Firuzshahi, Fatwa-i-Jahandari. The Dargah complex houses a number of tombs and Baolii.e. a step well which acted as a bone of contention between the Sufi saint and emperor Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughlaq because the labor which was working for the construction of Tughlaqabad fort on the orders of Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughlaq was also working on the construction of this Baoli for Shaikh Nizam-ud-Din. When the emperor heard of this he was furious and commanded the labor to only work for him and not for the saint, the laborers out of their devotion towards the saint started working for him at night after working for the Emperor during the day. The emperor when informed was further agitated and he banned the sale of kerosene oil to Shaikh Nizam-ud-Din. It was now that a miracle was performed by the saint and the water from the baoli worked as good as kerosene oil to lighten the earthen pots.

A lot of stories revolve around the miracles, selfless personality of Shaikh Nizam-ud-Din. People in large numbers visit the Dargah of the saint especially on Thursdays as a routine pilgrimage and offer flowers, chadars, incense sticks, food to the poor people to gain spiritual merit. A common practice here is to tie a red sacred thread for a wish, once the wish is fulfilled one has to come and open the thread and feed poor people or offer what they has sentenced when they made a wish. The entire Nizam-ud-Din area is a living cultural tradition having various aspects to itself, for some it is a religious and spiritual affair on the other hand for the others it is a fascinating glimpse of the functional tomb veneration in Delhi.

The Morning Raga of Old Delhi!

Get.Set.Go, is the mantra that we believe in our organisation. Are you ready to enjoy a unique experience of a comfortable, cushy rickshaw ride brought to you by India City Walks. It is once in a lifetime experience which I’m sure you would not want to miss out on. With super comfortable rickshaws, brilliant storytelling to cater to your knowledge thirst and the narrow lanes which brim with activity all through the day will take you for a experience which will be etched in your memory. As the sun rises over the Walled city, which echo of some activities, where else would you find, the sleepy heads waking up to incessant chanting of mantras, from the Gauri Shankar temple, the serene ardas of Gurudwara Sis Ganj as well as the chapel in the Central Baptist Church will take you for a spiritual journey down the main street. The loud fajr azaan resonating from the walls of Jama Masjid’s imposing minarets is the cherry on the cake. While you are experiences all this in one go, I officially welcome you to the walled city of Shahjahanabad! While the shops are still closed, the shopkeepers would be seen sipping hot chai and waiting for the pakoras to be fried, which becomes their breakfast and kickstarts their hectic day!

The narrow alleys of Old Delhi move at a pace that they know of, especially in the mornings when they take their own sweet time to get up and get going with the day. Experience the unbelievable tranquility of a sleepy city with ‘Rickshaw Tours’, a flagship vertical of ‘India City Walks’ that curates special offbeat experiences to let you see city from a eye of a local. So what is a rickshaw?

Light, three wheeled passenger bicycle vehicle which carries one or more people according to the size and shape of the rickshaws. The custom made rickshaws which are owned by India City Walks have been designed to keep in mind the heritage, history and the culture of the historic walled city, which strives to offer the comfort and safety of the travellers who come to Old Delhi.

Be it any sort of experience, relating to food tour or just simple heritage tour, we are here to cater to a lot of varieties to give you the best of experiences. When paranthas at the Paranthewali Gali is a favourite for vegetarians, a rickshaw tour around Matia Mahal, opposite Jama Masjid, serves a quintessential breakfast meal which is filling at the same time a favourite amongst the locals. Nihari is the most famous breakfast meal around, which involves slow cooking of meat with nearly fifty varieties of spices, including garam masala, cumin, cardamom and other strong spices. This spicy dish is best eaten only in the morning. All passionate foodies who have a stomach of a pandora’s box, can join us for a tour in the meshed wired lanes of matia Mahal, which brims with the smell of lots of spices.

We understand, crawling out of bed, right in the morning is a tedious task, and we at ‘India City Walks’ strive to give you the rare glimpse of serene Shahjahanabad through the empty lanes and alleys.

A Unique perspective to Old Delhi, the history of Shahjahanabad can be sought while you take a rickshaw tour, as we do impromptu storytelling of all the places you visit, the colours and the soul of Old Delhi which makes it a living fabric of the city. Shot halt’s around the city where you would step down to experience the places, will be done, and of course for food tasting. Pick your bet, whether a food tour or a heritage tour, we are ever ready to deliver the best of the experiences!

The Effervescent City: Delhi!

Imagine a place, the longest serving capital of India, if not for urbanization; most of the sites could have been earmarked as archaeological sites. A place which is rich in cultural history, blending in since the medieval times. Yes, you heard me right! Delhi is a place which is ever evolving. The vibrancy of the place is marked by the hustle bustle of a cosmopolitan city blending with the pockets of traditional cultures, which adds to the diversity that is Delhi!

With all this, Delhi is also the home to the grand architectures which have been adorning the glory of the city since 12th century. Right from the forts, elaborate gateways to centuries old market place. With the urbanization kicking in, most of the heritage sites have been hugely neglected which adds on to their desecration. A case in point can be taken of Mehrauli Village. Major chunk of the architecture belonged to the Sultanate period which are either in ruins, not taken care of, or highly polluted because of lack of social awareness. This was the first ever city built in Delhi that we are talking about.

In contrast, the New Delhi area reflects the glory and the prowess of the British Empire. While a major chunk of the archaeological sites can be marked in South of Delhi, the grandeur in terms of material remains is what can be seen in the hamlet which we popularly call as ‘The Walled City’, the home to famous Red Fort, Chandni Chowk, and Jama Masjid to name a few. A treasure trove of cultures, the walls of the for city have a lot to talk about its heritage.

But what is more significant of the city, is the fact that the city survives, with all its hustle bustle with an hour long traffic jams at various places, the city does not sleep. Be it the bumpy roads, illegal constructions or encroachments, which have become a norm in Delhi, of the test of patience that each car driver in the city faces, the city still moves. In the walled city, the narrow alleys which lead to the narrowest path, where you might think twice to step on a usual day, gives us an insight as to how these are still the living fabric of the city.

With all these, the city boasts of a vibrant culture of theatre, art and music, which is imcomparable with any other city. So have you tasted a slice of Delhi as yet?

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.

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