Day 2 of our Delhi trip was dedicated to the “touristy” places of Delhi. It was a weekday and to avoid the traffic, we took to a ride on the Delhi Metro. Boarding the Metro at Dwarka station, we rode all the way to Rajiv Chowk and from there another Metro to Chandni Chowk. We boarded the Metro at 8.30 AM and if it wasn’t for the training we received in Madras MTC buses in our growing up years, we would not have survived the crowd in Delhi Metro !
An interesting point we noted was that everybody in Delhi wore sweaters even when the temperature was around 24 degree celsius, which is not very cold. For someone from South Coastal India, wearing a sweater is unthinkable ! Our people at home refused to let us go out without the sweater, so the moment we stepped out onto the road, the sweaters were dumped inside the bag, the weather was too pleasant to miss chillness in the air. We were later told, for people in Delhi, this was best time to bring out their lovely woollen sweaters and they wouldn’t want to let go of that chance !
The elite Chaat !
Our first impressions of Chandni Chowk – “It’s like Hyderabad old city minus Charminar !”
Anywhere in the country, old parts of a city seem the same, narrow lanes, shops, drains, crowd but all this has a charm, which was what probably they call the “old world charm”.
It was still early in the day, very few shops were open. We walked in the bye lanes just to get a “feel” of Chandni Chowk, we even did a round of the famous Paranthe Wali Gali, it was too early for any of the food outlets to be open, walking along the maze like lanes, we spotted someone selling this:
That is the legendary Daulat ki Chaat ! Made of froth from milk and cream boiled and ladled over night and sold fresh very early in the morning, Daulat ki Chaat is available mostly in the winter months. Rest of the year is probably too hot for the milk cream to stay fresh.
Someone told us the delicacy is named Daulat because the ingredients are very rich like milk cream, saffron, pistachios, cardamoms, almonds – ingredients that, back in the time, only the wealthy nobles could afford !
If you are in Delhi in the winter months, do try the Daulat ki Chaat. It simply melts the moment it touches your lips, the flavour will linger even when you sit down to write a blog 5 months later !
We had chat with the person making the Chaat and he told us his entire family of about 16 people was involved in the making of Daulat ki Chaat through the night. It is a laborious work to sit and continuously churn the milk till the cream becomes that thick ! It seems 20 litres of buffalo milk went into the making of the Daulat ki Chaat that you see in the picture. He gave us his card and told us he was also featured in a newspaper.
Still relishing the taste, we made a quick tour of the shops, textiles, sweaters, jewellery, general merchants, you name it, you will find it. We bought the mandatory sweater that people visiting Delhi are supposed to buy and then walked up to the Red Fort.
We were in for a major disappointment at the Red Fort because the week after Republic Day this year was dedicated to “Bharat Parv”, a cultural event organised by the Government and so the Red Fort was not open for public ! The event was supposed to be held in the evenings but we had no idea why it had to be closed for the public during the day. Imagine visiting Delhi and not seeing the Red Fort ! Swallowing our disappointment, we managed to click a picture from outside, raising our camera above bewildered tourists like us.
We consoled ourselves that it was probably needed to take care of security arrangements and walked to the next important monument.
Shah Jahan was the greatest builder of the Mughal dynasty, all of us learnt it by rote in history. The area that is now called Old Delhi was once part of Shahjahanabad, the capital city that Shah Jahan built with the Red Fort as the seat of power. A short walk from the Red Fort through lanes that are as narrow as narrow can get, we passed by Meena Bazaar, the market place where the royal Mughal ladies shopped once upon a time !
Spontaneously, we broke out into the song “Dilli shehar ka saara Meena Bazaar leke” ! Where once there stood shops selling finery, today there is a crowded whole sale market, we could only see gunny bags, we have no idea what was being sold there.
Exactly opposite Meena Bazar, we spotted a food stall, selling piping hot puris. Throwing caution to wind, we forgot the warnings against eating Delhi road side food and indulged in Puri and Subzi. From there, a few more steps ahead, we reached Jama Masjid, one the largest mosques in India.
It was a Friday and we were told to hurry up and complete our visit because the Mosque would close at 12.30 PM for the afternoon prayers. Crossing the gateway, we stepped into the pleasant environs of Jama Masjid.
Pigeons rose in flight against the backdrop of the Masjid, a picture worthy moment it was, every time this happened.
What can we say about these monuments that has not been said so far, they are shining examples of the architecture developed under the Mughals, some of the finest builders in the history of India’s architecture.
From the Jama Masjid, one can see the ramparts of the Red Fort.
We spent some quite time in the courtyard capturing the elegance of the Jama Masjid.
Time for some creative clicks:
We did have time time go inside the Masjid as the prayer time was nearing. We made our way out of Jama Masjid. The next on our list was the one and only Qutub Minar. We checked with the locals about the best way to go to Qutub Minar and were directed to the bus stop. Waiting at the bus stop, we got one more view of the majestic looking Red Fort
and a faint view of the Jama Masjid and the familiar chaos of old cities !
Waiting for the bus, we imagined the place in its heydays as the epicentre of the mighty Mughal empire, 350 years have passed since, the imprints remain !
- Shops in Chandni Chowk seem to open around 11 AM, if your idea is to shop, you may want to plan your trip accordingly. While shopping it would help if you are good at bargaining.
- Red Fort is open from 9.30 AM to 4.30 PM on normal days and is closed on Mondays. If you are planning to visit in the week after Republic Day, check if there are any events like the Bharat Parv, you don’t want to turn back disappointed like us.
- Jama Masjid is closed between 12 PM and till about 2 PM for prayers and is open till about 6.30 PM.
- It is advisable to take the public transport to Old Delhi. The lanes are narrow and parking your vehicle could be a problem. The place is well connected by public transport and to get a feel of Old Delhi, you have to explore it on foot, winding your way through the dingy bye-lanes.
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