About Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk is one of the busiest areas of Old Delhi and remains popular for visitors who want to get a flavour of what life in the city is really like.
History of Chandni Chowk
The area was first established in the mid 17th century, designed by the favourite daughter of Shah Jahan (he of Taj Mahal fame), Princess Jahanara Begum. The name Chandni Chowk itself refers to a half-moon shaped square which once had a pool of water in, that would itself reflect the moonlight – the name Chandni Chowk literally means moonlight square. The pool was replaced by a clock tower in the 1950s.
The bazaar she originally designed had shops also built in a half moon shape, and they were originally known for their silverwork. Some still call the main street Silver Street in memory of this. The streets would have also originally been tree-lined, adding an air of calm and sophistication to the area.
Princess Jahanara had the entire area carefully planned, with a network of three bazaars, havelis (mansions), kuchas (streets) and katras (houses). More recently, temples and mosques have appeared in the vicinity, including the Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir, a Jain temple which has a bird hospital attached.
Mughal imperial processions traditionally passed through Chandni Chowk, and this was tradition was kept by the British, including during the Delhi Durbar.
Chandni Chowk today
The main street is as chaotic as any you’ll find in Delhi, but the winding bazaars leading off it are a great place to shop for anything and everything from tiffin tins to saris, spices to gold jewellery, depending on what you’d like to take home. There’s plenty of excellent street food round here too, so go with room to fill up on all the treats you’ll spot on the streets.
Be warned that the area can be extremely busy and quite overwhelming, so it might be best to go after you’ve acclimatised to Delhi for a few days. Watch valuables as this is prime pickpocket territory.
The temples which line the road are also of interest, and if you get the chance, pop your head inside and see the riotous colour of some of them.
Getting to Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk is extremely well connected, with metro stations on the Yellow and Violet lines running through it. The area is best explored on foot, although you might want a tuk tuk to get you here.
The Red Fort is a short walk away, as is the major terminus New Delhi Railway Station and the Old Delhi Railway station. Chandni Chowk and the nearby Paharganj is a popular place for backpackers and high end travellers alike to stay.
With a history dating back to the 10th century, and the 3rd largest city in the world today, Delhi remains a popular starting or finishing point for travellers exploring Northern India. Beyond the chaos and the smog, Delhi is crammed with rich and varied historic sites which help tell the story of this remarkable city.