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Chandni Chowk, Delhi, 1858.
Chandni Chowk (Hindi: चाँदनी चौक, Punjabi: ਚਾਂਦਨੀ ਚੌਂਕ, Urdu: چاندنی چوک) originally meaning moonlit
square or market, is one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi, now in central
north Delhi, India.
Chandni Chowk is the major street in the walled city of Old Delhi, which was
originally called Shah Jahanabad. The walled city which includes
the Lal Qilla Red Fort of Delhi
was established in 1650 AD, by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan and designed
by his daughter Jahanara Begum Sahib, who also
made significant contributions in the landscaping of her father's
new capital of Shahjahanabad.
Chandni Chowk runs through the middle of the walled city, from
the Lahori Darwaza (Lahore Gate) of the Red Fort to Fatehpuri
Masjid. Originally a canal ran through the middle of the street
as a part of the water supply scheme. It was originally divided
into three sections:
- Lahori darwaza to Chowk Kotwali (near Gurdwara Shish Ganj):
This section closest to the imperial residence, was called Urdu Bazar, i.e. the
encampment market. The language Urdu got its name from this encampment. Ghalib noted
the destruction of this market during the disturbances of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and
- Chowk Kotwali to 'Chandni Chowk': The term Chandni Chowk
originally referred to the square that initially had a reflecting
pool. It was replaced by a clock-tower (Ghantaghar) that was
damaged and demolished in the 1960s. This
section was originally called Johri Bazar.
- 'Chandni Chowk' to Fatehpuri Masjid: This was called the
It is said that moonlight reflecting on its canal, earned it its
name, 'Chandni (Moonlit) .
Chandni Chowk was once the grandest of the markets in India.
Chandni Chowk, Delhi, 1863-67.
The Mughal imperial processions used to pass through Chandni
Chowk. The tradition was continued when Delhi Durbar was held in
Procession of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra as Emperor and
Empress of India, 1903 Delhi Durbar
Even though today Chandni Chowk appears choked with congestion,
it retains its historical character. The following terms are
generally used to describle the buildings and the streets.
- Haveli: a mansion. A normal Haveli would have a big courtyard
(atrium) surrounded on four sides by spacious rooms and often
another walled courtyard around the exterior as well. e.g. one of
the largest preserved havelis in the area is the Chunnamal
- Kucha: a zone with houses whose owners shared some common
attribute usually their mode of occupation. Hence the names
Maliwara, the gardeners' neighborhood and
Ballimaran, the oarsmen’s neighborhood.
- Katra: refers to a separate wing of tradesmen and craftsmen
belonging to the same trade. They usually lived and worked
together. A system similar to the Guild housing in Amsterdam.
The area lies in the historically important Shahjahanabad, between the Lal Qila (The Red Fort) and Fatehpuri
Masjid. On both sides of the wide Chandni Chowk streets are
historical residential areas served by narrow lanes (galis).
With the most famous mosque of Delhi Jama Masjid (Delhi) built in 1644 in the
vicinity, it is an unusual street that has several famous religious
shrines, belonging to different religions, that coexist lending the
street a genuine cultural harmony. Starting from the Red fort, the
Lal Jain Mandir, Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk's speciality is the variety of its markets and
their Indian-ness. From authentic Indian food, delicacies and
sweets of more than 1,000 kinds, to sarees with Chikan
and Zari work. There are lots of
narrow lanes with many shops selling books, clothing, shoes and
leather goods, electronic and consumer goods and what not. The
area, even more so than the rest of the city, is very congested.
This is also a good area for window shopping. It is the location of
the original Haldiram's. A particular local delicacy are
the Jalebis, which
are fried in pure ghee (clarified
Gali Parathe Wali in chandni chowk is known for its parathas
, Dec 2006.
Chandni Chowk is home to several famous
- The Ghantewala Halwai, established in 1790.
- Natraj’s Dahi
Bhalle, established in 1940
- Kanwarji Bhagirathmal Dalbijiwallah established in mid-19th
- Chaatwallah established in 1923, famous for fruit chaat
- Bikaner Sweet Shop famous for rasmalai
- Gianiji ka Falooda famous for Rabri Falooda, established around 1947.
- Paranthe wali Gali with paratha shops from 1875-1886
- Meghraj and Sons, since 1950s (?)
- Chainaram established in 1948
Some of the historical mansions include:
- Begum Samru's
Palace of 1806 (see )now called
- Naughara mansions in Kinari Bazaar, 18th century Jain
- Khazanchi haveli, khajnchi were the accountants of shah jahan,
there is a street nammed after them called "Gali Khajanchi", a long
underground tunnel connect the haveli and the red fort, so that
money could be transferred safely
- Haveli of Mirza
Ghalib, Gali Kasim Jan (Gali Ballimaran)
haveli, Katra Neel
- Haveli of Zinat Mahal, Lal Kuan Bazar
- Haksar Haveli, Bazar Sitaram, where Jawaharlal Nehru was married in 1916
to Kamla Nehru.
- Haveli Naharwali, Kucha Sadullah Khan, where Pervez
Musharraf, former president of Pakistan was born
A typically congested scene along Chawri Bazar in the Chandni Chowk
area, March 2006.
Chandni Chowk was featured in the 2001 Bollywood film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham where
the leading lady Anjali (Kajol)
and her sister Pooja (Kareena Kapoor) lived. Though portrayed
as a neighborhood populated by a lower-class population, Chandni
Chowk is shown to be a rich, cultural hub.
A rhyming Indian tongue twister (which perhaps goes back to the
1950s) in the film goes as follows:
- चंदू के चाचा ने
- चंदू की चाची को
- चाँदनी चौक में
- चाँदनी रात में
- चाँदी के चम्मच से
- चटनी चटाई
- Chandu ke chacha ne
- Chandu ki chachi ko
- Chandni Chowk mein
- Chandni raat mein
- Chaandi ke chamach se
- Chatni chatayi
The tongue twister uses the multiple meanings of the word
Chandni (a girl's name, moonlit, silver) for poetic effect. This
poem has अनुप्रास alankar (anupraas alankar)
(repetition of similar sound, here ch) and यमक (yamak)
अलंकार (alankar) (use of the same word in different places for
generating different meanings).
- Chandu's uncle,
- To Chandu's aunt,
- In Chandni Chowk,
- On a moonlit night,
- With a silver spoon,
- Fed chutney.
Poetic translation (the raison d'etre :Chutney is spicy and
sometimes sour) :
- Chandu's uncle,
- Made Chandu's aunt,
- In Chandni Chowk,
- On a moonlit night,
- From a silver spoon,
- Lick chutney.
One of the main characters, Rohan (Hrithik Roshan) in the movie Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, is
identified when he says the tongue-twister (almost) correctly.
An old song recalling the clocktower (ghantaghar) that once
stood in the center, at
Nai Sarak intersection,
and India's freedom struggle ( video
घंटाघर की चार घड़ी
चारों में ज़ंजीर पड़ी |
जब भी घंटा बजता था
खड़ा मुसाफिर हंसता था ।
हँसता था वो बेधड़क
आगे देखो नयी सड़क |
नयी सड़क पर बुआ बाजरा
आगे देखो शहर शाहदरा |
शहर शाहदरा में लग गयी आग
आगे देखो गजियाबाद |
गजियाबाद में फूटा अंडा
उसमे से निकला तिरंगा झंडा |
झन्डे से आई आवाज़
इंक़लाब ज़िन्दाबाद ||
It recalls the satyagrah by Swami Shraddhanand in 1930s near the
Ghantaghar. Now his statue marks the event.
The 2008 Bollywood Movie Black and White (2008
Indian film) starring Anil Kapoor, Anurag Sinha, Shefali Chhaya, and
Aditi Sharma is set in Chandni Chowk.
The 2009 Bollywood Movie Chandni Chowk To
China starring Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Mithun
Chakraborty, and Ranvir Shorey also features some scenes
depicting the city.
The 2009 Bollywood Movie Delhi-6 starring Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman,
Om Puri, Atul Kulkarni and
Divya Dutta is set
in the Ancient Walled City of Old Delhi and centred around Chandni
Encyclopaedic Survey of Islamic Culture: Growth & Development
By Mohamed Taher, Anmol Publications, 1998
Old Delhi Clock Tower built in 1857
The mystique of clock towers
Chandni Chowk Scenes from
The Havelis, Kuchas and Katras of Chandni Chowk
Chowk and cheese http://www.mid-day.com/lifestyle/2008/sep/280908-Features-Sweets-roza-Chandni-Chowk.htm
Frozen paranthas posing a challenge to Paranthewali Gali fare
Havelis of Old Delhi/Text by Pavan K. Varma and Sondeep Shankar.
Reprint, First published in 1992. New Delhi, Bookwise, 1999
Itihas ki dastan hain, Dilli ki havelian http://epaper.hindustandainik.com/blog/uploaded_images/historical_monument_resembles_delhi_haveli-765785.jpg
Clock Tower and Delhi Institute in the Chandnee Chowk," Illustrated
London News, 1877 http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00routesdata/1600_1699/shahjahanabad/clocktower/clocktower.html