12 Apr 2022

Insider's Delhi

insider-s-delhi

Here’s a smashing round-up of the things you can do to get under the skin of Delhi and do what the locals to do. Prepare to be amazed about how you view the city from this standpoint when you are next visiting–not as a stranger, but someone who's got a bit of a handle on what makes it tick… and what you did to make the unfamiliar your familiar for times to come.

City Lights… City Bright — Shahjehanabad’ s Moonlight Square

The layered narratives of Old Quarter offer a melange of historic delights, which just can’t be taken in one trip. Next time you are here do take in the beautifully reinvented, motorised- vehicle-free zone, Central Vista of Chandni Chowk (Mughal Princess Jahanara’s Moonlight Square) a 1.3km-long stretch, paved with red sandstone and granite, which runs from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid. You can re-explore the cheek-by-jowl, Asia’s biggest spice market–Khari Baoli, which still has many gems to reveal. It takes its name from the step-well, dating to the 1650s. Did you know it became a big hub for the merchants bringing goods from all over Asia back in the day, and that many shops still carry the serial numbers assigned to them two centuries ago?

Haveli-Temple Trail

The haveli (mansion) trail of Shahjehanabad offers the most fascinating insights into the Delhi of yesteryears. You should include the Mirza Ghalib Haveli on your bucket list. The home of Delhi’s quintessential Urdu poet, Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan or Mirza Ghalib, who lived in the times of Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, a fan, has been now lovingly restored. Located in Ballimaran, it partially serves as a museum which has on display some of his works.

The Chunnamal Haveli was built in 1850 by textile baron Lala Chunnamal one of Shahjehanabad’s richest men at the time. He was also the first Municipal Commissioner in the Raj era. Now crowded out by scores of shopfronts it is a fascinating highlight of Katra Neel. With over 128 rooms, the haveli was famed for its ornamental interiors, imported accoutrements and historic linkages. Anil Pershad, the current owner, has been having a tough time caring for the fantastic legacy.

Haveli Dharampura, or 'Teen Chowk ki Haveli', which dates to the year 1887 has been restored to its original glory. It now offers stay and dining options. The Indian boutique-style rooms equipped with all modern amenities are a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding streets.

In Sita Ram Bazaar wend you way through the hustle and bustle to the Chaurasi Ghanta Mandir, a local favourite. What’s interesting here are the 84 bells held by a string which ring as one at the appointed time. Did you know that they represent the 84 lakh cycles of birth a soul has to experience before taking birth as a human being?

Dilli Haat

You will love the vibe of this lovely spot, which serves as a window to India’s regional delights–shopping and eating–and is, of course, a platform for many cultural events throughout the year. A special treat is the glimpses into some of the fascinating world of India’s remote, lesser known Northeast region.

Little Tibet

Yes, Delhi also has its own version of Little Tibet. When you are done travelling around the Yamuna River front on a cycling tour, find time to linger at Majnu- Ka- Tila, established in 1959 as a refugee camp for Tibetans. Soak up the rich atmospherics as you imbibe of the charms of the Buddhist shrines, Tibetan crafts and delicious food offerings here.

The Northern Ridge and University Campus

Majnu Ka Til is an excellent jump-off point to explore the nearby beautiful Delhi University Campus interspersed with many British-era sites accessed from the Northern Ridge. Few know that the campus area was the battleground for combats between the English and Indian rebels during the Mutiny of 1857.Wandering through the grand vistas of this academic hub, (lovely for early morning walks) you can spot the historic colleges such as St Stephens, Hindu, Miranda House etc on your leisurely jaunt. Did you know that the Vice Chancellor’s house used to serve as the Vice regal estate, where martyr Bhagat Singh was incarcerated in a dungeon? Other highlights of the area are Flagstaff Tower, where English families took refuge during the Mutiny; Khooni Jheel, where both English and India combatants met a watery end. The Mutiny Tower was built by the British with red sandstone to honour the officers and soldiers of the Delhi Field Force martyred in the uprising between May 30 and September 8, 1857.

The Northern Ridge, few are aware, is actually the remnants of the Aravalli hill range of Rajasthan. This green lung of the city, also known as the Kamala Nehru Ridge with its landscaped garden space and showers of flowering bougainvillea has become a popular walking, running and cycling hub for health enthusiasts.

Walk in the Park

Delhi’s citizenry just can’t get enough of the newly reimagined spaces of the Sunder Nursery, across the road from the historic dargarh of Sufi Saint Nizamuddin Auliya and adjoining Humayuns’ Tomb. A superb biodiversity zone, the 90-acre complex houses several dedicated areas including the Paradise Garden, Sunken Garden and Water Garden. Apart from its 300 plant species and 80 resident bird species the nursery is dotted with several Mughal-era UNESCO World Heritage monuments dating back to the 16th century.

Hauz Khas Village

This medieval village is filled with all kinds of modern-day allurements. From trendy boutiques to happening cafes, visitors love the lazy ambience, heightened by villagers smoking a hookah or cows chewing the cud in the quiet by-lanes. Mingle with locals as they dine in the cool night air by its 13th-century water body known as Hauz-i-Shamsi is the perfect way to wrap up your unforgettable memories of Delhi.

Next time round you must linger long to find your own special spots to enjoy the best of Delhi as a local.

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