The chaotic lanes of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk have fascinated me forever. It makes even Mumbai appear slower and fairly easy to navigate through!

Whenever I’m in Delhi (for more than a day), I always spend a few hours in this part of the old city. It has charisma, the power to make me feel like a speck on the surface of the earth and homes a million stories. From the entangled wires to the tattered structures to the generations of traders, every stone here narrates its history.

I’ve lived in Delhi for half a decade and in all my explorations, Purani Dilli has always broken my heart. I still remember the first time I went to Mirza Ghalib’s house with a friend. We lost our way for hours through the cryptic lanes, on a hot afternoon. And finally, when we stood in front of the neglected arch of his home, it felt like a sanctum.

I remember the first time I entered Jama Masjid, as a student of photography. Through Gate #1, I cautiously climbed the stairs, not hoping to offend anyone or any religious sentiments. And when I saw the dome of this historic masjid in close proximity, I lost all sense of time and space. Such earnest hopes and wishes this space shelters, no camera can capture.

I remember the first time I walked hand-in-hand with a friend, clutching our bags to our bodies, to safely reach the designated address. It was the shop where she would choose her bridal trousseau and adornments, marking a new phase of her life. We spent hours here. The place where I learnt that the area of a shop doesn’t depict its customer service.

I’ve gone back to Chandni Chowk with strangers, friends, allies and soulmates. And always returned feeling fulfilled and meaningful. You know, when you show Dilli a bit of you, it allows you to touch its heart?

And so this time I went back with Gaurav to introduce him to the best phirni (rice pudding) in this world (I’m open to arguments!) and to the world of Karim’s. For all those who have been here, are familiar with the culinary excellence of this restaurant. For all those who haven’t, don’t miss it in your next visit to Delhi or allow Gaurav to convince you, by leaving a comment below.

Read: Photo story: Tulshibaug, Pune

Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib and the unavoidable wires.
Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib and the unavoidable wires.
Idle activities. Also, selling coins.
Idle activities. Also, selling coins.
Dilapidated structures.
Dilapidated structures.
Art, worship, money.
Art, worship, money.
The place where I bought most of my B&W films.
The store where I bought most of my B&W films from.
The emerging Red Fort.
The emerging Red Fort.
Sell on-the-move.
Sell on-the-move.
DIY psychedelia.
DIY psychedelia.
Quintessential roadblock.
Quintessential roadblock.
Eat chaat. Aloo chaat, papdi chaat, dahi chaat.
Eat chaat. Aloo chaat, papdi chaat, dahi chaat.
Colours and wears.
Colours and wears.
Allahabad Bank- then and now. Also, unavoidable wires.
Allahabad Bank- then and now. Also, unavoidable wires.
Dressed for Eid.
Dressed for Eid.
One of the many shops selling seviya during Eid.
One of the many shops selling seviya during Eid.
And other tit-bits.
And other titbits.
A more local Hyatt in the lanes of Chandni Chowk.
A localised Hyatt in the lanes of Chandni Chowk.
15 minutes to make a toy windmill, which he sells for 10 INR.
15 minutes to make a toy windmill, which he sells for 10 INR.
The best phirni in the world.
Karim’s phirni.

Read: Photo Story: Chor Bazaar, Mumbai

What are your favourite experiences of Chandni Chowk?

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Amrita Das

Amrita is a freelance travel writer and professional travel blogger. She has been contributing to some of the top publications in India and internationally. She propagates female solo travel and shares her experiences from off-beat, culture and adventure travel through her writing.

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8 thoughts on “Photo story: Chandni Chowk, Delhi

  1. Absolutely love your photos. My favourite memory is lunch at Karim’s and the first time I entered a mosque in my life was Jama Masjid :-)

  2. Thanks Amrita for sharing this great picture post of chandni chowk – I’ve been to this part of Delhi many a times, my mother’s jeweller is based there for over 70years and whenever I go there cannot miss the famous Nikari dish at Karims. The art of eating good nihari is very early in the morning at 6am. By 7am it normally finishes due to the jama masjid rush. A great place and will surely be revisiting when I am down to India in the coming year. Best wishes Abhishek

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Abhishek. The information you’ve shared speaks of your experience :) I don’t eat lamb but have accompanied friends for Nihari in the evenings. I’m sure a couple of them would wake up early and rush to Karim’s if they didn’t already know about this.

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