Delhi has been an immensely influential city from the time of Mahabharata to the last Mughal emperor and later as the republic of India. It is believed that Indraprastha, the capital of the Pandava kingdom was situated around the region of present-day New Delhi. While the city of Delhi did see several rulers over time, its influence grew with each passing dynasty. Delhi reached new heights when Shah Jahan, Akbar’s grandson, decided to shift his capital from Agra and move north. He decided to build a city called Shahjahanabad to the north of earlier cities of Delhi while still occupying the areas of Tughlaq’s settlements. Shahjahanabad or Old Delhi as it known today was built on the bank of river Yamuna after the construction of Red Fort was concluded.
Shahjanabad was a walled city with 14 gates, some of which even stand today. The medieval charm is still evident in the bylanes of Old Delhi. While you can rent a car in Delhi to explore rest of the city, Shahjahanabad is best explored on foot. You can begin exploring Old Delhi by visiting the World UNESCO Heritage site, Red Fort or LaalQuila which will instantly take you back to the times of Mughal era. The main entrance, Lahore Gate opens at the ChattaChowk which was once a shopping bazaar for the royals. Inside the Fort, you can witness the grandeur enjoyed by the Mughals in several structures such as The KhasMahal, The Rang Mahal, Diwan-i-Amn, Diwan-i-Khas, the Pearl Mosque, and the Royal Baths.
Right opposite the Red Fort stands the Digambar Jain Temple built in 1526. Home to the last Jain Tirthankar, Lord Mahavir, the temple is a perfect place to experience utter calm and get acquainted with the philosophies of Jainism. The glowing lamps along with the candle lights in the temple will leave you with a feeling of peace and serenity. For those who like to read ancient literature, there is a library with rare books inside the temple complex. The temple also houses a bird hospital catering to injured birds for free. You can visit the hospital during the official visiting hours.
Another architectural marvel in Old Delhi that one can visit is the Jama Masjid. Considered the largest Mosque in India with a capacity to accommodate 25,000 people, Jama Masjid is a grand elevated structure that can be reached from either north, south, or east via stairs. There are two tall minarets with alternating red sandstone and white marbles. Relics of Islamic significance such as footmarks, red-beard hair, and sandals of Prophet Mohammad and Quran printed on deerskin can be seen inside the mosque.
After such an exciting exploration of Old Delhi, you can head to the numerous eateries that serve lip-smacking food. For the ones with a sweet tooth, you should not miss the old famous Jalebiwala near DaribaKalan Road. Apart from this, there are several eateries that you can visit such as Karim’s, taste DaulatkiChaat in the winter, LotanChole Wale, Shiv MisthanBhandar, and the iconic Ghantewala which is over two centuries old.
Recommended for you:
The Best Places to get a Pizza in Delhi
One cannot leave Old Delhi without diving into the shopping paradise and making purchases. The Khari Baoli market is the largest market for spices in Asia. From red chillies to the choicest saffron, everything is available at this aromatic market. Meena Bazaar behind the Jama Masjid is one of the oldest markets in the world. Although a pale shadow of its glorious past, you can still see shoppers jostling to find beautiful sarees and dresses.
For those interested in silver items, DaribaKalan is where you should be heading. You can get anything from jewellery to precious stones in small shops at this bazaar. Finally, head to the Kinari Bazaar, a colourful lane with shops selling laces, borders, and accessories fit for sarees, dresses, etc. The lane will take you to ParanthewaliGalli where you can savour the delicious Parathas and soak in the recently acquired memories of the bygone era. You can hire one of the local Delhi cabs from here to reach back to your destination and bring end to a wonderful day.