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Review: Old Delhi Street Markets


Delhi, India

Old Delhi streets and Chandi Chowk - All human life is here

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2317 reviews

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  • Oct 2010
  • Husband

33 people found this review helpful

We had asked to spend time with our guide visiting the rabbit warren of streets and markets off Chandi Chouwk in Old Delhi. This was a very well worthwhile visit and we loved it, but it does need to be done with a guide as it would be very easy to get lost.

Nothing can prepare you for the number of people, the traffic, the squalor and the living conditions of the Old Town. Everywhere was busy with pedestrians, stray dogs, cows, motor bikes, cycles, rickshaws, trucks, buses, and cars trying to get through the crowds. Some streets were too narrow even for cycle rickshaws.

The streets were lined with very tall buildings. There were electric cables running everywhere. Many had been large with highly decorated fronts and balconies. The Naoghara House was a long range of buildings which has been occupied by nine brothers and their families. Each had its own highly decorated doorway. The small cubbyhole at the street entrance is still used as an open toilet. Other houses were large, built round a central courtyard and would have housed the extended family.

The Old Town is still regarded as a desirable area to live and prices are high here, although many of the houses are now very shabby. There were small temples and shops in the front of the buildings. Shops were often poorly lit.

Different streets specialise in different goods – fabric, beads, ribbons, shoes, printing, dried fruit, spices, copra, assorted vegetables, gourds…. In fact everything you could possibly want.

We saw big sacks of betel leaves which were being made up into small pellets. These are chewed in large quantities, staining teeth red.

There were lots of garlands made from bright yellow marigolds and white flowers as well as rolled green leaves for sale. These are used to decorate houses and to give as offerings at temples.

There were shops selling hand made butter sweets. These were either bought loose or beautifully boxed up as gifts for Divali (which would be celebrated in a couple of days time) or to leave in temples.

There were bags of popped rice for sale which were left as an offering in temples and then distributed to the needy. Different stalls sold a wide variety of dried spices, dried fruit, nuts and dates (the different qualities reflected by their colour).

In the wide main street Chandi Chowk, lined with large houses, shops and banks. Stalls tumbled out across the pavements. It was busy with traffic, all honking horns and crowded with people. It didn't have the character or atmosphere of the narrower streets around. We had a cycle rickshaw ride back to our car and driver. This is one of the quickest means of travel and the bikes wind their way through the traffic and people. In the middle of all this, was a cow ambling in the middle of the road.

Our pictures are here.

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