You would think this Bazaar gets its name from the “kinara” or edge of some landmark, but you couldn’t be farther from the truth! It is said this busy marketplace for wedding finery actually derives its name from all the ‘zari’ and ‘gota’ (laces) sold here, the beautiful shiny stuff that adorns the borders or “kinara” of kurtis and dupattas (Indian garments).
Bet that makes you want to do some window shopping in Old Delhi!
How to get there: See map here. Walking distance from the Chandni Chowk metro station on the yellow line.
‘Chawri’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Chawhat’ meaning a ‘cross-section of four roads’.
Another theory suggests the name comes from the Marathi word chawri, which means ‘meeting place’. The name could have stuck because of the many meetings that occurred here to resolve disputes before taking them to the emperor’s court. Or perhaps because of the people that collected here to watch the famous courtesans perform.
From a district for courtesans, somewhere along the line, Chawri Bazaar changed into a marketplace for brass, copper and paper. In the pic you see the Jama Masjid as seen from Chawri Bazaar.
To visit the historic alley, get off at the Chawri Bazaar metro station on the yellow line. See map here.
Since it’s Good Friday, I thought of sharing with you pictures of one of the oldest churches in Delhi- St. James Church, or Skinner’s Church, built by Col James Skinner in 1836, near the Kashmiri Gate. Enjoy and have a good Good Friday
Old world charm! St James Church at Kashmiri Gate transports you to another world…
It was commissioned by the British Colonel James Skinner, after he had vowed to build a church, while lying wounded in a battle field, if he survived
This Renaissance Revival style church is on a cruciform plan, with three porticoed porches, elaborate stained glass windows and a central octagonal dome
Colonel Skinner died at Hansi in December 1841 and was first buried there, before being disinterred, and buried in Skinner’s Church in 1842. He lies in a vault of white marble immediately below the Communion Table
North of the church lies Skinner’s family plot, where many of his fourteen wives and many children, are buried
The remains of one of the British Commissioners of Delhi, William Fraser, lie near the large Memorial Cross erected in memory of the victims of 1857 revolt. (You may have read extensively about him in City of Djinns)
The touching epitaph written for Fraser, by dear friend Skinner: “The remains interred beneath this monument were once animated, by as brave, and sincere a soul, as was ever vouchsaved to man, by his creator! A brother in friendship, has caused it to be erected that when his own frame is dust it may remain as a memorial for those, who can participate in lamenting, the sudden and melancholy loss of one, dear to him as life. William Fraser. Died 22nd March 1835.”
St James Church- a beautiful, nostalgic little church
Amidst several little-known historical treasure troves that the beautiful city of Shahjahanabad has to offer, is the quiet shrine a 13th century Sufi saint, the Dargah of Hazrat Shah. The shrine is regarded as the oldest shrine in the whole of Old Delhi, and is centuries older than Shahjahanabad. Located to the east of Turkman Gate, which forms the southern gate of the old walled city, this is the dargah (shrine) of Hazrat Shah Turkman Bayabani. No prizes for guessing, the Gate (although built in the late 1650s) itself is named after the pious Saint who died in 1240 CE.
Now I won’t blame you if you haven’t seen one of the 14 gateways to what was known as Shahjahanabad, amidst all the phat-phat sevas, rickshaws and cattle ambling along the narrow road. And in such a scenario, having spotted the shrine itself is out of question!
But once you do manage to reach the Turkman Gate, right next to it you will find the shrine of the man himself- Turkman Bayabani. It is not one of those grand shrines- say like that of Nizamuddin, but a very simple one. The saint belonged to a special sect known as Bayabani, believing in praying and living alone in a secluded place, close to nature, away from inhabited areas.
It is a little disheartening to see the oldest shrine in our city forgotten like this, without even a board that would inform you of its immense historical significance. But now that you know quite a lot about it, be sure to include it in your list of ‘must-visit places’ of Old Delhi the next time you decide to go sight-seeing!
P.S. Once you are done with the Gate and the dargah, do make it a point to see the beautiful Holy Trinity Church right near the shrine. The old dilapidated tomb of Raziya Sultan and the Kalan Masjid are other historic places to be seen in the vicinity.
Update: This is the Dargah of Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki in Mehrauli, Delhi…the same Sufi saint after whom the Qutb Minar was named! He was the disciple of the Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti who is revered at Ajmer, and himself became a highly venerated figure in Delhi’s Sufi culture. Many of the later Mughal kings were ardent followers of the peer, choosing to be buried humbly near the saint instead of building majestic mausoleums for themselves. (Other famous Delhi saints of the Chishtiya order- Hazrat Nizamuddin and Nasiruddin Chirag-e-Dehlavi, come from the same line as Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, the first one to set up base in Delhi)
The Dargah still remains a place of immense faith among followers, almost 800 years after the passing away of Bakhtiyar Kaki. He made a massive impact on Sufism and in fact on Islam in India. The saint preached the values of universal love for all, broadening the vision of Islam in the country- so far propagated only by the swords of invaders. Sufism became an important movement which attracted hundreds of Indians from both the Hindu and the Muslim spheres, particularly during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Even today its influence is seen on India’s secular values, and, of course, in Bollywood music
If you like old paintings, you would love to take a look at this page from court poet Abul Fazal’s Akbarnama, depicting Mughal Emperor Akbar punishing his foster brother Adham Khan by throwing him down the terrace of Agra Fort, not once but twice! Reason? Adham Khan had killed Akbar’s favorite general Atgah Khan out of jealousy.
Adham was the son of Maham Anga, Akbar’s foster mother and a very influential woman in his life. Her famous response to Akbar breaking this news to her was a steely “You have done well”. Within a few days of her son’s death, Maham Anga also died of heartache. Probably for political reasons, Akbar had a mausoleum built in Delhi and had both mother and son buried there.
A few years back the Bollywood movie Jodha Akbar had nicely depicted this scene of the Emperor’s rage.
Have you visited Adham Khan’s tomb near present-day Mehrauli Bus Terminal?It is also called the Bhool Bhulaiya (maze) because of the labyrinthine passages within. Once it had been a pretty structure set among foliage, but today the mausoleum is much degraded. In the 1830s, a British officer Blake converted this tomb into his residence, and had the graves removed to make way for his dining hall. (Funny how many British officers wanted to have homes inside tombs!) Blake died rather soon afterwards- probably that’s what happens when you disturb the dead? In any case, the structure continued to be used as a rest house by the British, and at one point also served as police station and post office. Quite an interesting past! Later, on the orders of Viceroy Lord Curzon, the rest house was abandoned, the tomb restored, and Adham Khan’s grave reinstated under the dome.
Today again, however, the tomb has become a rest house of sorts. Squatters sleep in the corridors and play card games at the historical setting. Buses continuously rev their engines in the bus terminal next door. The marketplace is abuzz with activity. Pretty hard to imagine Adham Khan asleep peacefully in this chaos.
I am excited as I’ve stumbled upon the “Delhie Book” of Thomas Metcalfe.
Does not ring a bell? Well, Metcalfe was an officer of the British East India Company, and the Governor-General’s Resident at the Imperial court of Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar in early 19th century Delhi. He ran the ‘Delhi territory’ from 1835 to 1853.
Metcalfe was a unique character. He built himself the palatial “Metcalfe House” near present day ISBT, which is unfortunately out of access to the public after being converted into a Government office. After passing into the hands of the Government, it served as the Central Legislative Assembly in the 1920s, eventually paving the way for the Rajya Sabha, until the inauguration of the Parliament House in New Delhi. The colonial house was originally built to challenge the Red fort itself. It had a huge library with over 20,000 books, rare artifacts and Napolean memorabilia, but much of this treasure was destroyed during the Uprising of 1857.
Front View of Metcalfe’s House, today an inaccessible Govt building in North Delhi