Did you know that Delhi is the third most historically rich city in the world after Rome and Jerusalem? Walking on the streets of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi was like travelling back into the 16th century. Do you know how ‘Chandni Chowk’ got its name? Shah Jahan and his daughter Jahanara meant it to be a ‘moonlit square’ or ‘moonlit market’ where the moon would reflect in the pool situated in the centre of the complex. I imagined the hectic streets filled with moonlight and beautified with various creative monuments contiguous to each other. I took a walk on this street to experience the blend of past and present. Below are a few places I explored:
1.Jain Mandir (Jain Temple)
Whenever you enter a Jain Mandir, you feel the essence of calmness and serenity. The Jain community developed a system of philosophy and ethics that had a great impact on Indian culture. Sri Digamabar Jain Mandir is located opposite Red Fort. The temple was built in 1656 and since then it has undergone many alterations. Devotees apply sandalwood paste on the head of the shrine of Lord Mahavir. You will also see some devotees drawing designs on the platform of the temple with uncooked rice. A visit during the morning prayer is a good time to experience how they decorate the idols. For those uninitiated, Lord Mahavir was born in 599 BC and he left worldly comforts to preach peace and harmony. The temple is also known for its bird hospital where various injured birds are treated. The caretaker told me that more than 250 birds are treated daily inside the temple.
2.Gauri Shankar Mandir (Gauri Shankar Temple)
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this 800-year-old temple is one of the most noteworthy temples in India. The brown Lingam surrounded by snakes made of silver gives a sense of power. During prayers, the devotees sing songs in praise of Shiva and pour water and offer flowers to the Lingam. Just above the Lingam, there is a vessel with drops of milk dripping from it. This temple was built by Apa Ganga Dhar because he believed that it was with the blessings of Lord Shiva that he was able to survive a battle. There are other shrines in the temples of Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, and Lord Hanuman. The temple also contains idols of Parvati (Gauri Shankar) and her two sons Ganesh & Karthik. During Shivratri, this place is filled with devotional activities.
3.Gurudwara Sis Ganjh
The Sikh community considers this to be an important place of worship. The temple marks the site where Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded in 1675 after he refused to accept the Mughal Emperor’s demand to convert to Islam. As you enter the Gurudawara, you cross a small pool of water where you can cleanse your feet. Devout Sikhs, either wealthy or poor, would serve you Prasad. The Gurudwara has golden domes, which were built in 1930. A visitor can spot the tree where Guru Teg Bahadur was beheaded and the prison where he was kept. The prayer hall is huge enough for people to sit and follow the hymns, and have a meal. The areas for women and men are clearly demarcated in the Diwan hall. The hall centre has Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, on the throne with a canopy of beautiful and colourful cloth pieces hanging over it from the ceiling. The most significant part of the Gurudwara is the Langar where free food is served to everybody, irrespective of religion. The significance of the Langar is to imbibe a sense of equality among all people regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, and social status.
4.Jama Masjid (The Grand Mosque)
The tiny fairytale lanes of Chandni Chowk, entwined with each other, open to the Grand Mosque. It is the largest mosque in India and was built in 1656 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The Jama Masjid can hold more than 25,000 devotees. You would have to buy a camera ticket if you plan to carry your camera along. The fine architecture of the mosque has four angled towers and two minarets which are approximately 40-metre high. The structure has vertical lines of red sandstone and white marble which sparkle in sunlight. While entering the mosque, the women have to dress in hijab and no part of the body, except the face, should show. Devotees read the Quran during day time below a huge dome. Do not miss out on taking a look at the antique copy of the Quran written on deer skin. With an extra charge of Rs 100, you can climb more than 100 steps in the narrow southern minaret. The steps are steep and the area is so narrow that only one person can pass at a time. You can see a bird’s-eye view of Old Delhi, Red Fort, and Chandni Chowk from the top of the minaret. Imagine what a spectacular view it would be during Eid!
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