360-Degree View: Chandni Chowk’s Havelis Take You Back in Time

The bustling and congested streets of Shahjahanabad, famously known as Chandni Chowk, hold evidence of Delhi's rich heritage. The havelis, made years ago, have the power to teleport anyone into history. But, somehow the people who live on these streets do not appear to have the faintest idea about its history.

Upon reaching Chandni Chowk, I asked for the way to Mirza Ghalib's Haveli and to my surprise only a handful of people knew the place.

Mirza Ghalib's Haveli - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

To put it into perspective, Mirza Ghalib's Haveli has been declared a heritage site and is under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The haveli has a small museum which displays Ghalib's possessions and his work.

After reaching the haveli, I stumbled upon a small group of tourists and their guide, Sunil Narhwal. The 31-year-old guide has been in the business for five years and takes 10-12 people around the locality and explains the history of the area.

A payment of Rs 300 got me on board for the rest of the trip.

Inside the Mirza Ghalib Haveli. (Photo: Abhilash Mallick/The Quint)
The museum area of the Mirza Ghalib Haveli. (Photo: Abhilash Mallick/The Quint)

The next destination was Fatehpuri Mosque, a beautiful specimen of Mughal architecture built in 1650 by Fatehpuri Begum, one of Shah Jahan's wives. An old guard asked us to remove our shoes before entering the mosque. The mosque is right in the centre of Chandni Chowk.

Fatehpuri Mosque. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

A front-view of the Fatehpuri mosque. (Photo: Abhilash Mallick/The Quint)

Right in front of the mosque is Chunnamal ki haveli. This is one of the biggest havelis in the area and has over 128 rooms.

A view of the Chunnamal ki Haveli from the road. (Photo: Abhilash Mallick/The Quint)

From the exterior, the haveli looks quite underwhelming, something one might easily miss.

The haveli was guarded by a rather unwelcoming guard who didn't let us in. The haveli belonged to Rai Lala Chunnamal, who was once the richest merchant of the city and his family still resides in the building.

It is said that the poverty-stricken Mirza Ghalib would stand in front of Chunnamal’s illuminated house and scowl at his opulence.

A clock outside the Chunnamal Haveli. The clock dates back to the time when the haveli was made. (Photo: Abhilash Mallick/The Quint)

Chunnamal ki Haveli is quite famous and has featured in Bollywood movies (like Delhi 6), but it is still not a heritage site.

After our failed attempt at entering the haveli, the group was headed to Red Fort and Jama Masjid. I asked Sunil for other havelis in the area and set out for them myself.

An old haveli which has been modified and converted into a bank. (Photo: Abhilash Mallick/The Quint)

While looking for Kinari Bazar, I entered Parathe wali gali. It was lunch-time and I could not resist the smell of parathas and lassi.

Parathe wali gali opens into the Kinari Bazar area. It was a Sunday and most of the shops were closed. Before leaving, Sunil had told me about a haveli in the Kinari Bazar area called Naughera Haveli. It got its name because nine families used to live together in its houses. The haveli is now inhabited by Jains and even has a temple.

Naughera Haveli - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

The entrance to the Naughera Haveli. (Photo: Abhilash Mallick/The Quint)
An abandoned house in the Naughera Haveli. The house is being used as a make-shift storage area by the people staying in other houses. (Photo: Abhilash Mallick/The Quint)

Naughera Haveli 2 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Another abandoned haveli in Kinari Bazar area of Chandni Chowk. (Photo: Abhilash Mallick/The Quint)

There are many other small and big havelis in the area, some of them have been modified while others have been shut because of their dilapidated condition.

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