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Chandni Chowk (Hindi: चांदनी चौक, Urdu: چاندنی چوک), originally meaning "moonlit square" or "moonlit market", is one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi, now in central north Delhi, India. Built in 17th century by the Mughal emperor of India Shah Jahan and designed by his daughter Jahan Ara, the market was once divided by canals (now closed) to reflect moonlight, and it remains one of India's largest wholesale markets.
Symbolizing the remnants of a medieval world, the Chandni Chowk today stands at crossroads in time, looking forward to an age where modernity and tradition promise to walk hand in hand. The history of Chandni Chowk dates back to the foundation of the city of Shahjahanabad when the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan established the Red Fort or the Laal Quila as it is also known on the banks of the River Yamuna beside his newly founded capital city of Shahjahanabad.
Chandni Chowk or the Moonlight Square was designed and established by Princess Jahanara, Shahjahan’s favourite daughter, in 1650 A.D. The bazaar which was shaped as a square was given a further dash of elegance by the presence of a pool in the center of the complex which shimmered in the moonlight, a feature which was perhaps responsible for the nomenclature of the marketplace. The shops of the complex were originally built in a half-moon shape, a pattern, which, however, is lost today. The bazaar was in the time of Shahjahan was famous for its silver merchants, which could also have an important role to play in the nomenclature of the Chandni Chowk as silver is referred to as Chandi in Hindi, a word which could have been slightly deformed to form Chandni Chowk.
The Mughal imperial processions used to pass through Chandni Chowk. The tradition was continued when Delhi Durbar was held in 1903. Delhi Town Hall was built in 1863 by the British.
Chandni Chowk runs through the middle of the walled city, from the Lahori Darwaza (Lahore Gate) of the Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid. Originally, a canal ran through the middle of the street as a part of the water supply scheme. It was initially divided into three sections:
- Lahori darwaza to Chowk Kotwali (near Gurdwara Shish Ganj): This section closest to the imperial residence, was called Urdu Bazar, i.e., the encampment market. The language Urdu got its name from this encampment. Ghalib noted the destruction of this market during the disturbances of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and its aftermath.
- Chowk Kotwali to Chandni Chowk: The term Chandni Chowk originally referred to the square that had a reflecting pool. It was replaced by a clock-tower (Ghantaghar) that was damaged and demolished in the 1960s. This section was originally called Johri Bazar.
- 'Chandni Chowk' to Fatehpuri Masjid: This was called the Fatehpuri Bazar.
It is said that moonlight reflecting on its canal earned it its name Chandni (Moonlit).
Chandni Chowk was once the grandest of the markets in India.
Even though today Chandni Chowk appears choked with congestion, it retains its historical character. The following terms are generally used to describe the buildings and the streets:
- Haveli: a mansion. A normal haveli would have a big courtyard (atrium) surrounded on four sides by spacious rooms and often another walled courtyard around the exterior as well. One of the largest preserved havelis in the area is the Chunnamal haveli.
- Kucha: a zone with houses whose owners shared some common attribute, usually their occupation. Hence the names Maliwara, the gardeners' neighbourhood and Ballimaran, the oarsmen’s neighbourhood.
- Katra: refers to a separate wing of tradesmen and craftsmen belonging to the same trade. They usually lived and worked together. It is a system similar to the guild housing in Amsterdam.
It is a famous market known all over India. Google India helps Delhi's iconic Chandni Chowk market go online. They approached each of 2500 stores and even have opened common website for all the shops.
The area lies in the historically important Shahjahanabad, between the Lal Qila (Red Fort) and Fatehpuri Masjid. On both sides of the wide Chandni Chowk streets are historical residential areas served by narrow lanes (galis).
With the most famous mosque of Delhi, Jama Masjid, built in 1650 in the vicinity, it is an unusual street that has several famous religious shrines, belonging to coexisting religions, lending the street a genuine cultural harmony. Starting from the Red Fort, the street has:
- Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir, established in 1656 with a bird hospital established in 1929. There is a Naya Mandir built in 1807 nearby in Dharampura, which was the first temple with a shikhar permitted.
- Hindu Gauri Shankar Temple built by a Maratha general Appa Gandgadhar in 1761.
- Christian Central Baptist Church built in 1814.
- Sikh Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib. The 9th Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur and his followers Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Dyal Das and Bhai Sati Das were executed nearby by the Mughals in 1675 A.D. The Gurudwaras in the form of memorials were built in 1783 after Delhi, the then Mughal capital, was captured by the Khalsa (the corporate body of Sikhs) under the command of Baba Baghel Singh.
- Muslim Sunehri Masjid built in 1721 by Roshan-ud-Daula Zafar Khan in the reign of Mohammad Shah. The Persian invader Nadir Shah spent several hours on the top of the mosque on 11 March 1739 to observe the Katl-e-Aam (the killing of everyone in sight) that he had ordered which resulted in 30,000 deaths.
- Muslim Fatehpuri Masjid built by Fatehpuri Begum in 1650, one of the queens of Shah Jahan.
- Begum Samru's Palace of 1806 (see )now called Bhagirath Palace.
- Naughara mansions in Kinari Bazaar, 18th century Jain mansions.
- Khazanchi haveli, khajanchi were the accountants of Shah Jahan. There is a street named after them called "Gali Khajanchi", a long underground tunnel connects the haveli and the Red Fort, so that money could be transferred safely.
- Haveli of Mirza Ghalib, Gali Kasim Jan (Gali Ballimaran)
- Chunnamal haveli, Katra Neel
- Haveli of Zeenat Mahal, Lal Kuan Bazar
- Haksar Haveli, Bazar Sitaram, where Jawaharlal Nehru was married in 1916 to Kamla Nehru.
- Haveli Naharwali, Kucha Sadullah Khan, where Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan was born.
Chandni Chowk's speciality is the variety of its markets and their Indian-ness: from authentic Indian food, delicacies and sweets of more than 1,000 kinds, to sarees with chikan and zari work. There are many narrow lanes with shops selling books, clothing, shoes and leather goods, electronic and consumer goods and whatnot. The area, even more so than the rest of the city, is very congested. This is also a good place for window shopping. It is the location of the original Haldiram's. A particular local delicacy are the jalebis, which are fried in pure ghee (clarified butter).
As one moves from part of Chndni Chowk to the other, the lanes and bylanes house the biggest wholesale markets of Delhi.
- Cloth Market, a market for all the needs of the home furnishing fabrics. One can get readymade items as well as customised services for decorating the houses.
- Nai Sarak,the wholesale market of stationary, books and decorative materials. It house the stores of Plastic folders like SOLO, Shipra  and many other leading brands. Nai Sarak is also a market for buying exquisite bridal Saris and Lehengas. DIVASA by Devta Apparels Pvt. Ltd jogiwara Arun Sarees and Nandlal Silk Mills 
- Lal Kuan is the wholesale market for hardware as well as hotel kitchen equipments. It is adjacent to Tilak Market which is wholesale place for industrial chemicals.
- Dariba is associated with market of Silver and Gold Jewellery. The popular Jewellery stores are Hare ram Hare Krishna and MM Jewellers
Restaurants and eateries
Chandni Chowk is home to several famous restaurants/confectioners (halwais).
- The Ghantewala Halwai, established in 1790.
- Natraj’s Dahi Bhalle, established in 1940.
- The jalebi wala.
- Kanwarji Bhagirathmal Dalbijiwallah established in mid-19th century.
- Chaatwallah established in 1923, famous for fruit chaat.
- Bikaner Sweet Shop famous for rasmalai.
- Gianiji ka Falooda famous for Rabri Falooda, established around 1947.
- Gali Parathe Wali in Chandni Chowk is known for its parathas
- Paranthe wali Gali with paratha shops from 1875–1886.
- Meghraj and Sons, since 1950s (?)
- Chainaram established in 1948
- Annapurna Bhandar, is popular for Bengali sweets in old delhi. The most loved sweets served are Rasgulla, Plain Sandesh, Gur Sandesh, Ras Malai, Samosa, Dilbahar Recipes, Kadambari, Kheer Kadam, Kachagola, Mishti Doi
Depiction in media
Chandni Chowk was featured in the 2001 Bollywood film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham where the leading lady Anjali (Kajol) and her sister Pooja (Kareena Kapoor) lived. Though portrayed as a neighbourhood populated by a lower-class population, Chandni Chowk is shown to be a rich, cultural hub.
The 2009 Bollywood movie Delhi-6 starring Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Om Puri, Atul Kulkarni and Divya Dutta is set in the ancient Walled City of Old Delhi and centred around Chandni Chowk.
- Dariba Kalan
- Central Baptist Church
- Gali paranthe walee
- Jainism in Delhi
- Prachin Bankhandi Mahadev Mandir, Delhi
- Delhi, the emperor's city: rediscovering Chandni Chowk and its environs, by Vijay Goel. Lustre Press, 2003. ISBN 81-7436-240-1.
- "Delhi- 100 years as the Capital". The Hindu. 1 February 2011.
- Encyclopaedic Survey of Islamic Culture: Growth & Development By Mohamed Taher, Anmol Publications, 1998
- http://www.imagesofasia.com/html/india/chandni-chowk.html Old Delhi Clock Tower built in 1857
- http://www.hindu.com/mp/2007/03/26/stories/2007032600070200.htm The mystique of clock towers
- Chandni Chowk
- Chandni Chowk Scenes from 1814–1876
- http://web.archive.org/web/20071118150017/www.chandnichowk.com/landmark2.htm The Havelis, Kuchas and Katras of Chandni Chowk
- "Gauri Shankar Temple".
- Havelis of Old Delhi/Text by Pavan K. Varma and Sondeep Shankar. Reprint, First published in 1992. New Delhi, Bookwise, 1999
- Itihas ki dastan hain, Dilli ki havelian http://epaper.hindustandainik.com/blog/uploaded_images/historical_monument_resembles_delhi_haveli-765785.jpg
- Chowk and cheese http://www.mid-day.com/lifestyle/2008/sep/280908-Features-Sweets-roza-Chandni-Chowk.htm
- http://www.tribuneindia.com/2002/20021110/spectrum/eat.htm Frozen paranthas posing a challenge to Paranthewali Gali fare
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