In a city as historic as Delhi, heritage walks are nothing new. However, a few individuals and groups are working to present little known aspects or newer perspectives on the city’s rich history – and the autumn weather is just right to explore it. Tonight, Old Delhi’s famous Chandni Chowk could be your first taste of experiencing the city along with a knowledgeable guide and an eclectic group of people. The recently launched Chandni Chowk Night Walk is the brainchild of curator Himanshu Verma, founder Red Earth and 1100 Walks.
The heritage of the city is much more than its famous monuments. It’s just as much about the people who lived here and their lives, as well how these places are populated now. Chandni Chowk is an example of the city’s continuance despite massive changes through the centuries,” he says. Through the walk expect to learn about this ever- changing city – from the 18th and 19th century architecture, to the 1911 shift of the capital of Imperial India and explosive growth in population that followed.
The walk starts at the 18th-century Shishganj Gurudwara, moves close to Mirza Ghalib’s home in Ballimaran on to Sunehri Masjid before heading out to Jama Masjid. It culminates with dinner at Moti Mahal restaurant, whose owners lay claim to the invention of a very ‘Delhi’ delicacy – the butter chicken. Inclusive of food, this walk will cost you Rs 2000 and Verma promises that the experience will be worth it.Helping people explore another era of Delhi’s history is Sunil Raman, former BBC journalist and author of Delhi Durbar 1911. Raman’s walk, called Imperial Delhi, is run under the aegis of the India Habitat Centre. Starting at the Teen Murti House, the walk winds through Rashtrapati Bhawan, the South and North Blocks and down Raisina Hill, taking a 90-minute trail through some of the first buildings of New Delhi.
Raman says, “During my walk, the participants and I have conversations about the buildings. Many times I’ve had people show up with their grandchildren to recount some of their fondest, youthful days. Other times, diplomats or expatriates have recalled how their grandparents lived or worked in some of the buildings that the walk covers.” The walk is free but participants must register at the Centre’s programme desk.Another aspect of Delhi’s heritage is its Sufiyana culture and Delhi by Foot, a group that has been organising walks for about four years now. Focusing on Mehrauli, the walk takes a leisurely route through Mehrauli and introduces participants to one of the city’s oldest bazaars. The Dargah of Bakhtiyar Kaki in Mehrauli is where one can listen to praises of the divine.
Delhi Heritage Walks, another group working to familiarise people with Delhi tumultuous history, has started organising the Mutiny Walk, which takes participants through Shahjahanabad and the various sites associated with the Mutiny, including St James Church, the and cemetery nearby.