Once, this nondescript village in southern part of the city catered to the vegetable demand of Delhi. Harvesting cauliflowers was the main source of livelihood for the farmers living here. Over the years, the vast agricultural land gave way to concrete structures, which, in recent decades, transformed into a hub of high-end fashion stores. Today, Shahpur Jat is one of the most popular urban villages in the Capital. The transformation of this locality started in 1962 after the central government acquired land from farmers for a housing plan for senior government officials. Apart from its fertile farming land, the village was known to produce boxing talents.
Ensconced between two south Delhi neighbourhoods — Hauz Khas Village and Asiad Games Village — Shahpur Jat once fell within the premises of Siri Fort established in the beginning of the 14th century by second sultan of the Khilji dynasty, Alauddin Khilji. However, only a few remnants of the era exist now, such as gates and portions of walls. Hauz Khas was built as a large water reservoir for this city. It is believed that when Siri Fort was abandoned, Jats moved to Shahpur Jat village because of the availability of fertile land.
Despite the onset of modern age, the 700-year-old settlement still features traditional havelis. These stand in contrast with the giant graffiti that adorn walls of multistoreyed buildings and speak of a different age and time.
Shahpur Jat is spread across 400 acres and divided into cramped lanes — Fashion Street 1, Fashion Street 2, Fashion Hub, Gora Street and Dada Jungi House. The market houses around 300 designer boutiques, restaurants, art studios, NGOs and bookshops.
In late 1990s, when land owners in Hauz Khas shifted focus towards developing restaurants, the designers there moved to Shahpur Jat because of its proximity to Hauz Khas and low rentals. The locality had an added advantage of locals who were trained weavers and master artisans. By 2005, Shahpur Jat attained the reputation of being one of the largest production centres of zari embroidery in Northern India. The market has been flourishing since then.
Shahpur Jat is an exciting place for young designers. Many began their careers with a small venture and have emerged successful entrepreneurs. Many expats have also set their business here. The average footfall in Shahpur Jat is around 2,000 a day and its goes up to 10,000 during wedding season (November and March). The market is famous for designers dealing in bridal wear, jewellery, accessories and home decor. “In the past 10 years, Shahpur Jat has witnessed a major transformation,” Richa Singh, a designer said.
Beyond the village charm, what draws designers is the skill of artisans and workers who live around the area and are available to turn their ideas into stunning creations. Streets of Shahpur Jat inspire many graduates studying in the nearby National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Hauz Khas.
Dada Jungi House is one of the most famous streets here. Developed in 2008, the narrow lane is enclosed by gates on both ends and is dotted with numerous designers stores. Dada Jungi House is known for shops that stock items at affordable prices that suit both Indian and international clients. Both budding and established designers showcase their creations here. This widely acclaimed street is also home to a few shops, selling home accessories and clothes, run by French expats. A few cafes are also housed here for times when you need to take a breather from all the shopping.
Besides shoppers looking for designer clothing and accessories, youngsters throng Shahpur Jat due to the many niche cafes and book shops here.
Change comes with problems
Over the years, Shahpur Jat has turned into the hippest market in the Capital. But the unplanned development has resulted in many civic problems. The market has various approach roads without proper signages. Some designers say that the market association and authorities must map the area for the convenience of visitors.
Residents meanwhile complain of cramped, dilapidated lanes and shortage of potable water. New pipelines have been laid but residents claim these hardly meet the requirements. They say that the high-rises can be dangerous in case of fire or natural disasters as the narrow lanes do not provide easy pass to emergency vehicles for rescue operation. “People converted houses into multistorey buildings, but these were not planned,” said Aditya Singh, a resident.
Youngsters here too complain of lack of breathing space in the area. . They say that being a congested locality, Shahpur Jat lacks sports facilities. “Shahpur Jat is a green locality, which is beneficial for us. We want authorities to develop parks and a swimming pool for the children to boost the talent. It is difficult to get access to nearby stadiums,” said Ranjeet Sharma, a resident.
In the backdrop of the green buffer zone surrounding the entire area, village heads want authorities to develop a children’s park. They have written to authorities several times. Resident Anil Sharma said they have approached the Delhi government to earmark land for a boxing ring in order to revive the lost culture.