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Where tax collectors met

delhi Updated: Sep 01, 2013 02:30 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

Any wedding in the Capital is incomplete without a visit to Chawri Bazar, a congested wholesale market area in old Delhi.

From Hauz Qazi to Bade Shahbulla, hundreds of shops occupy every nook and cranny of the area specialising in wholesale trade of paper, wedding cards, hardware materials, utensils and pipes of different makes. The bazaar has been in existence since the Mughal times.

Pedestrians have to fight for their right of way with a range of vehicles — two wheelers, four-wheelers, rehdis and goods carriers amid cacophony of sounds. But if you thought this area was peaceful and less congested in earlier times, it was not.

Theories abound about the origin of the name. Chawri is originally a Marathi word, which means a centrally located area with temporary sheds/tents erected for traders.


“It is believed that during the reign of Shah Alam, the Marathas collected tax from the tehbazari vendors on behalf of the Mughal king for a commission. This was the place they gathered every evening,” said Sohail Hashmi, a heritage activist.

RV Smith, a popular historian of Delhi, differs slightly. “No doubt, Marathas were stationed here. But this area was known as Chawri bazaar even before that. The area was known also for the courtesans and dancing girls.”

With the advent of Britishers (read Victorian values), the women were looked down upon and the area was equated to what we call red light area in modern parlance. “After Partition, this was shifted to GB Road,” Smith added.