Delhi, India. The capital of the fastest-growing nation on earth has a treasure trove of culinary and cultural treasures. According to Wikipedia, the population of Delhi is 10 million, based on 2001 census data. According to Indiatoday.in and Thehindu.com, however, NCT (National Capital Territory, aka Delhi) is home to 25 million inhabitants, making it the world’s second largest city.
Whichever figure you choose, Delhi is huge. I had the pleasure of visiting the city in 2011, and found it to be a sprawling, captivating hodgepodge of rich and poor, opulence and squalor. Old Delhi, in particular, is a place to be experienced in person. The photos below only hint at its enchanting mix of chaos and charm.
The heart of Old Delhi is the market district of Chandni Chowk. Here, auto rickshaws compete for road space with hordes of pedestrians scurrying to-and-fro, from market to temple to internet cafe. Contrary to misconception, cows were not roaming freely through the streets of Delhi (though I did see them in Varanasi – a blog post for another time, perhaps).
Traffic cop, median strip, sun spots, and a break in the traffic!
Those orange delicacies look like shrimp but are actually cookies.
Watch out for cobras!
The crowded street that is Chandni Chowk ends at Red Fort, a massive sandstone complex that was built in the 1600’s at the orders of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (who also commissioned the Taj Mahal be built as a mausoleum for his wife, Mumtaz). Red Fort was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
A Sikh father and son wait for their wife/mother to finish souvenir shopping in the covered bazaar that leads to the interior of the Red Fort.
The nightly sound-and-light show, held inside the fort and narrated in several languages, attracts dozens of tourists but, aside from illuminated photo ops, is rather yawn-inducing.
Further afield, Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, is a constant hive of activity. The mosque was also built by Shah Jahan, and it is said that the courtyard can accommodate 25,000 worshippers.
A spiral staircase that would be a claustrophobic’s nightmare leads to one of two equal-sized minarets. Perhaps eight people can fit comfortably inside the minaret, but there were at least 30 when I reached the top. (And they all wanted a picture with me!)
Red Fort and Ferris wheel in the distance, as seen from the minaret.
A Muslim father and son exiting the mosque’s temple, a cocoon of peace and quiet. Be sure to remove your shoes before entering. (You may have to “tip” a shoe-minder to watch them. Never fear; he’ll find you.)
The dusty approach to Jama Masjid. In addition to the clothes and other bric-a-brac sold here, goats were freely traded.
“How many rupees for me and my goat to ride?”
Clothing market somewhere between Jama Masjid and Chandni Chowk.
Amusement park near Red Fort. I was hounded for photographs by locals here…though only by males.
“Please sir, can we have a snap?”
Vendor of floral leis at Hanuman Mandir Temple, a bit further afield.
Sikh temple, still decorated for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. I have never seen so many different religions coexisting as peacefully as I have in India. A wonderful country, with Old Delhi its beating heart.
All pictures were taken with a Nikon DSLR camera. All images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless credited otherwise, and should be used with permission only.