Delhi: The Mughal Aesthetic and Beyond

In India, Travel Guides
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When most people travel to India they think of the Taj Mahal as the number one sight to see. But have you ever considered going beyond this wonder of the world and exploring the ancient Mughal ruins or the bustling streets of Old Delhi?

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb: Interior Mughal Architecture

Humayun’s Tomb: Interior Mughal Architecture Photograph by Trishala Khandheria

Travel back in time and experience the Mughal aesthetic of Humayun’s tomb, situated in the heart of Delhi. Some say this sight is better than the Taj Mahal itself- amidst a peaceful garden, one can spend an afternoon relaxing on a bench, reading a book, and viewing this octagonal tomb at a perfect angle of symmetry.

Quick Tips:
  • There are no food or drinks allowed inside the parameters- policeman carefully patrol the monument at all times, and they will ask you to leave if they catch you with any food or drink items
  • If you are a foreigner, you will most likely encounter people who will ask to take a photo with you- this is 100% safe and at your discretion
  • The entry fee for Indians is 10 rupees and the entry fee for foreigners is 250 rupees- make sure you are carrying cash with you and beware of pickpocketing
  • The tomb is open daily from sunrise to sunset
  • Depending on where you are coming from there are two metro stations that are in close proximity to the monument:
    • Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium station on the Violet Line
    • Jor Bagh station on the Yellow Line

Old Delhi and Chandni Chowk

View of Old Delhi From a Bicycle Rickshaw Photograph by Josh Puthumana

View of Old Delhi From a Bicycle Rickshaw
Photograph by Josh Puthumana

Do you dare to embark on an adventure amidst the hustle and bustle in the streets of Old Delhi? As you make inroads into Old Delhi’s urban skin and navigate the narrow alleyways, you enter a timeless passage, surrounded by only foot traffic and bicycle rickshaws. Follow the aroma wafting through the air, and you will come across an array of food stalls selling masala chai, pakoras, and your favorite non-vegetarian skewers. Look to your left and look to your right to spot a small shop selling carefully embroidered sarees and lenghas, or a group of men stacking newspapers onto a rusty old trolley. At the culmination of your journey, retreat to the Jain neighborhood and embrace the peace and tranquility emanating from the ancient temple.

Suggested Itinerary:

  1. Jama Masjid
  2. Karim’s restaurant
  3. Chandni Chowk Wholesale Spice Market
  4. The Jain Svetambara Temple

*The Chandni Chowk metro station on the Yellow Line is in close proximity to all of these locations

The Jama Masjid

Towering over the chaotic streets of Old Delhi, stands one of the largest mosques in all of India, commonly known as the “World-reflecting Mosque” or the Jama Masjid. Built by the famous Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the interior arches made out of red sandstone and white marble take you back in time to Medieval India. After you enter the gates and visit the prayer room, wander into the spacious courtyard and make your way towards the projecting balcony to catch a glimpse of the grand Red Fort in all its beauty.

The Jama Masjid Photograph by Trishala Khandheria

The Jama Masjid
Photograph by Trishala Khandheria

Quick Tips:
  • Women must try to dress up conservatively- shorts are generally not allowed
  • Carry your shoes to save yourself from the hassle of getting them stolen
  • In an effort to have a peaceful experience, the best time to visit the mosque is during the morning hours
  • If you are a foreigner, you will most likely encounter people who will ask to take a photo with you- this is 100% safe and at your discretion
  • The mosque is open all days of the week from 7am-12pm and 1:30pm-6:30pm
  • The entry fee is free, but you will most likely be charged 200 rupees as a photography fee whether you use your camera or not- make sure you are carrying cash with you and beware of pickpocketing
  • The best way to reach the mosque is via bicycle rickshaw

Karim’s Restaurant

Care to experience the aromas and tastes of ground and whole spices? Make your way to Karim’s and indulge in some of the best Mughal cuisine in all of Delhi. Among the curries and the sweet and savory naan, you will discover a street food haven, and relish in the mouth-watering kebabs that are topped with an array of spices and cooked to juicy perfection.

Karim's Sweet and Savory Naan Photograph by Joseph Puthumana

Karim’s Buttered Naan
Photograph by Josh Puthumana

Must-eats:
  • Buttered naan
  • Mutton burra
  • Mutton seekh kebab
  • Chicken seekh kebab
  • Shahi paneer
  • Aloo palak
  • Shahi tudka

*You must carry cash to Karim’s as they do not accept credit cards- a full meal will typically start at around 600 rupees

 

Chandni Chowk Khari Baoli Wholesale Spice Market

Tucked inside an old haveli is one of Asia’s largest wholesale spice markets. As you approach the market, the overwhelming smell of an amalgamation of flavors will lead you into a warehouse filled with burlap sacks that are overflowing with every spice imaginable. Continue your journey and walk up a winding staircase to the rooftop, where you will witness spectacular views of Old Delhi, as well as spot an archaic, 500 year-old mosque. After exploring the market, head to Mehar Chand and Sons to sample and buy tea, dry fruits, and spices that are directly imported from the wholesale bazaar.

Mehar Chand and Sons Spice Market Photograph by Trishala Khandheria

Mehar Chand and Sons Spice Market
Photograph by Trishala Khandheria

Don’t Miss:
  • Mango green tea
  • Masala chai tea
  • Yogurt/raita masala
  • Shahi paneer masala
  • Fish tikka masala
  • Tandoori spice masala
  • Chaat masala

*It is advisable to carry cash to the spice market- tea, dry fruits, and spices start at 250 rupees/ packet

The Jain Svetambara Temple- Naughara (“Nine Houses”) Neighborhood

Hidden inside a small alley off of Kinari Bazaar, is an ancient Jain temple that was constructed during the Mughal era. As you wander off into this serene, residential neighborhood called Naughara, you will find the Mandir (temple) at the end of the lane- camoflauged behind Nine Houses. Upon entering the Mandir, a Jain Pujari (priest) will greet you and lead you into the main part of the temple where you will be surrounded by vibrant murals and carvings that encompass Jain philosophy.

Naughara Neighborhood Photograph by Hannah McMurry

Naughara Neighborhood Photograph by Hannah McMurry

Quick Tips:
  • The entry fee is free- make sure you are carrying cash if you would like to make a donation to the temple
  • The temple is open to devotees and visitors seven days a week from 5:30am-6:30pm
  • You will be asked to respect the customs of the temple- this includes dressing up conservatively and removing your shoes upon entering the Mandir
  • The best way to reach the temple is via bicycle rickshaw

 

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