Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Roshanara Bagh

Roshanara Bagh is situated in the Northern Part of Delhi, near the Civil Lines. The Bagh or the Garden was once the most beautiful example of Mughal Gardens of it's time, (that extended till the Shalimar Bagh, another of the Mughal gardens). The younger daughter of Shahjahan laid this garden in 1650 and in accordance with her wish, was buried here after her death in 1671. Though now the poorly maintained garden and the grave show little signs that once she was such a powerful and influential princess. Part of the Garden houses the famous and elite Roshanara Club formed in 1922 by the British.

Roshanara : Last of the fourteen children of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, Roshanara was born on 3rd September 1617. Roshanara was a brilliant woman, a talented poetess and the mastermind behind Aurangazeb's accession to the Mughal throne. Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shahjahan and the heir apparent was aided by Jahanara the oldest sister. Roshanara sided with Aurangzeb, instead. She successfully foiled a plot by her father and Dara Shikoh to kill Aurangazeb. According to history, Shah Jahan invited Aurangazeb to visit Delhi, in order to conduct negotiations about the division of the Mighal Empire. In truth, however, Shah Jahan planned to imprison and kill Aurangazeb in prison as he viewed his third son a serious threat to the throne. When Roshanara got wind of her father's plots, she sent a message to Aurangazeb, outlining the plot and warning him to stay away from his father and brother.

Aurangazeb was eternally grateful to Roshanara for her timely warning. When the war of succession was resolved in favour of Aurangazeb, she quickly became a powerful figure at court. Fearing that he would kill her for her role in the war of succession if he ever returned to power, Roshanara insisted that Dara Shikoh be killed. It is said that Dara was bound in chains, paraded around Chandni Chowk and beheaded. Roshanara allegedly had his bloody head wrapped in a golden turban, packaged neatly and sent to her father as a gift from Aurangazeb and her. Shah Jahan, who opened the package to see his "gift" was so stunned by the sight of his favorite son's head that he apparently fell unconsious and lay in stupor for many days. Roshanara had always been jealous of her older sister, Jahanara, as the latter was undisputedly their father's favourite daughter. At her insistence, Aurangazeb, who was displeased with Jahanara for supporting their father and brother over him during the war of succession, removed Jahanara as head of his harem and offered the position to Roshanara, instead.

In contrast to her elder sister's character of a saintly and religious woman, Roshanara was known to be of flirtatious nature. Though she remained single throughout her life she has known to have taken many lovers, some openly, some secretly. Aurangzeb, a strict Muslim frowned on the libertine ways and her sister's choice of lovers. One legend has it that one evening Aurangzeb got to know that one of his commanders was with her sister in her 'khwabgah' (Chamber of Dreams or private quarters of the royal women). He immediately raided the quarters to catch Roshanara and the commander, red handed. Roshanara, who got a whiff of coming of his brother made her lover hide in a hamam (water tanks used for bathing purpose). Aurangzeb who had sensed that the man had hidden somewhere in the hamam did not want embarrassment to creep in for his sister by openly pulling out the man from the hamam. Instead, true to his cruel, stern and strict nature, Aurangzeb ordered that the hamam be lit with fire beneath under. It is said that the man hiding in the hamam preferred a gruesome death in the boiling water rather than being caught and killed cruelly and mercilessly at the hands of Aurangzeb.

Apart from having many secret lovers, Roshanara also had a love for gold and land, and accumulated wealth on a large scale and sometimes as a result of corruption. Aurangazeb, who was looking for a way to rid himself of his troublesome sister, who in spite of being warned of her deeds did not mend her ways, finally had her poisoned with the help of her cook. Roshanara died a slow and painful death.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008


It was the time when copper utensils were used in the home. No other material is so well suited for cooking foods as copper. Its ability to respond quickly to heat or heat off is unequalled by any other metal or ceramic utensil. Copper must be lined since it reacts to acidic foods and without a lining the copper may discolor the food or impart a bitter taste or even at times lead to food poisoning. So it was very important that every couple of months the copper utensils needed a 'kalai' (or retinning) .

The retinner or the 'kalaiwala' used to hawk around in the colonies urging the womenfolk of the houses to get their copper utensils for 'kalai'. The kalaiwala used to dig a pit in the ground and prepare a temporary blast furnace, airing it with bellows. He then used to heat the utensil, blasting it off and on. Then he used to sprinkle a little 'nausadar' (sal amoniac or ammonium chloride) which used to fume out in a deep white smoke emanating a peculiar ammoniac smell. The powder was then rubbed all over the interior. This process was necessary to rid the interior of the utensil of any grit and make it more abrasive. Then a piece of virgin grade of tin was touched to the blasting hot interior of the utensil. A little touch would melt the tin and then it was quickly rubbed into to whole of the utensil forming a lining of tin in the interior. The utensil was then dipped into a bucket full of water which was kept ready and handy. The sudden contact of the hot utensil with the water used to create a shrill and sharp sound that dimmed when the utensil came to the normal temperature.
The smell of the ammoniac fumes and the shrill sound of cooling vessels also publicised the presence of the kalaiwala to those who could not register his call due to other household chores.

With the replacing of copper utensils with stainless steel and ceramic and china, the 'kalaiwalas', in Delhi are now a rare sight.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

chandni chowk

Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest and busiest markets of Delhi since the times of Mughal Emperor Shahjahan when he founded the city of Shahjahabad in the mid 17th century. Jahanara, the favourite daughter of Shahjahan is said to have laid its foundation. It stretches from the Lahore Gate of the Red fort to the Fatehpuri Masjid. In early times it was divided into 5 katras. The Urdu bazaar extended from the Digambar Jain temple or the Lal Mandir as it is know for the red stones it is made of to Dariba. The Phool Mandi stretched from Dariba Kalan to the royal police station called Kotwali. From Kotwali till the present Town Hall, the area was called Ashrafi bazaar. The fourth part was known as Chandini Chowk, which extended from Ashrafi bazaar till the Fatehpuri Masjid. And the fifth part consisted of Jama Masjid and Matia Mahal.

The stretch from Lahore Gate to the Fatehpuri Masjid is surrounded in the South and West by many other wholesale markets like Nai Sarak, where one can buy text books by any author on any subject. Chawri Bazaar the wholesale market for any kind of paper and also the famous hub of printing of invitation cards for weddings. The market is also famous for brass and copper works. Chawri Bazaar now also has a station of the Delhi Metro Train that runs underground from the Central Secretariat to Delhi University. The station has the distinction of being the deepest station of the Delhi Metro (70 ft. below the ground!). The next Metro station on this line in this vicinity is that of Chandni Chowk.

Kinari Bazaar is another famous market to shop for anything required for a wedding. The Bazaar winds through a crowded and dimly lit alley with openings at Dariba Kalan and Parathe Wali Gali famous for its shops making parathas since the time of Shahjahan. The shops in Kinari Bazaar sell large stocks of sehras (groom's turban), garlands made beautifully from gold and silver tinsel and crisp currency notes, bridal jewelery and other accessories required during a wedding ceremony. The shops cater to the needs of people belonging to mostly all religions. Even wedding clothes can also be hired from these shops like bridal veil, attractively designed lehengas, gold brocade Sherwanis and anything or everything that one requires in a marriage ceremony.

At the end of the Chandni Chowk besides the Fatehpuri Masjid is the famous whole sale market for spices - the largest in Asia. A cook's Mecca, the market has shops selling spices, dry fruits, pickles, murabbas, paapads apart from wheat, rice and lentils.

Within the markets, the area of Chandni Chowk is swelled by residences known as Kuchas (alleys) and Gallis (by-alleys). Winding through these gallis one can come across many old havelis dating back to late 18th century. Ballimaran, one of the famous alleys of Chandni Chowk has a haveli in the Gali Qasim Jaan where the famous urdu poet Mirza Ghalib (1796-1869) of the Last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar's time, lived from prior to 1857 till the last phase of his life. A portion of the haveli has now been acquired by the government and converted into a memorial in the memory of the famous poet.

As the city of Shahjahanbad was a fortified city, it had a wall surrounding the city for safety and protection. Hence, till now it is known as the Walled City of Delhi. The city had many gates known by the names of the direction of the other cities they opened to. Like the Lahore Gate opened to the direction of Lahore, now in Pakistan, similarly, the Delhi Gate, Cabul Gate, Mori Gate, Turkman Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Ajmeri Gate.

Chandi Chowk was plundered in 1739 by Nadir Shah who came from Iran to invade the Mughals in India. He witnessed the plunder from Sunehri Masjid outside Chandi Chowk. 30,000 people were killed and Nadir Shah carried away with him, the famous Peacock Throne and the Koh-i-Noor diamond as a part of the looted booty.

Chandni Chowk has also the distinction of having the number of religios places of the various religions in India. The Jama Masjid, Digamber Lal Jain Temple, The Gauri Shankar Temple, The Sisganj Gurudwara and The Central Baptist Church. All these religious places are within the 2 kms. stretch from Lahore Gate to the Fatehpuri Masjid.

When the Postal Department set up the codes for the cities, the Walled City of Chandni Chowk was alloted '6' as the postal code. Since then it is also known as "Dilli Chhe" (Delhi-6)


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Delhi's Zoological Park

Delhi's Zoological Park commonly known as zoo was established in 1959 in a vast area of 83 hectares besides the backdrop of Purana Qila. The zoo has almost 2000 species of animals and birds of different origins from all over the world.


Purana Qila

Purana Qila or the Old Fort was constructed in the 16th century (1539-40) by Sher Shah Suri of the Sur Dynasty who defeated his arch rival, Humayun, bringing the Mughal Dynasty to a near end but for his death in 1945 after which Humayun regained the empire. Excavations at the site of Purana Qila have exposed the evidence such as pottery and other pieces of art and handicrafts which throws light on the existence of the city of Indraprastha mentioned in the great epic of Mahabharat times.

In March 2006, a face lift was given to Purana Qila from where President George Bush delivered a speech


Radio Ceylon

Radio Ceylon is the oldest radio station in Asia. The Telegraph Department started the broadcasting services in Ceylon in 1923. For millions of Indian, Radio Ceylon was not just a broadcasting station. It had a form and a personality. It was a companion who added a meaning to their lives, filled their vacant hours and it's programmes marked a time schedule for every one in the household. Nostalgia of the melodious times with a host of memories is hard to forget.



Synonymous with geared scooters around the world, Vespa was first introduced in India in 1960.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sarai Rohilla

Sarai Rohilla is now a railway station in Delhi. The building of the railway station was once a Sarai (a resting place for travelers) and it's mention is found during the times of Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb