I pulled this photo, and the next, from Wikipedia. These represent old views of Chandni Chowk, from the 1860's. And, if you compare these pictures with the ones that have been put up on the last few entries of this blog, the contrast is quite amazing.
About 150 years ago, Chandni Chowk seemed to be such a peaceful place, if you can call a market place peaceful at all!
The old walled city of Delhi, which includes Red Fort was originally set up in 1650 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Chandni Chowk was the main street of the old city, and was one of the grandest markets in India.
It seems that at one time, there was a canal or reflecting pool at one end of Chandni Chowk. This has now been replaced by a clock tower. And, it is said that the moonlight reflecting in the water gave it the name of "Chandni Chowk", or "Moonlit Avenue"
What remains now is a congested market. It used to be a great place to go and get some great jewellery at some great prices. Over time, the old shop keepers have set up new establishments in the more modern areas, and charge higher prices. It is, honestly, a painful task to go shopping there, and to walk there.
And, the sad remains of some old, graceful windows. Broken down, with dirty laundry hanging from the front.
Shah Jahan's daughter, it seems, had a hand in designing Shah Jahanabad. And, I would say, that she did a fantastic job of it. She helped design something that remained intact and graceful for over 250 years.
Yet, as the earth gets more and more crowded; as the times get more and more frantic, we have less and less time to preserve what was in our past.
I do believe that we cannot preserve everything. It is impossible. Else, there would be no room for change and improvement.
Yet, if places like Chandni Chowk do exist, and if they are used in essentially the same structures that were built 350 years ago, they deserve to be preserved and maintained.
Think of the pleasure of shopping in a huge market that looks as graceful now, as it did 350 years ago. Now, that would be something that would be hard to beat.
While I am all for modern malls, there is something about the grace of history that has a magic that is all its own. Something that cannot be taken away from it. Something that can be shared even today.