Amazing Dilli! A phrase often heard but the meaning of the words can only be understood if you have seen the real Dilli, the heart of Dilli, Purani Dilli! The students and teachers on the wonderful morning of March 23rd did not know what was going to unfold during the day.
The journey towards Delhi- 6 or Old Delhi began with a lot of halla-balu in the buses. The two hour travel time was not much for students as their never ending discussions on different topics kept them occupied.
After waving at the Red Fort our buses moved towards Shish Ganj Gurdwara. The Itihaas group, who conduct Heritage walks, were waiting to share beautiful stories about Delhi. Making our way through the busy street of Chandni Chowk we reached the Gurudwara where we all sat close together to understand the ideologies of Aurangzeb and his deeds. Guru Tegh Bahadur was martyred here and since that day in the 16th Century it is considered a holy place ..."Gurdwara" - "Guru ka dwar" - God's door. Inspite of all the noise from the busy street below and the market the students were spell bound as they listened with rapt attention to the stories being told. We could not resist the "Kara Prashad" served to us after we had spent some peaceful moments listening to the gurubani being recited by the priest. Then it was time to move towards our next destination.
Our walks lead us through old galis and it felt like we had stepped back in time. It was so different to the malls of Gurgaon! The wonderful smells of frying parathas assailed us as we walked through "Paranthewali gali. And moved into Kinari bazaar alive with exciting little shops selling glittering gota artifacts. The real gold gota in the days of yore must have glittered even more!
We turned and entered the community center of 'Nav Gharana' or nine houses where we observed the beautiful paintings on the walls of the old havelis which are still as vivid as they were when painted hundreds of years ago. By this time the smells and the walk had made our tummies rumble. We were so hungry that we could barely wait to reach our next stop. As soon as we reached the Jain temple, we sat on the short parapet outside the temple and out popped our lunch boxes.
The temple usually closes by noon but at a special request by Itihaas group the temple doors were opened for us. We observed the blend of European and Mughal architecture inside the temple. The influence of two such diverse cultures in a Jain house of worship brought home the fact that Indians through the ages have imbibed, accepted and adopted the culture of the invaders and conquerors who have ruled this nation. It reminded one of the IB mission that states that 'Others with their differences can also be right'. We also learnt about the lifestyle and rituals of the Jain community and how Jainism consists of two sects.
Ah! Our next stop was the magnificent Jama Masjid. Grade 7 students, having learning about Islam in an earlier unit, were very keen to visit and observe a mosque. And what better mosque than the magnificent Jama Masjid! Imagining Shahjahan riding everyday from Red Fort through the Lahori dwar to the Jama Masjid on his horse to offer his prayers! A romantic visualisation indeed.
The story that held up a role model to us : On the day when the first prayer was to be offered at Jama Masjid after its completeion, Shahjahan asked his courtiers if any one of them had observed all five namaz every day of their lives , since he wanted such a man to lead the pray on the first day. Not a single courtier raised his hands except one! And that one was Shah Jahan himself! We were all mesmerized at that thought. It was also very interesting to hear that the present Imam of the Jama Masjid, Imam Buhkari is a descendent of the First Imam of the Jama Masjid! The day being Friday, we had an opportunity to observe a lot of people following rituals at this stunning mosque.
The unforgettable Rickshaw ride from the masjid to the fort was one of the most exciting experiences and probably a first ride in a cycle rickshaw for many. The rickshaw has been the commonly used mode of transportation in the walled city for almost a century now. Crossing Meena Bazaar we saw the HUGE FORT in red stone standing in front of us; the strong hundred pillars each appearing as soldiers of Shahjahan protecting the palace.
As we entered we were told that the fort was built not of red but white stone which was news to many! Only the outer walls and ramparts were made of red sand stone. Once a week, Shahjahan took out a mighty procession consisting of elephants and horses to impress his subjects and visitors with his might and wealth. We heard of how the ladies of the palace shopped in the roofed market inside the fort. This market was set up once a week on Fridays and was visited mostly by the Royal Ladies! The first mall which existed 400 years ago! It was surprising to know Shahjahan had seven peacock 'palkis' studded with precious stones. Standing at Diwan-e-khas and listening to these stories transported us to the romantic era of a majestic king and his magnificient courtiers.
After listening to the little known and exciting stories about the rise and then fall of Mughals with the British entering Delhi we all waited for the light and sound show. Burgers, chips and cold drinks provided us the much needed refreshment. Our understanding of the seventh city of Shahjahanabad was further strengthened by the light and sound show. The visit ended with the show but whetted our curiosity and desire to know more about Shahjahanabad !
Shish Mahal belonged to Ashraf Beg, a vizier of the last Mughal Emperor. His daughter Aliza Begum was one of the emperor's wives. From 1881 to 1890, the prestigious St Stephens College was housed here before it moved to its present site. It is now owned by a Jain family. The gentleman addressing the students is a member of this family. It was bought by his great grandfather a100 years back and about 80 members of his family still live here.