Delhi: Hidden Treasures in the alleyways of Shahjahanabad, Dariba Kalan

Discover the rich culinary offerings of Old Delhi’s Dariba, where every narrow bylane entices food enthusiasts with its aromatic delights.
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

One of the oldest alleyways of Shahjahanabad, Dariba Kalan is a 17th-century gem that awaits a visit by travellers eager to experience the rich cultural traditions of the old city. The word, ‘Dariba’ is derived from the Persian term, Dur-e be-baha, which literally translates as ‘unparalleled pearl’.

The suffix ‘Kalan’ (meaning, ‘big’) was added to distinguish it from the Dariba Khurd (the smaller ‘Dariba’) which is now popularly known as the Kinari Bazaar. During the 18th century, the street was lined with jewellers and metalsmiths selling the most exquisite ornaments.

The area was gravely affected by the loot and massacre campaign launched by Nadir Shah in Shahjahanabad during the spring of 1739, when hundreds of innocent civilians were brutally killed and a priceless amount of precious metals and stones were stolen from the shops of Dariba Kalan.

 Delicacies of Dariba

Discover the rich culinary offerings of Old Delhi’s Dariba, where every narrow bylane entices food enthusiasts with its aromatic delights.

Old Famous Jalebi Wala:
Located at the corner of the street, Old Famous Jalebi Wala is a renowned establishment dating back to 1844, founded by Bhim Chand Jain, a royal confectioner. Indulge in their signature hot and gooey jalebis, served alongside cold rabri, a sweet condensed milk-based dessert. Additionally, they offer crispy samosas deep-fried in pure desi ghee, providing a perfect balance of flavors.

Timings: 8am to 9.30pm

Location: 1795, Dariba Corner, opposite Bank of Maharashtra, Dariba Kalan.

Shree Bala Ji Kachori Bhandar:
For those seeking savoury delights, Shree Bala Ji Kachori Bhandar is a must-visit. This eatery specialises in breakfast options such as kachori-aloo (deep-fried bread stuffed with spiced mashed potatoes) and bedmi poori-aloo (flaky deep-fried bread served with spiced potato curry). If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss their sweet-savoury combination of nagori-halwa, a breakfast dish consisting of crisp semolina bread served with a sweet semolina halwa.

Timings: 7am to 10pm

Location: Shop No. 1783, Lattu Shah Kucha Seth Road, Dariba Kalan.

Hazari Lal Jain Khurchan Wale:
Experience the unique delicacy of khurchan at the legendary Hazari Lal Jain Khurchan Wale. Khurchan is made by reducing boiled sweetened milk to a thick consistency, resulting in a rich, sweet, and sticky delight.

Timings: 10am to 9.30pm

Location: 2225, Kinari Bazar Rd, Kinari Bazar, Dharam Pura, Chandni Chowk, Delhi, 110006

Heritage of Dariba

Jewellers’ Market
Dariba Kalan or ‘The Street of Unparalleled Pearl’ existed as a jewellers’ market during the reign of Shah Jahan and queens and princesses of the royal family frequented the market to purchase the unique gemstones and gold and silver jewellery. The street is popular for precious metal jewellery, gemstones, silver antiques and tableware as well as ornaments used during weddings like chuda and kalirey.

Continuing the royal origins of Dariba Kalan, some of the jewellery shops have survived many generations and emerged as hidden gems in the city as testimonials of change and continuity. Stores like Shri Ram Hari Ram Jewellers, established by the khazanchis (treasurers) of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, have existed for more than seven generations.

The haveli of the treasurer of the  Emperor who built the city of Shahjahanabad, known as the Khazanchi ki Haveli (‘Haveli of the Treasurer’), lies in shambles in the narrow winding lanes of Dariba Kalan. While the haveli is in a dismantled condition, the rich architectural elements like fluted columns and elaborate archways,stand as a testimony to the lifestyle and power of those involved in Mughal court life.

The Naughara Lane, also known as the street of  “nine houses,” is a one of its kind cul-de-sac that is located near the renowned Kinari Bazaar. It is significant, both culturally and architecturally, as it consists of havelis that are exquisitely built and vibrantly painted. The intricately carved and painted doorways of the havelis serve as the perfect photoshoot spot for people wishing to take back Old Delhi in a single shot.

The Jain community was one of the first to settle in Old Delhi, and their culture has been effectively preserved within the city's congested streets. Digambar Jain Naya Mandir and Digambar Jain Meru Mandir are two significant temples close by. These intricately-carved temple buildings, which date back to the 18th century, serve as reminders of the Jain community's rich religious tradition.

The Suraj Wali Masjid, which gets its name from the unique sun emblem, is located near the attar shops of Dariba. This masjid, built by Badruddin Ali Khan, a well-known seal engraver of Delhi, is a hidden gem of the area.

 The Fragrance of 
 Dariba : Ittar Beyond the spicy smell from the tandoors of Old Delhi is an array of shops selling traditionally distilled perfume called ittar. These perfumers use an age-old method of extracting perfume from natural elements like flowers and herbs without adding any synthetic materials or alcohol. Some of these shops have existed for more than two centuries and are known for selling unique fragrances like Mitti ittar, Ruh-e-Gulab, Oudh, Mukkhalat, amongst others

Known as ‘Sikkawala’ on social media, the author of this piece is a numismatist and passionate heritage enthusiast. With a penchant for both tangible and intangible heritage, he delves deep into the rich historical tapestry of Delhi.

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