Delhi consists of many cities which were settled by various dynasties over the centuries and one of the prominent cities of Delhi in the 17th Century was Shahjahanabad. The ancient walled city of Shahjahanabad was founded by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1639. The city was a fine example of the grand Mughal Empire and remained its capital till the end of the Mughal Dynasty’s rule in India.
The Glorious City
The city of Shahjahanabad was designed in the shape of quarter circles, in an area of 6.1 sq kms completely enclosed within a wall; for this reason it was also known as the walled city. There were a total of 14 gates in the walled city, which were guarded at all times. At the centre of the city was the Lal Qila (Red Fort), the royal fort & palace of the Mughals from where they carried out their rule on all of India.
The Jama Masjid mosque, located opposite to Lal Qila, was constructed by Shah Jahan as a place of reverence & propagation of Islam in Delhi. The head priest of Jama Masjid was brought in from Bukhara city in Kazakhstan and till today, the later generations of this family are at the helm of the religious affairs at the Masjid.
There were also some other mosques, like the Fatehpuri Mosque located at various parts of the walled city.
A central market place, named Chandni Chowk (meaning moonlight street) was established adjoining to Red Fort. It was designed by Shah Jahan’s daughter Jahan Ara. It is said, that the view of the market during a full moon night was a lovely sight. The Chandni Chowk's main street started from the Lahore Gate of Red Fort and it was about 40 yds wide and 1,520 yds long. A canal passed through the centre of the road, flanked on both sides by trees.
The various residential areas like Dariba Kalan, Khari Baoli and Ballimaran were established on all sides adjoining Chandni Chowk. The residential areas were settled by the trader community, nobility, administrative officials & their families and also families of soldiers etc.
Many famous poets, artists and nobility of the Mughal era came to make this area their home, notable ones being Mirza Ghalib who came to live in Ballimaran, Begum Samru and Hakim Ajmal Khan in Dariba Kalan. There was also an area where the courtiers and palace artists lived, known as Chawri Bazaar; the nautch girls (dancers) of this area were famous for their arts and were frequented by nobility.
Today, the walled city of Shahjahanabad is known as Old Delhi and is a living testimony to the rich Mughal heritage and culture of Delhi.