The roofed bazaar

If a proposal is approved, Chatta Chowk Bazaar in Red Fort will get its original 17th century look

Chatta Chowk Bazaar, built during the construction of the Red Fort from 1638 to 1648, is one of the oldest markets in Delhi. This roofed market was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, for the ladies of the fort. It used to be called Bazaar-i-Musaqqaf (saqqaf means roof). Heritage educationist Navina Jafa says Shah Jahan drew inspiration from Lahore for this bazaar.

The Lahori Gate opens to this covered market with shops on either side displaying handicraft items and antiques. The goods range from souvenirs, puppets, jewellery, jewels, gemstones to bags with meena work.

Efforts are being made to restore the aesthetic look of the bazaar. A comprehensive conservation management plan is awaiting approval. According to the plan, all the shops will have wooden doors. The bazaar will look as it did in the 17th century.

"All the shops here are very old and sell only antiques and handicraft items. Most of the customers are Indians. Peak season is from October to March," says Kamal Jain, owner of Jain Gift House, a 100-year-old shop.

"After Britishers began ruling India, during the 1870s, they started giving shops on lease. The Indian Army took over in 1950 and the lease was paid to them. As time passed, more shops opened here. In 2005-06, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was handed charge of the bazaar," conservation assistant Milind Angaitkar, the ASI incharge of the Red Fort, says.

One of the major problems that people face here is that the two massive doors cannot be closed because every year, during the Independence Day preparation, the level of the road inside is raised. The road is asphalted to ensure smooth traffic. "We are also considering lowering the level of the road," Angaitkar says.

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