A tale of two Bazaars –Chandni chowk Purani Delhi and The Grand Bazaar Istanbul 

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A tale of two Bazaars –Chandni chowk Purani Delhi and The Grand Bazaar Istanbul 

Bazaar is a Persian word which means a network of merchants, bankers and craftsmen who work in an area. Bazaars are usually places of bustling activity and exchange of goods and capital. A precursors to modern day malls, bazaars have been important centres of cultural exchange and city life. The two famous bazaars which comes to popular imagination are at Istanbul in Turkey and the heart of Delhi known as Purani Delhi or Shahjahanabad, they are namely the Grand Bazaar and the Chandni Chowk.

chandni chowk shahjahanabad purani dilli walo ki baatein
Chandni Chowk, Shahjahanabad

Although the Bazaars are said to be as old as the cradle of civilizations but with population growth in the walled ancient cities of the world , they came to be in the realm of the city itself.

The Grand Bazar Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul with Hagia Sophia in the backdrop is very similar to the Chandni chowk with the majestic Jama Masjid overlooking the bustling marketplace as an omnipresent guardian of sorts. Grand Bazaar was constructed shortly after the quest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmet II in 1453. Chandni Chowk came into being with the shift of the imperial capital from Agra to Delhi in the year 1639, the Imperial Princess Padshah Begum Jahanara designing the layout of the place in 1650’s. An interesting point in both the bazaars is the absence of restaurants and cafes initially due to the social norms prevailing at the times, discouraging the mixing of opposite sexes in public places.

By Abu Sufiyan

The bazaars have been revamped over the period of time with shops of varied contours and utility making their presence felt in a changing cityscape, but the spirit of hustle bustle has remained same over the tides of time in more than many ways. The Grand Bazaar was named Cevâhir Bedestan (“Bedesten of Gems”) and was also known as Bezzâzistan-ı Cedîd (“New Bedesten”) in Ottomon Turkish and the Chandni Chowk has the genesis of its origin in the famous silver merchants that donned its street. One of the main reasons of concentrating the marketplace in a congregation was to provide security against thefts and uprisings as the gates of the city would shut at night and the merchant guild paid the guard for the secutity of their goods.

The Grand Bazar Istanbul

The famous bazaars have been an inspiration to a number of literary and visual arts genre of the times, the famous being the Procession of Emperor Bahadur Shah II through the streets of Chandni Chowk. The Oriental knowhow of the closed Ottoman Empire was also a point of fascination for the western world till late where the Grand Bazaar was the only inlet to know about the great cultural renaissance of the ‘Muslim world’. Bazaars of Baghdad and Busra have been depicted in the Arabian nights and they too are a great reference point in the scholarly study of the life and times of the age. The famous chase of James Bond over the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar in Skyfall or the Backdrop of the Chandni Chowk in Merchant Ivory’s Householder. The Bazaars have fascinated and inspired writers, chroniclers, directors and Photographers, rightly so because they are the Kaleidoscope of life, a glimpse to the heart of the city. A tale of two Bazaars miles and oceans apart, connected by the vibrant labyrinth vibes, they are The Chandni Chowk and The Grand Bazaar. 

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About Haris Hasan

A Corporate communications and advertising techie with interests in Film studies, arts , culture, quizzing,sports , teaching and food!

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