Words: Nandini D. Tripathy
Fascinating souvenirs, handcrafted rugs, junk jewellery, distressed denims or cheap electronic gadgets, find whatever you need and more at these five shopping hubs in New Delhi.
This deceptively small shopping hub is the mother of all flea markets in the city, offering an unbelievable range of readymade garments, shoes, bags, dinner sets and even home furnishings at even more unbelievable prices. Closed on Mondays, it sells export-surplus garments as well as rejected export clothing that can be had at throwaway prices. Bargaining is a way of life here, so be sure to polish your negotiating skills or take someone with you who can talk a good game for the best deals.
The most exciting kind of shop at Sarojini Nagar is not always easy to spot, but impossible to avoid once it has caught your eye: a big yellow board with a handwritten double-digit figure inscribed on it, usually 35, 50 or 75, which means that everything inside this shop can be had at that price.
The market is divided into two broad halves and Bapu Market should be your first stop, not only for the streetside stalls but also for the sweet shops where you can enjoy some delicious gulab jamun (a cottage cheese-based dessert deep-fried and soaked in sugar syrup) or rasmalai (a light cottage cheese-based dessert soaked in reduced, sweetened milk).
Built and styled to recreate a traditional village haat (open market), all brick and stone, Dilli Haat is a colourful compendium of stalls where craftspeople from every corner of the country come to showcase and sell a variety of objects, textiles and accessories. It is, in effect, a microcosmic display of India’s handicraft heritage and offers you the finest indigenous fabrics, carpets, rugs, dress materials, sarees, readymade garments, silver ornaments, shoes, toys, wall-hangings and even furniture!
After a round of shopping, settle down at the Nagaland stall for a steaming bowl of thukpa (noodle soup) or call for a handi biryani (an aromatic meat-and-rice preparation served in a clay pot) from the Hyderabad stall. Tickets to enter Dilli Haat are priced at INR20 per adult and INR10 per child.
One of the most iconic complexes of New Delhi, Connaught Place is an expansive, pristine white retail and dining hub that speaks of the city’s colonial past. The structure, which was the largest market of its kind when it was first established by the British, basically comprises two concentric circles, divided into alphabetical blocks.
From luxury accessories and travel paraphernalia to cheap books, branded shoes and every variety of streetside knick-knacks – you’ll find it all here, and more. On the Outer Circle, you’ll find Dhoomimal Gallery, one of India’s oldest art galleries, established in 1936.
You can also make a quick visit to the Tibetan Market nearby, close to The Imperial hotel and pick up some silver jewellery, thangkas (a Tibetan Buddhist painting on fabric) and Tibetan brassware.
Adjacent to New Delhi railway station, the one-kilometre-long Paharganj Main Bazaar is where you’ll find everything from books, jewellery, incense and wooden handicrafts to silver jewellery, bedspreads and tea, are a colourful and chaotic affair. They’re great for buying gifts and souvenirs to take home, and the narrow lanes are an experience in themselves, packed with hole-in-the-wall eateries and rife with the general buzz of local life.
When in West Delhi, do as the West Delhiites do: head to Karol Bagh and splurge on clothes and jewellery for every occasion imaginable. A busy market especially famous as a go-to destination for bridal trousseau, this is where you’ll find the best sherwanis (traditional two-piece attire for men) lehenga-cholis (heavily embroidered skirts paired with matching blouses) and anarkalis (fit-and-flare collarless long tops usually worn with pyjamas).
You’ll also find exquisite sarees with intricate mukesh work, a kind of embroidery that uses thin metallic thread to create patterns on cloth, at several shops here. Bombay Silk Store is a must-visit for sarees in particular.
End your day here with a visit to Roshan Di Kulfi, an iconic eatery that has been around for decades and still serves stellar chhole bhature (chickpea curry with fermented, deep-fried flatbread).