India Insight

In pursuit of the perfect lehenga in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk

Each evening, after pulling their shutters down, sari salesmen in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk market sit down for three hours to fold their wares: embroidered, embellished saris and lehengas that customers browsed all day.

Lehengas, embroidered and pleated long skirts, are serious business in Chandni Chowk, a busy Mughal-era market whose name means “moonlit square”. Despite numerous boutiques and malls opening across New Delhi, the old wedding market has kept its charm, its customers and its business.

“If I have a design in my mind I can get it tailor-made, custom-make any designer, whatever it is, I can get that replica made. It might not be an original of Sabyasachi or one of the fancy designers, but it’s very close, you can easily pull it off as one of those designer pieces,” said Reena Bhardwaj, a 29-year-old journalist who recently bought a lehenga priced at 50,000 rupees (about $800) to attend a wedding.

Chandni Chowk was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s favourite daughter, Jahanara Begum, in 1650. Lined with ancient crumbling havelis, chaat stalls, and cramped shops full of bangles, saris, invitation cards and more, the market is a hub for all things matrimonial.

But the market isn’t the glorious place that it used to be. Visitors often find it chaotic, noisy and tiresome, full of touts and agents trying to sell things.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures September 12, 2010

As the anniversary of the 9/11 attack coincided with Eid celebrations, Florida based Pastor Terry Jones announced that he would burn the Koran as a protest  to plans to site a Muslim cultural centre near Ground Zero , stoking tensions in Asia.  Add into the mix millions in Pakistan suffering from lack of water, food and shelter after floods, a parliament election in   Afghanistan and a U. S. -led  military campaign against the Taliban around Kandahar -  photographers in the region had lots of raw material to work with.

Raheb's picture of relief and joy caught in the harsh light of a direct flash seems to explode in a release of tension as news spreads that Pastor Jones had cancelled his plans to burn the Koran. It has to be said that ironically earlier in the day in Pakistan US flags were burned in protest against the planned protest.

AFGHANISTAN/

 Afghan protestors shout anti U.S slogans as they celebrate after learning that U.S. pastor Terry Jones dropped his plans to burn copies of the Koran, in Herat, western Afghanistan September 12, 2010. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

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