What was once a mere stepwell, as the name suggests, has long since become Asia’s largest spice market. When the Khari Baoli market started in the 17th century in Delhi, little did anyone imagine the proportions to which the market would grow over the centuries.
There are generally three types of people who visit the Khari Baoli Market – people who are interested in buying the spices and other fares, people who are interested in experiencing the heritage that is Khari Baoli, and then there are Instagrammers. I am a combination of all three. I am also someone who really, really loves going to vegetable markets and spice markets and experiencing the lovely colorful sights and smells of the place. So, Khari Baoli is definitely not something I would miss, would I?
Khari Baoli traces its origin back to the year 1650, when one of the five wives of the then Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan got this market built. At this location then was a saline stepwell, which led to the name being coined as khari baoli, meaning saline stepwell. However, do not go around looking for this baoli now, it no longer exists. The market is really old, of course, with some of the stalls being run by tenth to twelfth generation of the family now. Vendors from all over the country and even other countries come to buy spices here.
A visit to the market won’t be without a sneeze fest (I said sneeze fest, not a snooze fest, mind it). All around you there are so many colors and hues, pungent aromas, it can all be overwhelming, and there is a good chance you could get lost too. The place is a heaven for Instagrammers and photographers – professional and amateur. The spices and wares are arranged in an organized way, and there are so many colors everywhere, it definitely makes for great, memorable pictures.
Roaming around the market, you’ll find all kinds of spices, Indian, imported, all of it. You can get raw whole spices, processed spices, you name it, and its there. Apart form spices, you’ll also often find dry fruits and other wares in the Khari Baoli market.
Once you’ve roamed around and bought goodies to your heart’s fill, and taken enough pictures that you feel saturated, make your way through the narrow paths towards the hidden spice market rooftop. This hidden rooftop offers such unique picturesque vistas of Old Delhi that it would leave you mesmerized. So, I would suggest, you might as well leave spare some memory space in your camera or phone to be able to capture these views. From the spice market rooftop, you can view the majestic Red Fort, the Fatehpuri Masjid, the other important landmarks in the area, as well as the markets of Chandni Chowk.
A visit to Delhi would be incomplete without a visit to Khari Baoli, that’s for sure. You could spend at least half a day here, exploring the different lanes, and chilling out on the rooftop for a bit. After that, you can go down to the neighboring parathewali gali in Chandni Chowk or relish the delicious snacks of Chawdi bazaar.
Here’s a quick reference guide to help you plan your trip:
How to reach Khari Baoli?
Thanks to the well-established network of public transport in Delhi, getting to Khari Baoli is really easy. From your nearest metro station, catch a metro to Chandni Chowk. Get down at the Chandni Chowk station, then follow the exit marked towards Chandni chowk. From there, follow the exit marked for Khari Baoli, it will be a route passing through the garden. It is a 15-20 minute walk. And voila!
Google maps has good coverage of the region, so take help from the map if you are confused. From personal experience, I highly recommend taking help of Google maps rather than asking strangers for directions.
The place, including the metro station and surrounding areas, the way to the market as well as the Khari Baoli market is an extremely crowded area, so please take of your belongings. Carry minimum possible things, and keep your valuables safe. Avoid jewelry, watches, etc. and be extra careful of cameras, phones, purses, wallets, etc. Don’t let the crowd boggle you, it can get a bit overwhelming.
What is the best time to visit Khari Baoli?
The Khari Baoli market is open all on days of the week except Sunday. The market stays open from 10 AM to 8 PM. The best time to visit would be between November to March which are the cooler winter months. It is highly recommended to go during the evenings. Avoid going in the morning and afternoons, the place gets really, really hot, and the heat would be extremely draining and exhausting. In the evenings, the temperature is relatively lower, so it is cooler and a more pleasant experience.
What to carry and what to wear?
You need to carry plenty of water. Walking around the market in the crowd is an exhausting exercise, and it is essential to stay hydrated. Wear comfortable footwear, you’re going to be walking around a lot. I personally recommend good cushioned walking shoes, preferably with a thicker sole. I would also recommend carrying an empty backpack instead of a purse or tote, etc. You can wear your backpack in the front, so you can safeguard your belongings (and yourself) in the crowd. This is something I do every time I am walking around exploring a place, no matter what the city. This keeps your hands free, which is essential.
When you visit Khari Baoli, don’t forget to tell me about your experience? Or better, why don’t you ask me to tag along?