Delhi, the cultural hub and capital of India, is one the oldest cities having seen numerous changes in dynasties and rulers, right from the Tughlaqs, Lodis, Mughals to the Britishers etc., holds a special place in every Delhiites’ heart. The place houses people from all different communities, staying together and interacting with each other.
Delhi is nothing without its local places, be it shopping stops like Sarojini Nagar or food haven like Chawri Bazar or book market in Darya Ganj or marriage-cards retailers in Chandni Chowk etc. to posh localities like Defence Colony, Malls like Emporio, Promenade etc. Each place bears its uniqueness in name and purpose. So how do these places come into being with the name they are given? The names as fascinating as they sound make us wonder what the meaning behind them is. Let us have a look.
1. Hauz Khas
Hauz Khas, more famously known for the Hauz Khas Fort-an ancient fort people go by and Hauz Khas Village-for the location of various pubs, cafes, bars and restaurants, where people relish their weekends, is named after an ancient reservoir of water that still exists and can be visited. ‘Hauz khas’ stands for royal lake or royal (water) tank, ‘Hauz’ for water tank/lake and ‘Khas’ for royal or special. It was built as a water supply tank to the nearby Siri Fort inhabitants by Allauddin Khilji, during the Khilji dynasty’s reign.
The backpacker’s hub for the location of affordable hotels and restaurants near the New Delhi Railway Station has quite a history to its name. Being one of the five main markets of Shahjahanabad, the capital of Shah Jahan’s Mughal Empire, Paharganj was the only outside Ajmeri Gate of the Walled city. It gets its present name due to its proximity to Raisina Hills, as ‘paharganj’ can be translated literally as ‘hilly neighbourhood’.
‘Jhandewalan’ is probably best known because of the mandir situated of Aadi Shakti Ma Jhandewali, an incarnation of goddess Durga. The name was provided during the reign of Shah Jahan, because of the presence of prayer flags or ‘jhandas’ that were offered. The temple built during the ancient times also has a subterranean shrine along with the ground level mandir.
4. Dhaula Kuan
The name ‘dhaula kuan’ refers to white well, ‘dhaula’ meaning white and ‘kuan’ a well. An ancient well with white-coloured sand was the structure behind the name probably built by Shah Alam II. The well now supposedly lies along the route in the Jheel Park Complex near the metro station, though this is not confirmed.
5. Majnu ka tilla
Majnu ka tilla as the name suggests literally means a hillock/tilla of Majnu and is named after a local Iranian Sufi mystic, Abdulla who was nicknamed as Majnu who lived during the reign of Sikandar Lodhi. The gurudwara was built as a commemoration to Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak who stayed with Majnu for the former was impressed with the latter, who used to ferry people across the Yamuna river for free as a devotion and service to God.
6. Khari Baoli
The largest wholesale spice market of Asia is not unknown, yet the name itself is quite intriguing. Khari Baoli, established by Khwaja Abdullah Laazar Qureshi during Islam Shah’s reign was a step-well (baoli meaning well, khari or khara for salty taste). It was not until Shah Jahan’s reign that this place came to be known with its current name for being a saline water body used for animals and bathing purpose. However, the structure today lies buried under the main road of the market and cease to exist.
7. Sarai Kale Khan
Named as ‘Kale Khan ki sarai’ earlier, after a Sufi saint Kale Khan of 14th-15th century. The place was named as a sarai which means a rest house for travelers and caravans travelling through the royal route from Mughal imperial courts and Chandni Chowk to Mehrauli.
8. Chirag Delhi
The cramped neighbourhood of Chirag Delhi, near Greater Kailash, was once a glorious structure with huge grounds, greenery and ponds. The village came to be known as such, after a renowned Sufi mystic Nasiruddin Mahmud Chirag Dehlavi, who was conferred Roshan Chirag-e-Dilli by the Sultan of Delhi, Feroze Shah Tughlaq. The Saint’s mausoleum still lies here in the middle with a large old khirni tree whose components have medicinal and healing properties as believed by the locals.
A locality in South Delhi, it has numerous stories to brief about its history for the name. One of the stories include the name being given after a Colonel named Young, who was told to move the people of the Raisina village-the famous place where the President of India resides-for making way to build the now standing edifices of state. Thus, it was named as ‘Youngpura’ but was later colloquialised as Jangpura. Another story names the place as a tribute for ‘Jang Bahadur Rana of Nepal’ given by the British Raj for the friendship between the two during the former’s 38 years rule.
Not many people are aware of an ancient tomb with the name ‘Barah Khamba’ entitling to its name meaning 12 pillars, supporting a vaulted roof. This Afgha-era structure was used as an office for executive engineer in May 1914, according to documentation by Maulvi Zafar Hasan in 1919. The place has been known as Barakhamba during the British Raj because of the said structure perhaps, but due to rapid urbanization and with sprawling buildings and bungalows lining the street now, this structure no longer exists but the name remains.