Once A Step Well During Mughal Times, Khari Baoli In Old Delhi Now Asia’s Largest Spice Market

Walking through Khari Baoli, one is immediately engulfed in a whirlwind of spices.

by Tejashee Kashyap
Once A Step Well During Mughal Times, Khari Baoli In Old Delhi Now Asia’s Largest Spice Market

With its intoxicating aromas, vibrant colours, and bustling atmosphere, Old Delhi’s Khari Baoli invites exploration. It is Asia’s largest spice market and history and culture converge here. Its narrow alleys always teeming with merchants and buyers have been engaged in the age-old art of spice trading.

Walking Through Khari Baoli

Khari Baoli is a timeless tapestry of flavours. The market’s origins can be traced back to the 17th century when it was established by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Once a salty water step well, this step well was inaugurated under the reign of Sher Shah Suri’s son, Islam Shah. It is located near the ancient Old Delhi district, next to Fatehpuri Masjid, and was constructed in 1650 by Fatehpuri Begum, one of Shah Jahan’s wives. Nevertheless, Khari Baoli’s current situation is quite different from its past one. The area known as Khari Baoli is devoid of any water and has transformed into a spice treasure trove.

Walking through the entrance of Khari Baoli, one is immediately engulfed in a whirlwind of scents. From the pungent notes of freshly ground cumin to the sweet fragrance of cardamom pods, each spice tells a story of distant lands and ancient traditions. You’ll be amazed at how well-organised and orderly trade is conducted here. Amidst the chaos of the market, vendors sit patiently behind their stalls, expertly measuring out spices with precision honed over generations. The ninth or tenth generation of owners are currently running these stores or the spice trade.

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What’s More To Find Here?

You may encounter exotic spices from across the Indian subcontinent, such as Kashmiri saffron, prized for its rich flavour and vibrant hue, or Malabar black pepper, renowned for its bold and peppery taste. Piles of vibrant turmeric powder glisten, while sacks of crimson chilli peppers add a fiery hue to the bustling thoroughfares.

Alongside the spice stalls, you’ll find vendors selling an eclectic array of street food, from crispy samosas to mouthwatering kebabs. The sound of evening prayers emanating from nearby mosques is soothing. You can see the Fatehpuri Mosque well and Old Delhi appears ethereal from this vantage point. The path leading to the Red Fort and Chandni Chowk will be visible to you as well. The location is well-known among foreign visitors who come to India to take in the cultural beauty of the country.

Isn’t it an enchanting labyrinth of fragrances and colours that beckons travellers and locals alike?

Cover image credits: Flickr