Khari Baoli Spice Market in Delhi

By Dr John Harrison

The Sadar Bazaar area is most probably Delhi’s oldest and biggest general industry. The Bazaar nestles the Khari Baoli area.

Khari Baoli is the name of an historical street in Old Delhi city. It is well known for being the largest wholesale spice market in the whole of Asia; it is situated near to the Red Fort area, adjacent to the famous Fatehpuri Masjid in Chandni Chowk.

History tells us that the Khari Baoli spice market first came into being around the time when the Fatehpuri Masjid was built in the year 1650 AD under the influence of Fatehpuri Begum, who was one of the remarkable wives of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.

There are several shops in the Khari Baoli area which have been in the business of spices for the past nine or ten generations, and a few shops are still there since the inception of the market.

In fact some shops are still known by their serial numbers, eg: “Chawal Wale 13” or “21 Number Ki Dookan”.

It was during the Mughal Emperor’s reign that the market came to be known as Khari meaning “Khara or Salty” and Baoli meaning “a well with steps”.

The Gadodia market in Khari Baoli built in 1920s nestles many shops selling all kinds of spices, nuts, dry fruits, herbs, and food products like rice and tea.

Khari Baoli is an important and major commercial area for spice dealers. The market was built by the wealthy merchants and it caters to a huge Indian market, especially North Indian states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where traders go around looking for cheaper and better deals.

The Katara Tambaku area is a wholesale market for herbs.

In the Khari Baoli area, the early traders who arrived spread their business to the neighboring areas like Kamla Nagar, Chandni Chowk, Chawri Bazaar, Shakti Nagar and Nai Sarak.

Many of them in fact settled permanently in these areas and their decedents continue there in the spices business to the present day.

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