New Delhi: It doesn`t offer the airconditioned comforts of sprawling malls or the attractive decor of shops in posh markets. But with Diwali round the corner, hordes of festival shoppers are thronging the cheek-by-jowl shops in the narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk - a more than 350-year-old market in the old quarter of Delhi.
From floating designer candles, decorative pooja thalis and Ganesha idols to curtains, fabrics, bed sheets, silverware and other household items, the market offers everything that Diwali shoppers might want to buy, that too at highly subsidised rates.
"During festival time, many people come here to order in bulk because that way the deal turns out to be very cheap for them. If you have the time and energy to look around and bargain, this is the place you should visit," suggests Sunil Jindal, the owner of a shop in Chandni Chowk.
"Most of the retailers buy items from here in bulk and then sell it at double the price in other parts of the city," he added.
Nirbhay Gupta, an HR manager, goes to Chandni Chowk every year to buy gifts for family and friends at this time of the year. Diwali will be celebrated Saturday.
"I know it`s a pain to go there and shop. But at the end of the day, it is worth the effort because there is variety, you get discounts in bulk purchase and at the same time you can eat some awesome street food as well," Gupta said.
Mallika Kumar, who works as a consultant with a multinational, said: "You get most of the stuff at half the price. For instance, a metal wall-hanging for which you might shell out Rs.400 at a high-end Diwali Mela will sell for a flat Rs.200 in Chandni Chowk. The same goes for other things like curtains and bags."
The market is flooded with decorative items in myriad shapes, colours and designs.
Candles in the shape of leaves, flowers, earthen and wax lamps in bright colours like pink, red, orange are prominently displayed. Pooja thalis, small decorative temple models and beautiful idols of Lakshmi and Ganesha - the gods popularly worshipped on the festival - have been fast disappearing off the shelves.
Vinod Kumar, owner of a wholesale shop in Chandni Chowk that deals in items for the festive season, says their designs are simple but popular.
"You can`t expect something different every Diwali. What you get is a modified and improved version of items to add that extra zing to them. A little change here or there in colour and material and a new product is ready," Kumar told IANS.
"The trick of modification does wonders in sales because customers like that little bit of innovation in items as well as designing and packaging," he added.
Added Ram Mohan, another shopowner in Chandni Chowk: "The metal diyas and pooja thalis are very popular this season. They look very attractive and neat and last a long time as well. At the same time they are a very good gifting option."
These candles are priced at Rs.80 for a pack of six while Ganesha idols are available for Rs.100-Rs.500, depending on the work, size and style.
Established in 1650 after emperor Shahjahan shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi, Chandni Chowk became the heart and soul of the Mughal empire`s commercial activities and even today boasts of the same importance among wholesale traders.
And what better time to savour the flavours of the old market than Diwali!