Yamuna Paas

  • Shilpy Arora / FG
  • India
  • Sep 28, 2012


East Delhi, aka Trans Yamuna, has always been considered as the Capital’s poor relative – a settlement area for waves of impoverished immigrants. However, its fortunes dramatically changed when the proposal to build Line 1 of the Delhi Metro, and a sports complex during the Commonwealth games became a reality. It propelled East Dehi into the spotlight. While many might be aware of the infrastructural development taking place there, maybe just a few know that East Delhi boasts some of the world’s biggest markets and temples, beautiful parks, and a colony with over 1,000 inhabitants from the Jhajjar district of Haryana!


Start your visit from the North Eastern village of Wazirabad, where the Yamuna enters the city of Delhi, and extends up to an area of 48 Km. Wazirabad offers a spectacular wider view of the river, with small farms surrounding it on both sides. The historical Radha Krishna temple is a must visit. It is believed that Lord Krishna used to visit this temple, to feed the holy cows. 

Head next to the beautiful Yamuna Biodiversity Park, which is an initiative by the botanists of Delhi University. As you walk along the path bordered by ‘ber’ trees filled with fruit, you come upon a large freshwater lake. Its waters are not from the Yamuna. The lake was initially filled with pumped water and is now recharged by the rains. A renowned bird watcher, Dr. Oswal, explains, “This Park is home to many Darters, Cormorants, Red-crested Pochards, and Northern Shovellers. The Cormorants pick up prey from the water and then return to their perches. In the near future we expect it to be a major tourist spot, and a haven for wildlife photographers.” 

It is time to take a boat cruise down the river. With over seven bridges from Delhi, millions of people cross the Yamuna every day. Unfortunately, the river is dirty beyond belief, and stinks a lot. The boat ride costs Rs. 200. The boats are available from 8 am. Go to Qudsia Ghat, located close to the Ladakh Buddhist Vihara. This big Ghat is believed to be in existence since the Mughal Era.  Don’t also miss the Tibetan market on the Ghat. You might find a branded T-shirt under Rs. 200. The market also offers Tibetian junk jewellery and artefacts. A splendid statue of Gautam Buddha, at Ladakh Buddha Vihar, is also an important tourist attraction. Holistic healing sessions and meditation services are held at a centre near the statue. The boat ride is an eye-opener on how debris and waste is mixed with the clean waters of the Yamuna. As one reaches Trans Yamuna – at Nigambodh Ghat, one can witness the gleaming Metro Train whizzing overhead, while below, at the other end, bullock carts are still being used to carry passengers. A boatsman, Praveen Kumar, who has been here for the past 30 years, informs, “It is believed that during the Mahabharat era Lord Brahma bathed and recovered his memory at this Ghat. Nigambodh means - realisation of knowledge.” Today, it is a cremation ground. 

Just six kilometres ahead is the biggest readymade textile market of Asia, in Gandhi Nagar. The area is one of the most congested colonies in the City, and has a population of around 3.5 lakh. For years Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim communities are living peacefully in this area. While the majority of the Muslim community works in the garment factories, most of the land is owned by Sikhs and rented out to Hindu shopkeepers – who with their business acumen have made it the biggest market in the continent. Shopkeepers swear that the market offers fabric from every corner of India. One can find anything here - from pure wool sweaters to 100 per cent cotton, silk, polyester, and denim. Unlike other export/wholesale markets, any quantity of fabric can be bought here – from two metres to 1 lakh metres, that too on the spot. “Garment manufacturers can get any variety, any quantity of fabric at Gandhi Nagar, and at least 25 per cent lesser cheaper than mill rates. We are selling the fabrics at a lesser price not because the quality of fabric is inferior, but because we procure the lots from the mills in huge volumes – that too on cash-down payment basis,” says Shyam Aggarwal, President, Export Surplus Cloth Merchant Association, who also runs a trading company called Lakshya Udyog. Aggarwal, owner of Aggarwal Brothers, that is famous for selling pure white cotton and Lycra fabrics, says “The demand for new types of fabrics is increasing, so we have started focusing on different varieties of fabrics. We source fresh and export surplus fabrics from Erode, Salem, and Mumbai. We can get any fabric on demand, from any part of the world.”

Some traders like Rajat Traders claim to be the only ones in the continent selling pure silk, with a variety of over 30 to 40 types of silk. Aliana, who belongs to Belgium, has found some beautiful laces and zippers in the market. “I think it is the only place in India where you can get original Russian lace and authentic Velcro!” Not just shopping, but one can find some of the oldest eating joints here. While the 60-years old Ramesh Dhaba and the  roadside Amar Chole Bhatore wala are known for serving vegetarian delicacies, non-veg lovers shouldn’t miss the Biryani at Kalle Baba.

How about a visit to a widespread residential area – Laxmi Nagar? The area is famous for its Tuesday flea market, “Mangal Bazaar”. It is visited not only by the locals, but by people from Northern Delhi and even Faridabad. The market is famous for cheap cookware. If you don’t get a chance to visit Laxmi Nagar on Tuesday, you still have a lot to explore. Firdous Masjid, located near Ramesh Extension, boasts rich Mughal and Persian architecture. “When architects from Persia were invited to decorate the walls of Rashtrapati Bhawan, a local Muslim artist, Ali, brought a Persian artist here. At that time this place was a typical Muslim village. We are proud to have such splendour in East Delhi, but unfortunately, not many people are aware of it,” says Maulawi Amhadullah Shah. The area also has a cultural centre, Poorva Sanskrutika Kendra. With a big exhibition hall and a world-class restaurant, it is one of the most important cultural centres in East Delhi.

Another residential area, Nirmaan Vihar, located down the Vikas Marg is worth a visit. A rickshaw ride is perfect to explore the area. While on the way to Nirmaan Vihar, sample the hot aloo tikki at Bobby Tikki Wala. Just as Bittoo Tikki wala is famous in North Delhi, Bobby Tikki wala is the pride of East Delhi. A newly built Dilshad Colony is a heaven for art lovers. It is home to some of the renowned artists of India, such as O.P Sharma, Khazan Singh, and Suman Agarwal. The Colony’s residential club houses a gallery, showcasing famous paintings and photographs. It is open for outsiders from 11 am to 2 pm. However, the artwork is not for sale.

Before you leave Nirmaan Vihar, relish the sweets at the famous Nathu Sweets. “We moved to Gurgaon some six years ago. Still, there is no eatery like Nathu Sweets, that offers traditional delicacies. Whenever I go to Laxmi Nagar, I make sure to bring the Petha from Nathu sweets,” says Amar Dayal, a resident of Vatika City. On your way to Preet Vihar, you will see the Gokuldhaam Mandir, that has a five feet tall statue of Lord Sheshnaag. Locals believe that the statue protects the area from floods

For Gurgaonites, the most interesting place to visit is Jal Vihar, situated near Jheel area. With over 1,000 inhabitants from Jhajjar, the Colony is a great connect between Haryana and East Delhi. “In East Delhi we learnt about cultural integration, the different religions and languages. We are proud that even Sikh communities living in the area participate in our festivals like Teej and Lath Maar Holi,” smiles Diksha, who has been living the Colony for 50 years.

A tour to East Delhi is incomplete without a visit to the famous Akshardhaam temple. One of the largest Hindu temples in the world, Akshardham looks spectacular at night, with its colourful lights. The Temple was inspired and developed by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual head of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha. More than 3,000 volunteers, with the help of 7,000 artisans, constructed the Temple. Besides the large central complex crafted out of stone, the Temple features exhibitions based on the history of India and the life of Swaminarayan. Nilkanth, a musical fountain that gives the message of the Upanishads, is the most popular with the tourists. Another epitome of infrastructural development, the Commonwealth Games Village, is located just three kilometres from Akshardham.


Not so long ago Trans Yamuna was known for its shabby bus terminals, congested markets, and old-world shopping centres. However, today, with world-class malls, high rises, and well-crafted intersections and flyovers, it has become a well-developed hinterland, and a wonderful mix of old and new.


Ab Yamuna Paas Hai.


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