For some of us, Paharganj is just the name of one of two entrances to New Delhi Railway Station, conjuring up images of a grimy and bustling transportation hub. Others might have memories of catching a movie at Sheila cinema back in the day, just north of the railway station. For others Paharganj is the neighborhood they pass through along the wide and dusty DB Gupta Road on their way from Ajmeri Gate to destinations in west Delhi. This road passes over the platforms of New Delhi railway station on a 19th c bridge, the thick masonry arches of which can be studied by travelers waiting for their trains on the platforms.
Away from the everyday consciousness of the regular Dilliwala (other than those employed in tourism-related businesses), Paharganj is also the main backpacker/budget traveler hub of Delhi. The neighborhood is full of (relatively) cheap hotels, with oversized illuminated sign boards that were memorably framed in a scene from the 2009 movie Dev.D.
Arakshan Road, Paharganj
As someone who travels quite a bit throughout India in “foreigner” mode (single budget traveler), Paharganj with its railway station area and hotels presents a really interesting situation. It is the type of neighborhood I would very likely be staying in while visiting other cities and towns in India, but is not a place I would even think of visiting in my hometown of Delhi, not because I have anything particularly against it, but because I just don’t have any need to go there. For many it is a transitory space, and a transitory space at an oversized scale, since the station and hotels are located in the capital of India!
However, before Paharganj became this bustling tourist, transport and transit hub, it was a regular neighborhood in Delhi. There is still building stock in the area from the mid-20th c, sandwiched between new and banal hotel buildings, and waiting for the demolition squad to be replaced by similarly new and banal architecture.
For some more background information and a location map, go to the introduction of this series of posts.
A couple of mid-20th c buildings on Arakshan Road, surrounded by newer hotels and oversized signboards:
In the Main Bazaar Road area, another tourist/transit hub in Paharganj:
This old building was being torn down as part of a demolition/sealing drive on Main Bazaar Road when I visited in 2009/2010.
“Hotel Airlines” at the intersection of Qutb Road and Arakshan Road:
A row of residences on Chitragupta Road:
Along Sadar Thana Road in Paharganj, on the way to Sadar Bazaar: