City Guides

New Delhi
By Ruchika Sachdeva

June 28, 2018

Winning the 2018 International Woolmark Prize is a game-changer for India-based Ruchika Sachdeva, who believes in the expression of individuality through dress and aims to make garments for bold women. With a design studio based in New Delhi working with local artisans and materials, Ruchika enlightens us on this vibrant city.

What makes this city special, describe New Delhi.

Chaotic, fascinating and a visual feast.

Where should we base our stay in New Delhi?

The Imperial Hotel at Janpath – For old world charm, built in the twilight years of the British Raj. The hotel bore witness to key moments in twentieth century history. Here Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (India’s first Prime Minister), Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Lord Jinnah, and Lord Mountbatten met to discuss the Partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. Today there’s an atrium where high tea is served and a charming restaurant with a terrace set alongside the gardens, a spa offers the best in traditional Ayurveda massage and therapies.

You could also try a homestay or AIR B&B around the leafy neighbourhood of Nizamuddin East, which sits next to Humayan’s Tomb and is close to Khan Market – one of India’s most expensive areas of real estate. Khan Market has lots of great cafes and places to refresh with lunch. It’s also a short walk from Lodhi Gardens and a 5-10-minute taxi ride from The National Gallery of Modern Art, The National Museum and key Mughal-era architectural monuments.

Which neighbourhoods can you recommend for a walking tour that showcases the architectural side of the city?

The walled city to the North of Delhi, historically known as Shajahanabad, is like stepping into another world. Best to go with a heritage tour guide who’ll be able to take you around the ancient, crowded jewellery bazaars, architectural treasures and endless variety of local street food.

As well as Chandni Chowk and Kinari Bazaar you can visit Jama Masjid, the sixteenth century mosque which is still a site where thousands worship. There are still many ancient Haveli’s in this area, a beautifully restored one is Haveli Dharampura.

Along with the Mughal architecture, the area known as Lutyens Delhi is also worth a visit. It has a lot of colonial influences from pre-independence era and is famous for its wide avenue lined with trees. Driving around the many roundabouts of Central Delhi is also an experience in itself!

The dining experiences we must try, from marketplaces, local delicacies, street food to finer eating are…  

Accent at the Lodhi Hotel– For fine dining. The architecture is modernist, and the restaurant is housed in a large glass room that seems to float amongst the surrounding lily ponds. The food is an intriguing combination of the traditions and flavours of India with global ingredients and techniques.

Cafe Lota- This quaint cafe at the National Crafts Museum offers scrumptious home style Indian meals

Bikanerwala- This chain offers clean street food but only not on the street. There are branches all across India, it’s easy on the pocket and very popular with locals. You can enjoy very peculiar street foods like chaat and Pani Puri along with a variety of traditional Indian sweets. Don’t be confused by many similar sounding fake versions of the popular – Bikanerwala and go for the authentic one.

Parsi Bhonu- Try this restaurant for a different take on Indian cuisine, it specializes in Parsi food, a regional Indian variety. It is in old Delhi so perfect after a walk through the busy lanes of Chandni Chowk

Parathe Wali Gali- This busy street in old Delhi is famous for its ‘Parathas’ or stuffed Indian Naan bread. Here you can find around hundred different varieties of Naan bread, made especially delicious when fried with Ghee (clarified butter).

Top points of interest or landmarks we must see?

Humayan’s Tomb, the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun commissioned by his first wife and chief consort in 1569, and designed by Persian architects. It was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent and is located in Nizamuddin East,  close to the Dina-panah Citadel, also known as Purana Qila (Old Fort). Humayan’s Tomb was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, the shrine of a revered Sufi mystic, next door is an eight-hundred-year old step-well where locals show off their diving skills jumping into the ancient well from surrounding buildings. Take a large scarf to cover your head and shoulders when visiting.

The Lotus Temple, a Bahá’í house of worship that was dedicated in 1986 as a secular temple open to all. The building is composed of 27 free-standing marble-clad “petals” arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides, with nine doors opening onto a central hall with a height of slightly over 40 metersThe Lotus Temple has won numerous architectural awards and has been featured in many newspaper and magazine articles.

The Jantar Mantar, is an equinoctial sundial constructed in 1724 by Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur. It consists of gigantic triangular and quadrant architecture set parallel to the plane of the Earth’s axis and the equator. It can measure the time correctly to half a second.

Whilst at the Jantar Mantar, in the near distance you can see the Palika Kendra building, designed by architect Kuldip Singh, its modernist funicular form echoes the curving planes of the Jantar Mantar.  Singh is part of a school of Indian architecture including Charles Correa and BV Doshi – whose iconic, spare buildings, often clad in exposed concrete, changed the landscape of our cities in the 60s and 70s. BODICE is often inspired by the clean lines and underlying spiritual philosophy of Modernist Indian architecture.

Do take a morning walk in Lodhi Gardens, a glorious tree filled park where friendly street dogs keep watch over ancient monuments, morning joggers and groups practicing yoga.

What are your top favourite fashion, lifestyle or interior boutiques in India? 

Vayu-Design for living in Delhi, housed in Bikaner House, the restored former Delhi palace of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Vayu stocks an eclectic range of mid-century modern furniture designed by Pierre Jeanneret for Corbusier’s Chandigarh, as well as tribal artefacts and antique silver ethnic jewellery, artisanal Indian teas and books on Indian design and fashion.

BODICE STUDIO Store – Come visit our store set within a garden filled with Mango and Rubber trees. Here you’ll be able to shop for our staple line of cool cotton classics BODICE as well as our premier line BODICE STUDIO. Here you can also see how clothes are made in our independent design studio in Delhi. Visits are by appointment only, so don’t forget to email or call us before you drop by.

Mittal Tea Stores in Sundar Nagar Marker, Delhi. A treasure trove of heritage Indian teas from across the hills and mountains of India.

Good Earth flagship store- Khan Market Delhi. Good Earth has become a byword for a uniquely Indian kind of luxury, with beautifully crafted china, table ware and home furnishing made with a distinctly India aesthetic often drawing inspiration from Indian miniature painting, tales of Mughal scented gardens and India’s wildlife. Good Earth also stocks BODICE at its flagship in Khan Market and its branch at Colaba in South Mumbai.

What are the best art experiences?

The National Gallery of Modern Art- It covers the history of Indian art with a strong focus on the 19th and 20th century art movements.

Kiran Nadir Museum of Art With free access to the public and a rotating calendar of stimulating exhibitions, the galley also encourages activities for children to participate in thinking about contemporary art.

Vadhera Art Galley– A small private gallery in Defence Colony

Gallery Ske Founded in 2003 by Sunitha Kumar Emmart, GALLERYSKE opened its second space in New Delhi in 2013. Alongside it’s exhibition programme, the gallery runs T.A.J Residency and SKE Projects with artist Tara Kelton, an inter-disciplinary residency and project space in Bangalore.

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale Seeks to showcase the new energy of artistic practices in the subcontinent.

India has a global reputation for its fascinating temples and spiritual experiences, do you have recommendations on these locations? 

Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, Delhi. Especially for the Thursday night Qawwali, when Sufi mysticism can be experienced through traditional music and singing. At night, the dark courtyard is lit by the glow of hundreds of incense sticks as devotee’s light them believing the scented smoke represents the Saints and Djinns and purifies them of negativity.

Are there any neighbouring cities or hubs one should visit?

A two to three-hour drive from Delhi is the Wildlife SOS rescue centre at Mathura. You can arrange in advance to spend time with the elephants, all who have been rescued from captivity where they were used to give elephant rides at tourist attractions in searing heat or performed in circuses, experiencing decades of abuse to make them do tricks against their will. At the rehabilitation centre you can help in feeding them chunks of juicy melon or assist the staff to give them a refreshing scrub-down in the water pool.

Taj Mahal, Agra– You should also visit Taj Mahal which is few hours’ drive from Delhi- 4 hours by car or 2 hours by train from Delhi. The famed complex is one of the most outstanding examples of Mughal architecture, which combined Indian, Persian and Islamic influences. At its centre is the Taj Mahal itself, built of shimmering white marble that seems to change colour depending on the daylight. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, it remains one of the world’s most celebrated structures and a stunning symbol of India’s rich history.

What other talent is coming out of India that we should know about?

There’s an amazing music scene, with many live music venues in big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Wild City is an online magazine, events management and artist management and booking agency that has become synonymous with the freshest sounds in India. Wild City organizes the three-day Magnetic Fields festival held every December in Alsisar Mahal, a centuries-old Rajasthan palace. In 2017 the festival added The Peacock Club, a temporary jazz venue replete with velvet curtains built in the middle of the desert, as well as a hidden bar serving gin cocktails each afternoon.

What are top tips when packing for India? 

Light flowing cotton dresses, tops and trousers to combat the heat and humidity, a large scarf to wear at temples and other religious places where local culture requires women cover their head, comfortable sneakers and open sandals. Northern India is much cooler between September to February, and you’ll need a short jacket or sleeveless coat such as the one by BODICE STUDIO at Parlour X, in a light wool if here in December-January.

Lastly, bring a BIG empty suitcase, you’ll need it to take back all the wonderful Artisanal textiles, jewellery, contemporary fashion, glorious spices and intriguing artefacts you’ll find when travelling in India!

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