With a population of more than 1 billion people, it sure can get crowded in India, especially during festivals and in busy city market areas. These particularly crowded places are both captivating and confronting!
Chandni Chowk (Moonlight Square) in Old Delhi dates back to the 17th century when Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan established the city. This notoriously chaotic and crowded market area was once a grand promenade that royal processions passed through. Nowadays, few traces of its past glory remain. The surrounding narrow streets and alleyways are packed with vendors all competing for space. They sell everything from wedding attire to spices, at bargain prices. You just need to know where to look! The street food in Chandni Chowk is another attraction. This guide to Chandni Chowk will help you navigate the area.
Mumbai During the Ganesh Festival
The last day of the the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai is often referred to as the city's biggest street party. The enthusiastic crowd swells to claustrophobic proportions as the towering idols of Lord Ganesh are paraded through the streets on their way to be immersed in the ocean. Frenetic dancing, loud music, and the throwing of colored powder are integral to the celebration. The procession that accompanies the extremely popular Lalbaugcha Raja (the King of Lalbaug) idol completely engulfs the roads and leaves little room for movement! It goes on through the night until the statue is immersed early the next morning.
Allahabad During the Maha Kumbh Mela
The ancient Kumbh Mela is known as the largest religious gathering in the world. It's as mesmerizing as it is spiritual, and it's attended by millions of people every day! The Kumbh Mela takes place on a rotational basis in four of the most holy Hindu places in India -- Nashik in Maharashtra, Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Haridwar in Uttarakhand, and Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. The Maha Kumbh Mela, held once every 12 years at Allahabad, is considered to be the most auspicious event. It attracts the highest number of pilgrims, who attend to wash away their sins. A temporary tent city, spread over 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres), is set up to accommodate them all.
Jama Masjid in Delhi During Ramadan and Eid
One of India's largest mosques, Jama Masjid in Delhi, is flooded with devotees who gather for prayer during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan (which ends on Eid). After prayer, the crowd spills out into the surrounding area and is joined by foodies who flock there in the night to feast on especially-prepared delicacies from the stalls. Want to experience it? Take the Metro train to avoid lengthy traffic jams, and be prepared to wade through the mass of humanity. This guide to Ramadan in Delhi has more information.
Rush hour on the world's busiest railway definitely isn't for the faint of heart! Up to 7,000 passengers crush themselves into trains built to hold only 1,800 people. They hang from the open doorways and sometimes even sit on the roof. Chhatrapathi Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) in south Mumbai is the busiest railway station, and about 600,000 passengers and 1,200 trains pass through it each day! A ride on a Mumbai local train is a quintessential experience. Here's how to go about it. Just make sure you avoid peak times!
Once a year, Lord Jagannath (a reincarnation of Lords Vishnu and Krishna) leaves his temple in Puri to visit his birthplace and aunt's home along with his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. The idols are placed in massive chariots, which are pulled by devotees. The Rath Yatra festival originated in the 12th century and is believed to be one of the oldest festivals in the world. It attracts more than a million pilgrims. Anyone who gets a glimpse of Lord Jagannath on the chariot, or touches one of the chariots, is considered to be blessed. Read about how the chariots are made. It's fascinating!
Mallik Ghat Flower Market in Kolkata
Early Sunday morning, Kolkata's iconic Mallik Ghat flower market teems with thousands of sellers wielding sacks and baskets of vibrant blooms. It's the busiest day of the week there, although everyday is crowded. The market is more than a century old and is said by some to be the largest wholesale flower market in Asia. That's some serious flower power! Just half an hour spent in its maze of narrow lanes is enough to totally overwhelm the senses. Experience it on this Hooghly Flower Fest tour offered by Calcutta Photo Tours.
Around the Charminar in Hyderabad
The old market area surrounding the Charminar in Hyderabad is super noisy, crowded and infested with traffic. Yet, it brims with heritage, and nowhere else will you find such a gripping look into life in the city. Cheap perfumes, textiles and jewelry are popular items to shop for. Take this highly recommended Charminar Precinct Walking Tour offered by Hyderabad Magic if you think you might feel overwhelmed. This article about the Charminar has more information.
K.R. Market in Bangalore
Bangalore's bustling Krishna Rajendra Market (named after a former ruler in Mysore) comes to life well before sunrise, when flower sellers converge to unload their produce. Vegetable vendors arrive next, as the sun comes up. This historic wholesale market area was established in 1928, upon the conversion of an existing battlefield. It's energetic and a photographer's delight! Visit the market at dawn on this Good Morning Bangalore tour.
Come Sunday and Mumbai's suburban Juhu Beach turns carnival-like, as hordes of the city's residents head there to hangout on their day off work. Don't expect sunbathing or swimming (apart from locals frolicking in the water fully-clothed) at this beach. Sand sculpting, monkeys, cows, cricket, acrobats, food and trinket vendors, and tattoo artists all entertain the crowd.
Dharavi Slum in Mumbai
Often referred to as Asia's largest slum, Dharavi is notorious for its seemingly endless stretch of tinned-roof shanties, all squeezed in as tightly as possible. The slum was founded during in 1882, during the time of British Raj, and is spread over 535 acres. The exact population isn't known, although it's estimated that about a million people live there. The density of up to 2,000 people per acre is astonishing! However, it's not the depressing, poverty-riddled place you may expect. Dharavi is full of flourishing small scale industry and has a cohesive community. Here's why you should go on a Dharavi tour and the best options.
Ranganathan Street in Chennai
Want to grab a bargain in Chennai? Join the swarm of shoppers along Chennai's famed commercial strip, Ranganathan Street in T. Nagar. It has the cheapest prices is the city and judging by the crowd, everyone who lives there knows that! Come festival time (Diwali and Pongal) and the amount of people pouring in is mind-boggling. Everything is available from gold jewelry to saris. Saravana Stores, Jeyachandran Textiles, Rathna Stores and Textile India are the main shops. The road also runs to Mambalam train station, so commuters pass through it as well. The rush starts from around 8 a.m. and doesn't wind down until 10 p.m.