Khari Baoli: Asia’s largest spice market remains timeless

Not just spice traders, Khari Baoli attracts foreign tourists as well


March 11, 2024

/ By and / New Delhi

Khari Baoli: Asia’s largest spice market remains timeless

Khari Baoli is Asia' largest wholesale spice market (Photo: Media India Group/Dheeraj Singh)

Delhi, a city with a history as layered as its architecture, boasts the remnants of numerous civilisations. One such gem, the Khari Baoli, transcends time, evolving from a historic stepwell to Asia’s largest wholesale spice market, capturing the essence of Delhi’s cultural and trade legacy.

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Khari Baoli, situated in the heart of Old Delhi stands as Asia’s largest wholesale spice market, and its journey to this fame has been long yet interesting it came into being during the 17th century.

While some historians link Khari Baoli to Emperor Shah Jahan’s era, others trace its origins back to Salim Shah, the son of Sher Shah Suri, in 1551. Notheless, most historians agree that Fatehpuri Begum, one of the wives of Shah Jahan, played a pivotal role in the site’s development, leading to the emergence of a commercial marketplace around the Fatehpuri Mosque.

The name “Khari Baoli” reflects a blend of history and geography. Khari which means salty, describes the texture of the water that once filled the stepwell. Over time, this ancient structure transformed into a bustling market for exotic spices, herbs, and condiments.


Besides spice traders from India and around the world, the market also beckons global visitors to savour the essence of India. A sensory delight, the market’s aromatic lanes offer a taste of the country’s rich culinary heritage. Travellers carry these vibrant flavours, encapsulating the spirit of India, back to their corners of the world.

“This market is incredibly fascinating, I have never visited such a bustling yet unique and beautiful market before. Exploring the tea shop was a delight, offering a myriad of tea varieties. I couldn’t resist purchasing the traditional masala chai for myself, among other treasures, this experience at Khari Baoli has been a memorable journey, and I am taking a piece of its charm back home with me,”  Rose a resident of Brazil tells  Media India Group.

Today, the market bustles with foreigners enthralled by its exotic spices and iconic masala chai and many of them, seeking an authentic taste of India’s culinary and cultural richness, have put it on their bucket list.

Asma and Omar

“Being from Morocco, my partner and I explored the Khari Baoli market. The flavours here are exceptional and we couldn’t resist bringing back fiery chili flakes for our love of spicy cuisine. These days have been a sensory journey through the diverse spices of India, and now, as we depart, we carry the essence with us to Morocco, cherishing the memories of this unique market,” Asma and Omar residents of Morocco tell Media India Group.

Khari Baoli has been around for ages and some shops have been around for generations. Among them is Mehar Chand and Sons, a 107-year-old establishment founded in 1917. Currently led by Ashok Kumar and his son, Anshuman Kumar, this legacy has been elevated to new heights under Kumar’s guidance. His expertise in crafting masterful blends and understanding the subtle nuances of tea has taken the enterprise to another level.

Anshuman Kumar

“For 107 years our family has run this shop, Mehar Chand and Son. It has been a haven for food enthusiasts, we offer an extensive array of culinary delights, from groceries and teas to coffees, nuts, and beyond. Our expertise in every facet of gastronomy has made us a destination for both locals and global visitors. In the ever-evolving landscape, technology has been our ally, connecting us with patrons worldwide. Our shop has been visited by chefs and people from Europe, Australia, and America,” Anshuman Kumar tells Media India Group.

“The pandemic dealt a severe blow to our business, yet, with dedication, we are navigating the path to recovery, eager to continue sharing the rich flavours of chai and spices with the world,” he adds.



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