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Dear All,

Ms Kanupriya Dhingra will be presenting a talk on 'The Evolution of a Book Bazar' with focus on the Daryaganj Book Bazar.

The Evolution of a Book Bazaar

Historically, the structure of the bazaars of Shahjahanabad during the Mughal as well as the colonial periods was characterised by the coexistence of permanence and provisionality: the space of a market was structurally defined in the city’s blueprint and was central to the architectural distribution of the city between commercial and residential zones, but the transactions in the minimally built spaces allotted for trade were usually ‘informal’ in nature— especially with reference to their non-uniform buying and selling patterns. Traders did not have standardised prices and could sell very different kinds of goods—such as grains in Naya Bazaar, construction material near Ajmeri Gate, iron and hardware, and paper in Chawri Bazaar, dry fruits and spices in Khari Baoli, and so on (Krafft 1993, 79). Historians such as Jyoti Hosagrahar (2005), Kajri Jain (2007), Narayani Gupta (2003), and Percival Spear (2008) have described the physical and social mannerisms typical of the bazaar, from bargaining to the diversity of the products and population. At the same time they note its centrality to the spatial schema of the city of Delhi, which was hierarchically organized in ways that allowed a heterogenous population to live together. Here, the bazaar is essentially a public space for a more immediate and localized form of trade and commerce than do other models of pure competition (Geertz 1978, 28).

With this talk, I will discuss the case of Daryaganj Patri Kitab Bazaar, which has been recently shifted to a rather closed and controlled space of Mahila Haat, in the same vicinity. Along with the history of the market space, we shall see how it has evolved into a specialised weekly bazaar, known exclusively for its sale of used and rare books.

Read more on the recent displacement of the book bazaar here:


Kanupriya Dhingra is a research scholar of Book History and Print Cultures at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Supported by Felix Scholarship Fund, her current research engages with the parallel book markets of Old Delhi. More recently, her work has been published by Himal Southasian, The Caravan, Scroll.in, Indian Literature, among