Delhi 101: #29 The Katras of Chandni Chowk – Dress up in a wedding saree or lehnga

What is it with women and their wedding outfits? Wonder if scientists will ever isolate the gene that makes wannabe brides treat it like a ‘life and death’ issue? But then again, it is almost the same with their shoes, handbags, dresses, jewellery…hey, it is all being said in admiration! Keep the brickbats away!If the west has their whites, India has its reds. Indian bridal dresses – sarees and lehngas (skirt with blouse) – usually come in the richest shades of red; of course, the choice now extends to golden, pink, orange, maroon, magenta, brown and yellow. And made to look even classier with embellishments of embroideries, zari, prints, organza, zardosi, sequins, cut work, mirror work, patchwork, pearl work, kasab, kundan and more. And all by artists who have learnt the art from their forefathers.

Delhi 101: Cover image of book by Ajay JainThis post has been taken from Delhi 101, a book written by Ajay Jain. It is about 101 surprising ways to discover Delhi, one of the most amazing cities in the world for travelers. To know more about the book and to order one, click here.

Buying these dresses is not a simple affair though. You can pick one off the shelf – or order a custom design from tailors or new age fashion designers (costs really escalate here). And then you need to match petticoats, blouses, shoes, handbags and accessories – how do they do it all? They have to – weddings are also a matter of ‘healthy’ competition. Not only the bride, but the closest family members and friends dress up in no less.

Good for the business though.

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Where to buy? The city is full of shops to suit all budgets and dressing sense. Popular brands include Nalli, Vichitra, Meena Bazaar, Jasmine Store, Bombay Selection and Bindals. Or go across to the many markets in the Old Delhi area of Chandni Chowk where you can buy, literally, by the truckload.


* Wear it on special parties
* Cut it up (blasphemy, some will say; bad luck too – but these ill omens are for Indians only – trust us on this one) and make framed wall hangings, curtains, skirts, shirts, cushion covers, covering for decorative boxes – let your creativity flow.


Looking for wedding sarees and lehngas in Old Delhi can be more enjoyable than even owning one. The Chandni Chowk area has many katras (wholesale markets) lined with shops selling these dresses sourced from all over the country. Keep walking along the main thoroughfare and you will find these. Their collections keep changing with trends in the market – often they dictate the trends as customers have to buy what is available. Most of these shopkeepers have all the time in the world to help you choose – patience is a virtue they have honed in dealing with groups of women all day long. Unlike your daily outfits, sarees are tough to try before you buy. No problem – the salesmen (not women, repeat – the men) drape these around them (over their terrycot shirts and trousers) and model for you. No, they do not wear petticoats and blouses nor grow breasts for the occasion.

Unfortunately, most of these shopkeepers can tell you little of the origins and history, or even the designers, of these beautiful dresses. They are just traders – most statements are about how good the material and workmanship is and the prices; they will also convince you about the current offerings being in vogue. Take your pick, and don’t forget to bargain hard. Check the pieces carefully – there is no return or exchange policy.


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