The high-end mall trend may have overpowered the ground local street markets, briefly, but the old world charm and intrigue that the street bazaars invoke, is unsurpassable. Why crave for Vietnam’s Ben Thahn or Bangkok’s Chatuchak, when India houses some of the most fascinating oldest traditional markets? These markets have been around since decades, but still remain as the last man standing!
Chandni Chowk, New Delhi
Chandni Chowk, a place that needs no introduction really, this one had to top my list. One of the oldest and busiest markets located in central north Delhi. It is believed to be the largest wholesale market in Asia. Established when the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan laid the foundation of Shahjahanabad, which was set to be the capital amongst the cities he ruled, Common folklore says that Shah Jahan had Chandni Chowk built so that Jahan Ara could buy whatever she wanted. And this, remained…..for us to savour!
The bustling by lanes of Chandni Chowk, are now the hub of various sub markets for specific items. Kinari Bazaar has plenteous collections of, jewellry, zardozi items as well as laces and frills. Meena Bazaar is everything bridal you can think of, Dariba Kalan is the one stop shop for silverware and Nai Sarak is a books feast. Apart from the shopping that can you can tirelessly indulge in here, the Paranthewali Gali is a foodie’s heaven, amidst the colony that still has reminiscence of the Mughal era.
Chowringhee Lane, Kolkata
In the mid eighteenth century Englishmen began to build magnificent houses on the Chowringhee that earned Kolkata the title of ‘City of Palaces’. Chowringhee (also spelt Chourangi) is a neighbourhood of central Kolkata, earlier known as …. Lindsay Street leading to the municipal market, was named Robert Lindsay, who had a colourful career with East India Company. Fame and fortune have attended Chowringhee Road for nearly three centuries. One of Kolkata’s principal arteries, throughout the length of its history it has carried an aura of prestige and importance. Chowringhee was one of the first roads in the city and till date it remains as one of the most iconic road of Kolkata. There were and still are some of the most beautiful buildings on Chowringhee, like the Oberoi Grand Hotel, the Janbazar Building, the Chowringhee Mansions, the Asiatic Society, and the majestic Indian Museum amongst many others
The market resides in the quaint neighbourhood of the same name. It is one of the most popular neighbourhoods in Kolkata and pretty raves among folks and tourists for being a shopping destination and entertainment zone. The Chowringhee over looks the vast maidan and this fortunately remained the breathing hole of Kolkata. street vendors selling delicious local food items to the unparalleled views of the huge Maidan, this small lane offers all and then some more.
Flower Market, Mumbai
Tucked under the bridge next to the Dadar train Station, Flower Market or Dadar Phool Gulli trickles and oozes into adjoining alleys and walkways. The biggest and only wholesale flower market in Mumbai, it is also the oldest. Every day, like a life cycle, day in and day out, trucks laden with all types of flowers and grasses come to this market from all over the state. The market also acts as a muse for professional and budding photographers.
Phool Gully, is popular for all kinds of flowers starting from a common flower like Mogra to Roses to Gerberas to carnations to orchid to Laxmi Kamal (Lotus). The market also has wide range of flowers to offer for Pooja (Prayer) like Tulsi Leaves. Market is flooded with all kind of Roses viz. white, pink, red, yellow, etc. and various kinds of flowers, Garlands & Bouquets. However, the only that is a common sight here is the chaos. A chaos that runs down from the top to bottom and feeds their stomach.
Ima Market, Manipur
Khwairamband Bazar is also known as Ima Keithel. In Manipuri Ima means mother and Keithel means market, literally translating into mother’s market. What makes it a must visit, is the fact that it the world’s only all women run market!
During the 18th century, the markets in Manipur were run by women in open air spaces ,especially in the morning. But it was not easy, the Imas also had a bad time when in 1948-52, it was proposed that the existing shed should be demolished. It was done in accordance with some local business person who had vested interest in the market. But the women never gave up. And their legacy of courage stands as the thriving market today.
These Imas dressed in Phaneks which resembles a sarong and Innaphis which is like a scarf, go about their everyday business each day with their forehead marked with sandalwood. Interestingly if you walk down the corridors of the market during the lunch hours or breaks you can find these women talking over socio-political issues! More power to them!
The market is almost the lifeline of the locals, selling everything from utensils, clothes and footwear to meat and fish and jewellery, you can be sure the place is a one stop destination for all basic requirements.
Jew Street, Kochi
The ancient Jew Street with narrow and well maintained street decorated by antique shops and food cafes is definitely worth exploring. The ancient Jewish synagogue with watch tower from 1760 is another place of historical importance and preserves the record of Jewish presence in India. Jew Town was constructed in 1568 is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth. Destroyed in a shelling during the Portuguese raid in 1662, it was rebuilt two years later by the Dutch. The area around the Synagogue is a centre of spice trade and curio shops. 15 minutes by ferry from Kochi Town .The Jewish Synagogue, a mark of exceptional architecture and history, is a fascination for hundreds of visitors everyday. There are a few other Jewish settlements too in the State.
The Jew Street is lined with shops that sell curios, antique crockery, carved wooden furniture, bronze and brass sculptures, remnants of traditional houses, and jewellery. The antique sellers of these streets are the descendants of a fast dwindling population of Jews who settled down here in AD 52. Every piece that they sell has its own tale to narrate – of a palace, of the nobility, of travels across many lands and ages.
Johari Bazaar, jaipur
The oldest market in the Pink city, is a shopper’s paradise…..an understatement, the market, as is apparent by the name, is a jewellery market, rife with every kind and stone, precious and semi precious, particularly diamonds, topaz and emeralds, which makes the Bazaar one of the most popular attractions in Jaipur.
Exquisite jewelries made of gold, emeralds, diamonds and silver can be spotted in several shops at Johari bazaar. Johari bazaar is open for public throughout the week. The overstated exhibition of various kinds of Rajasthani jewelry attracts tourists from various parts of India in addition to the tourists from all over the world. Located in the prime area of Jaipur, the Johari Bazaar is ohari Bazaar is also famous for bandhani and block-printed textiles, so be prepared to browse through a dazzling range of patterns and stock up on colourful fabrics. While you’re there, don’t forget to drop into Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar, widely considered to be Jaipur’s best sweet shop.
Towards the east is the other end of Tripolia Bazaar (it starts from Badi Chaupar), with its metal shops. At a small lane called Maniharon ka Raasta, off Tripolia Bazaar, you can watch lac bangle-makers at work. To the south is Kishanpol Bazaar, which has wood cots, jute strings and silver items.
The oldest bangle or Choodi market in Hyderabad, has been operational since the time of Qutub Shahis and Nizams. Laad means Lacquer. the market is popular for its artistic variety of lacquer bangles studded with artificial diamonds. In this 1-kilometre long shopping strip, most of the shops sell bangles, saris, wedding related items, and imitation jewellery.
The narrow lane is filled with burkha-clad women, bangle shops and old buildings with wooden balconies, bargaining and haggling is part and parcel of this market. Shopkeepers employ “beckoning” tactics, placing an employee at the entrance of the store beckoning passers-by to enter their shop. What all you can find here ranges from semi-precious stones, pearls, jewellery, to products such as silverware, Nirmal, Kalamkari paintings, bidriware, lacquer bangles studded with stones, to saris and handwoven materials of silk, cotton, brocade, velvet and gold embroidered fabrics, traditional Khara Dupattas, lacquer bangles and perfumes.
If you’re visiting any of these cities, a little retail therapy at the the oldest traditional markets in India, is what I advocate….indulge in the tradition and soak in the old world feel!