India has a rich culture and history, and this is often best displayed in the many traditional markets in India. In a world where buying anything is just a click away, these bazaars and markets are like an echo of an older era that still continues to exist.
These often labyrinthine markets have been a vital part of Indian culture, trade and social life for centuries, through the Mughal and British eras. They are also an excellent place to buy everything from clothes to jewellery, fruits and vegetables, street food and much more. Just remember, bargaining is part and parcel of this experience! Here are 11 traditional markets in India.
1. Chandni Chowk, Delhi
Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest markets in India. This busy market dates back to the 17th-century when it was established by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and his daughter Jahanara. The endless shops sell all kinds of things, such as jewellery, perfumes, traditional clothes, wedding paraphernalia, leather goods, electronics, spices, antiques, souvenirs and knick-knacks, as well as delicious food. Don’t miss the Khari Baoli, the largest wholesale spice market in Asia.
2. Devaraja Market, Mysore
Located just off the central Sayyaji Rao Road in Mysore, this covered market dates back to the time of Tipu Sultan. It was further expanded Chamaraja Wodeyar IX in the late 1800s. In this lively bazaar, you’ll find all kinds of items such as flower garlands, incense, spices, household articles, mounds of turmeric and vermilion, lush green betel leaves, vegetables, fruits and more, each in its own specific section. Along the outer perimeter, you will find some famous sweet shops specialising in the iconic Mysore Pak.
3. New Market, Kolkata
Previously known as the Sir Stuart Hogg Market, this historic shopping destination on Lindsay Street was founded in 1874. Initially, the enclosed market was built exclusively for Calcutta’s British residents. Today the market is one of the most popular trading hubs in the city and has over 2,000 stores that sell all sorts of items from clothing to electronics, food, flowers, utensils, leather bags, and much more. It has survived various floods and fires and is still continues to be in use.
4. Floating Vegetable Market, Srinagar
The picturesque Dal Lake in Srinagar is famous for its floating vegetable market. This one-of-its-kind market is open between 5 am to 7 am every day. Vendors gather on the lake in traditional Kashmiri boats, known as Shikara, to sell fresh fruits and vegetables as well as wood carvings, saffron and other local items that appeal to tourists. It is now mostly tourist-centric; and huge crowds gather here each morning (usually on boats of their own) to experience this unique market.
5. Laad Bazaar, Hyderabad
Situated beside Hyderabad’s famous Charminar, Laad Bazaar is a historic market that sells just about everything; sarees, perfumes, and silverware, are just a few of the things you’ll find here. However, it is perhaps best known for its variety of bangles, especially stone-studded and glass bangles, and for its pearl jewellery. Just keep in mind that the bazaar is set in a narrow alley, where no vehicles are allowed, and it can get quite crowded.
6. Ima Keithel, Imphal
Located at the centre of Imphal (the capital of Manipur) is perhaps the only market in the world run entirely by women. The market dates back to the 16th-century, and is also popularly known as the ‘Mother’s Market’. Thousands of women traders sit here and sell everything from local produce to clothes, handicrafts, utensils, and more.
7. Johari Bazaar, Jaipur
Johari Bazaar in Jaipur is famous for its jewellery, not surprising for a place whose name literally translates to “jeweller’s market”. It is located near the historic Hawa Mahal, making it the perfect place to visit while sightseeing. Apart from its jewellery, you will find lots of textile shops selling traditional Rajasthani wear as well as handicrafts.
8. Chor Bazaar, Mumbai
Once known as “Shor Bazaar” (or noisy market), this famous market in Mumbai was renamed Chor Bazaar (which translates to thief’s market) due to mispronunciation by British colonists. It is full of stalls selling almost everything you could think of – handicrafts, bronze statues, vintage gramophones, clocks, lamps, furniture, trinkets, Bollywood posters, authentic (and not so authentic) antique items, and much more.
9. Jew Town, Kochi
This market in the Mattancherry area of Kochi dates back to the 16th-century. Lined with neat colonial-era Portuguese-style buildings and narrow streets, the shops sell everything from curios to antiques, handicrafts, perfumes, jewellery and spices. Many of the shopkeepers also descend from a long line of Jewish families who have lived here for generations and are often very knowledgeable about the area’s history.
10. Meena Bazaar, Delhi
Though Meena Bazaar is considered a part of Chandni Chowk, in Delhi, it deserves a special mention. It was built by the Mughal emperors over 300 years ago, and was the first covered bazaar in India. Located between Jama Masjid Kalan and Dalan, near the Red Fort, it is also a popular place to go wedding shopping; as it sells everything – from sarees to jewellery – that you would need for the big day.
11. Flea Markets, Goa
Goa’s beaches are famous (among other things) for their flea markets. They date back to the 1980s when they started as “hippie exchanges” where the foreign tourists sold their possessions. Now they are full of stalls where both locals and foreigners sell clothes, accessories, handicrafts, souvenirs, and more; all at dirt-cheap prices. The Anjuna Flea Market held on Wednesdays, and the Arpora Saturday Night Bazaar are some of the most popular markets. Also, visit the more authentic Mapusa Friday Bazaar where women from nearby villages gather to sell homemade products.
Have we missed any of your favourite traditional markets in India? If so do be sure to share them in the comments below.