The Fabulous Flea Markets of India
We live in a digitally dependent world. In an age where everything imaginable is a mere click or two away, the idea of trotting out into the market to procure your everyday essentials is deemed, well, antediluvian. And yet, the enigmatic charm of flea markets continues to attract crowds by the dozens even today. Be it the sight of vendors both old and young trying to make an honest living by selling everything from handcrafted whatnots to freshly made jalebis, or be it the unruly racket of experienced hagglers at their wrangling best, a flea market is nothing short of an experience in itself. Our country, fortunately enough, is home to scores of flea markets that are both historically and culturally significant. We’ve listed down the best ones for you.
Colaba Causeway, Mumbai
Known to be a shopper’s paradise, Colaba Causeway is your one-stop-shop for everything you can hope to buy. This includes (and is not limited to) clothing, junk jewellery, handicrafts, souvenirs, books, accessories, bags, knickknacks, and gewgaws. Such is the allure of the causeway that it is thronged throughout the day by tourists as well as locals from around the city. Make sure your jostling skills are on point, though — you’ll certainly need them here!
Chor Bazaar, Mumbai
Here’s an interesting fact: while many imagine Chor Bazaar’s name to be derived from the fact that it’s a thieves’ market, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In the days bygone, the market was actually called Shor Bazaar, but that quickly got corrupted because the British pronounced it as ‘Chor’. Well, the name stuck, and we inherited the mispronunciation which is now the norm. The vendors at the bazaar have made the most of the reputation, though, and if your haggling skills are honed enough, you can find some of the best second-hand antiquities, trinkets, and bibelots in abundance.
Laad Bazaar, Hyderabad
Situated in a narrow lane that barely allows two people to walk abreast, Laad Bazaar makes up for the snag with its splendour and aesthetics. Visually stunning, the traditional bazaar is known for its beautiful bangles, semi-precious stones, pearls, and other forms of jewellery.
Arpora Saturday Night Market, Goa
If you ask us, this isn’t even just a flea market — it’s a one day carnival. As the name suggests it operates on Saturday Nights in Arpora, Goa, and is known for its splendid variety of clothes, handmade accessories, shoes, bags, and even home decor items. Throw some delectable street food and live musical performances into the mix, and you’ll be glad you traded one night of clubbing in Goa for this wonderful experience.
Sarojini Nagar, Delhi
You’ve seen it in Bollywood movies and heard its name in chart topper songs, but none of it can do justice to the actual experience of shopping at the place. With the best of fashion available at a bargain, it’s actually borderline addictive, and you can easily expect yourself to spend a whole day (if not two) at the market itself.
Parry’s Corner, Chennai
Colours, colours, and more colours. Parry’s Corner is pretty alright, but considering the fact that it’s thronged by thousands at all times, it’s almost equivalent to travelling in a Mumbai local at peak hour. If you don’t find the idea of trudging through large crowds daunting, though, head over for a shopping experience of a lifetime, where you can pick up anything from clothes, furnishings, and everyday household items at giveaway rates.
Johari Bazaar, Jaipur
Traditional, handcrafted jewellery, anyone? Dubbed the shopping centre of the city, Johari Bazaar is home to five hundred stores that cater every mood and every need. Be it jewels, gems, precious stones, or just traditional Rajasthani gold jewellery, the market is full of skilled artisans with generations of experience in the field which helps them find the best match for you. To add to that, the market is flanked by other markets like Bapu Bazaar and Nehru Bazaar, where you can find gorgeous garbs as well. Throw in the famous lassi at LMB into the equation and all of it together makes for the perfect day out in the Pink City.
Anjuna Flea Market, Goa
Every flea market has its own story, and Anjuna’s is rather fascinating, to say the least. If the old wives’ tale is to be believed, the Anjuna Flea Market was started decades ago by a bunch of hippies who created handcrafted merchandise that helped them fund their stay in Goa. Today, the market operates just on Wednesdays, and has the best merchandise from all around the country available at multifarious stalls that are set up by locals in the area. And of course, it wouldn’t be a flea market in Goa if there weren’t delicious street food and amazing live performances to go with the shopping, would it?
Ima Market, Manipur
It is one of the oldest markets in India, and it might just be the most spectacular one too. Ima Market, which literally translates to mother’s market, is run solely by thousands of women, making it Asia’s largest (and in all probability, one of its kind) all-women’s-market. The self dependent women sell everything from handicrafts to fish in a remarkable setting that is simply unheard of and hard to find elsewhere. In fact, its origins are said to date back to the 16th century, making it one of oldest women empowerment movements in the country.
Dilli Haat, Delhi
The word ‘haat’ is used to describe a market in many parts of rural India. So Dilli Haat, essentially, is a traditional rural market. Situated in the south of the chaotic capital, the ‘haat’ has been operational since 1994 and has various exclusive and exotic handicrafts on offer that showcase the talent of the many skilled artisans and the terrific detailing and intricacies with which they work. Although you have to pay a fee of Rs. 15 to enter, it is redeemed entirely in the form of both the aesthetics, as well the many cultural and musical performances that one can enjoy whilst in the market.
Chandni Chowk, Delhi
Desi pop culture represent! If you’ve as much as skimmed through a few Bollywood movies, you’d know about the existence of Chandni Chowk. Built in the 17th century by Shah Jahan and designed by his daughter Jahan Ara (no seriously, look it up!), it remains one of India’s largest and busiest markets. Apart from selling fresh and absolutely lip-smacking Indian sweets, the Chowk is also known for selling home decor items, various fabrics, junk jewellery, as well as electronics.
Sardar Market, Jodhpur
If you’re sightseeing in Jodhpur, there’s no way you won’t come across this magnificent market. Situated a stone’s throw away from the famous Mehrangarh Fort, the panoply of the market will quickly have you under its spell. Sold here are Mojris, handicrafts, textiles, bangles, and even unadulterated spices by a bunch of boisterous vendors who are known to drive a hard bargain!
Janpath Market, Delhi
Frequented by tourists and locals alike, Janpath is one of the more ostentatious flea markets in the capital. The name literally translates to the people’s path and the kilometre and a half stretch runs perpendicular to the Rajpath (the rulers’ path). The market is famous for its Kashmiri Pashmina Shawls, Kurtis, Himalayan and Tibetan products, as well as the many ebullient hawkers who sell a bunch of baubles and gimcracks.
New Market, Kolkata
Here’s a quick history lesson: The New Market in Kolkata was constructed in 1874 simply because the British colonists refused to rub shoulders with the Indian populace at markets. With that bit of casual racism out of the way, let’s focus on what else the New Market has endured. Two major fires, regular flooding, and an exotic pet-trading business that was only uncovered and stopped in the mid-70s. While the market isn’t half as dramatic today, its 2000 stalls sell everything from marble counters, saris, crockery, to Nahoum & sons’ cakes that patrons have enjoyed for well over a century.
Jew Town, Cochin
While it might come as a surprise to many, India was actually home to numerous colonies of Jews who lived peacefully in the country for over two centuries. Post 1948, many chose to move to Israel, but the few who chose to stay back in Cochin own a majority of the shops in this market called Jew Town. The last known surviving Jews in the area make a living by selling spices, perfumes, shawls, handcrafted products, jewellery, and other similar products from around the country.