Ima Keithel Women’s Market is the largest market in Asia run solely by women. With approximately 5000 women traders dominating the market, Ima Keithel in Manipur flourishes with the grandeur of the state’s rich history. In this all women’s market, the traders are popularly known as Imas or mothers.
The market provides various kinds of products starting from groceries, fish, fruits, vegetables to handlooms, garments and home appliances. Located in Khawairaband Bazaar, it is one of the popular tourist attractions in Manipur.
The History of Ima Keithel Women’s Market
It is believed that all women’s market originates way back in the 16th century. The forced labor system or lallup-kaba in Manipur mandated the male population of the state to serve the military forces. The system imposed a burden on women to be engaged in several activities for supporting the family. They had to work on the fields, handloom firms, textile industries and also sell the finished products in the market. Eventually, the process attained magnum and emerged as the Ima Keithel Women’s Market. It is the state’s main commercial center and trading hub.
Shopping at Ima Keithel Women’s market
Innumerable items are sold at all women’s market. You can find different kinds of fruits and vegetables even the exotic ones being sold at the market. All kinds of groceries are available for purchase in a unique market. The locals frequent the place for buying their normal daily needs.
One attractive feature of the market is the handmade art and craft by the women folk. You can observe different kinds of dolls adorned in colorful gorgeous dresses displayed in the shops. Many toys, lanterns, weaved baskets are available for purchase. It’s simply amazing to watch the intricate work of the women artisans. Tourists love to visit the market in Manipur to experience a wide variety of products offered by the traders.
If you are eager to buy local farm produce then this market is the perfect place for you. The fresh harvest fills up the air with its wonderful aroma. You will be tempted to purchase them.
Costumes of various genres are available in large quantities in the market. Dresses of kids, young and old are displayed at the shops for you to pick and choose. There are attires to suit the needs and preferences of different kinds of people. The traditional Manipuri costumes are also available for purchase.
Common household utensils and tools are sold at the market which attracts the elderly women folk a lot. You can find cutleries serving various kitchen purposes.
The Traders of Ima Keithel Women’s market
Every day thousands of women traders, dressed in the traditional Manipuri attire Innaphi and Phanek arrive at the market to start their trading business. They set up the stalls at their designated places inside the Khwairamband Bazaar displaying the products for sale. Their smartness and zeal to work hard are worthy of appreciation. You will be astonished to watch their expertise and dedication in the business.
The market echoes with the cheerful laughs and chitchats of the women creating a lively atmosphere in the arena. The traders from various generations adorn the market premises. Known as the “Queen of Markets”, it is like a second home for the women traders. They upheld the cultural and historical value of India through their hardships and struggle to keep the market alive. Invasions by new technologies have not deterred them from continuing their passion and offering their contributions to the locality.
The market consists of 3 huge buildings housing the stalls. The buildings are mainly in the shape of pagodas and colonnades. The space inside them is huge with the traders spread across the entire area organized in lines occupying their marked space. Several makeshift arrangements are also present outside the buildings for those who cannot afford to pay the municipal fees to set up stalls inside the building.
Timings of the Ima Keithel Women’s Market
The all women’s market is open from 3:00 AM to 7:00 PM from Monday till Sunday. It is advisable to visit the market early in the day especially if you are eager to buy fresh farm produce.
How to reach the market?
The nearest airport is the Tulihal International airport at Imphal. From the airport, you can hire a car or avail a bus to reach Kangla, 8.1 km away. If you are traveling by train then the nearest railway station is at Dimapur. Private and public buses also ply a lot between different cities of Manipur and the market. You can hire a cab too from Imphal and any other city to reach the market.
Best time to visit the market
The best time to visit all women’s market is during the winter when the weather is pleasant and comfortable. Though the market is open all throughout the year yet for tourists is better to visit between the months of October and March. Locals frequent the market all around the year irrespective of any season.
If you have plans to visit Manipur in the future then do not miss out on this exclusive market run by women.
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