The very mention of bazaars sets the tone for an exciting experience to follow what with the associated ‘nuances’ of the typical market din and characteristic shopping episodes connoting the charms of an environment differently- and vividly constructed. The hype only gets bigger and greater with identities like chor prefixed to the bazaar lingo for it does arouse some curiousness indeed. But chor bazaars which actually, even when somewhat weirdly, translates as ‘thieves’ markets are more commonplace than you would have thought. The exclusive such entity might be what commands prominent presence as being a place of pride in the city of Mumbai but there in fact asserts many similar identities throughout the country.
To be fair though, it indeed is the specific Mumbai market that actually goes by the ‘name’ of Chor Bazaar. Other iterations of what follow are more general cases of being local flea markets even when the flea description isn’t any more exact as well an outlining of their essence. The vibe though is unmatched across all of these expanses- a classic quirk that palpably plays through every strand of what makes these colloquial namesakes stand out in all their ordinariness. Here’s listing some of the most buzzing chor bazaars in some of India’s hippest cities-
Despite all its reputation as being the ultimate Chor Bazaar, this identifying facade of what is one of the many tourist attractions in Mumbai is in fact a misnomer. The alluding originally occurred as Shor, evoking the hustle-bustle of what essentially carries over to its present day presence as an ever busy market. But the British folly in not being able to pronounce desi sounds correctly had the narrative change to chor, bringing upon it a queer disrepute which interestingly lent it greater fanfare instead.
Eventually the bazaar did begin to live up to its name with stolen goods making inroads to form part of its wares. The most popular story is attributed to Queen Victoria whose missing belongings including a violin was later found to be up for sale here. And while that might not strike as exactly the kind of ‘fame’ any place would bask in the identity of, Mumbai’s defining feature does not seem to hold any qualms whatsoever.
Persisting in its one century and a half long history and thriving as well in the distinction of being among the largest flea markets of India where one would find pretty much everything they are looking for, Mumbai’s iconic Chor Bazaar tells a tale that is as antiquated as the many zillion things it trades in.
The cosmopolitan chime in which the city of Hyderabad buzzes makes it quite a spot for bustlers like chor bazaars to come to life. And the one identity that assumes all importance in being the Hyderabadi version of quirk is what commands real name as the Jummeraat Bazaar. A weekly market teeming will all activity every Thursday, this is a spot of much convenience as well. The equally famous Begum Bazaar sprawls about just in the vicinity but even by itself Hyderabad’s chor bazaar is quite the phenomenon.
Jaw dropping prices characterise the mind boggling variety of stuff on sale eagerly sought out by haggling shoppers and defiant shopkeepers. What ensues out of this essential mix of price quoting and bargaining, of demands placed and supply produced, of hawkers shouting and vendors selling, of the colors and smells of anything and everything that mingles and mangles is an experience that is special even in it being exactly the emotion encountered in every other chor bazaar. A 80 year old ‘institution’ that does not require any physicality of structure to carry on with either its business or the legacy, Jummeraat Bazaar is enduring in both its existence and essence.
The din that marks Bangalore’s Chor Bazaar along its Chickpet area is one of weekly arising. Every Sunday the market comes to life with people thronging it to seek out not just the sellables on offer but also wanting to experience the vibe of the place. The variety of items on display is as great as would be in flea markets elsewhere. Dirt cheap prices too as essentially characterise the proceedings but the products themselves has no warranty or guarantee standing up to them. However a visit to this idiosyncratic place could count as one of those Sunday rituals that one needs to and does indeed religiously pursue even when there really does not exist any purpose to it.
Perhaps the most different among all chor markets of India is the one that exists as an identity in Chennai. Also known as Pudupet market after the locality where it stands, this used to be one of the more affluent areas of what was then known as Madras. The current reputation of it though strikes as being a cost-efficient expanse specifically encompassing a reconstructed narrative of entire automobiles assembled out of individual parts.
Kolkata’s claim of its own chor bazaar is more notorious than famous and deals specifically with computer hardware and software that attracts attention not just in their cheap availability but also due to rampant charges of counterfeitism. That however has not been enough reason for it to lose ground and this situational presence just outside the much bustling neighborhood of Chandni Chowk continues to be as ‘big’ as ever. Gadgets and gizmos are all the rage at this electronics market which is worth visiting at least once purely for the experience of what it holds up in front of the eyes.
For an entity formerly resplendent in its identity as the Shahi Bazaar to command current day status as a chor bazaar, this Lucknowi locality is a level playing ground indeed. The tradition is believed to have stemmed from the setup arranged by the the Lucknowi Nawabs specially for the poorer masses. But while such proclaimed prevalence of equality is commendable indeed, there is a certain curious inequality that defines this place of all trades. Business at the Lucknowi chor bazaar generally spans through an all- male terrain with not a single woman spotted anywhere along its range.
The chor bazaar in Delhi offers by far the most bamboozling experience of what shopping means indeed in its craze suffixing. Up and about and even well settled by as early as six each Sunday morn, this stretch of market that winds around the back of the iconic Red Fort at the national capital is a 12 hour continuous existence right from the wee hours of 4 A.M. While second hand and even stolen items accounts for one part of the transaction, the bazaar also stuns in its mastery in producing and offering dupes and cheap copies of pricey clothes. Food also is a prominent presence in the picture much like any other chor bazaar setting up shop everywhere but specifically smacking in the signature Delhi serving of a variety of eatables that is at par in their ‘representation’ with the other materials that accounts for core market activities.
Soti Ganj is the identity in which the Chor Bazaar of Meerut masquerades, in close similarity with its Chennai counterpart. In fact Soti Ganj happens to be North India’s largest scrap automobile market which makes it a haven for refurbishings and renovations to get underway. There though is another intriguing feature that makes this market of Meerut even more distinctive; in Soti Ganj one can can even buy perfectly fine second hand jeeps for dimes indeed!
Beginning and ending the list on the same Maharashtrian note of what makes for the most popular chor bazaars of the country lands us up in the city of Pune. Even further stretched back in time that extends to some 250 years is the iconic Juna Bazaar of a biweekly conducting in business. This is also one of the oldest Puneri markets now operational on Wednesdays and Sundays from its location of Kasba Peth near the city’s railway station. Everything from antiques to regulars as well as handicrafts and even some ‘designer’ stuff are bought and sold extensively in this space that springs quite some surprises with many of its dealings.