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Mother’s Market – A 500 years old ‘Women Only’ Market in Imphal, Manipur

In our society, be it in India or in any other country, even in today’s technically and scientifically developed ecosystem has forced the fairer sex to fight for her basic rights due to “Gender Biases”. Women do not get treated equally and there is always the domination of the male members of the society. At times and places, this even crosses the limits of cruelty and in humanness. Though a lot of work and social awareness has resulted in attaining “Women Empowerment”, a lot is still pending to be achieved. Never the less there are examples in pockets which compel us to think differently. These cases raise the question – Is the fight really? Why not follow this and immediately reach the desired goal of “Women Empowerment”?

Ima Keithal – Pride of Manipur 

The state capital of Manipur – Imphal has something which is remarkable and will show you that gender bias is just a thought and one must learn from the system which is here since last 500 years. The heart of the city has a trading centre – also known as the “Khawairamband Bazaar” or the “Ima Keithal” literary meaning – Mother’s Market.

Ima Keithal - Pride of Manipur
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This ever busy market has around 5000 traders, who start their day early in the morning, come well dressed in their traditional attire of – ‘Phaneks’/ ‘Sarongs’ and ‘Innaphis’/ ‘ shawls’. The surroundings start buzzing with their chit-chats and laughs and the bargaining between the buyer and the seller starts. What is unique in all this is all the 5000 traders are “FEMALES”.

Largest All-ladies Market in Asia – Chronicle

Believed to be the largest market, where the traders are only females, in India has an exceptionally momentous history. Accepted as the largest all-women market, not only in India but also in Asia and probably in the world, this market has its origin way back from the 16th Century. Then, an old forced labour system of Manipur, known as the “Lallup-Kaba” made the males in the family of Meitei community work away from their homes and the ladies used to work and run their families by selling produce, cultivated in their fields, in local markets. This became a practice, then tradition and then a way of life. Numerous such markets were created with the biggest being – Ima Keithal in Imphal.

Ima Keithal
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Even during the British Ruling in India, this market played a critical role in terms of a place to share critical information, ideas, socio-political happenings, and exchange of thoughts on economic policies. The ladies fought back the Britishers against their anti-national economic policies in the form of a movement named – “Nupi Lan”.

List of Merchandise

The females in the market sell everything from this market starting from clothes, handicrafts, utensils, kitchenware, dry fish and the famous “Morok Chilli”. The females sell their products here with ease and they even have a union where they can afford to take a loan, to buy their required product for trading and then repay the union.

Ima Keithal - Mother's Market
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Clearly, an example of “Women Empowerment” at its highest levels and must be replicated across the societies of the world.

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About Anirudh Singh

Anirudh Singh is a passionate blogger and the man behind Amazing India Blog. He has 5 years of experience in the newspaper industry and he founded Amazing India Blog in 2015. Apart from writing and editing articles on Travel, Business and Technology at Amazing India Blog, he also contributes to other well known newspapers and online news blogs.