North Eastern part of India is not only known for its terrain beauty but also is popular for its matriarchal values, which are ingrained in the people of the hills.
It is heartening to note that households of the hills believe in women empowerment, gender equity and inclusiveness of non-dominant gender in the economic progress of the region. This blog is about celebration of mothers and appreciating what they are capable of.
Ima Keithel Women’s Market or popularly known by the name ‘Mother’s market’ is a matter of pride for the local women of Imphal for 500 years or more. It is the largest women-led market in Asia, and conceivably the world. The market is a second home for more than 5000 traders who are all married women and it is located amidst the beautiful contour that Imphal boasts of.
Every day the local women bring in with them the traditional artefacts, modern clothing, local yields, dried fish and Morok chilli and display them in their stalls – to offer to visitors. This place is not only famous for its trade but also a place where these women discuss their day-to-day hurdles, family troubles and the place is filled with their endless chatters and laughter.
Only married women can do business and this special provision is passed on from one generation to another. They just must pay a minimal amount of Rs 40 per month for their stalls. These women also have a union who runs the credit system and manages the borrowing of money. Women traders can borrow money and purchase goods and then again pay the money back to the union later.
The traders of the market are dressed in their traditional Manipuri sarongs and shawls to offer a flash of their culture to the visitors, who come from all over the world. The history of this market dates to the 16th century when Lallup-Kaba was created which was a female -only workforce for taking care of the farmlands and sellingfarm-produce. The men of the households of the Meitei community were sent for wars and cultivation in outlying lands. However today, this market is a symbol of matriarchal values of the north-east and plays a pivotal role in inclusive economy.
When the Britishers were aggressive and wanted to impose commercial reforms in Manipur this market was considered as a house where socio-political ideas were exchanged. It was at this time that Nupi Lan movement was created by the women of Manipur and it serves as a significant social movement in the history of Manipur. Since then Manipuri women have played a significant role in the economy.
If you are visiting the capital city Imphal, do not miss the chance to take a stroll down this historic mother’s market and be a part of the energy of this place. It represents the epitome of women power, where all women are financially independent and are blooming with joy. They are indeed, the proud owners of the business sector of Manipur.