“Ima Keithel” market, also known as the Mother’s market is a 500 year old market which is entirely run by women. This Ima market is in Imphal, the capital of North-Indian state Manipur. It is perhaps the only one of its kind in Asia, maybe even the world.
It is one of the best shopping destinations in Imphal. You can find all sorts of goods from vegetables, herbs, handicrafts and clothes here. The women in Manipur has always been upfront in everything and have contributed in a large way. Ima Keithal Women’s Market is one example of the strength of women in the business background.
History of Ima Keithel Market –
Ima keithel market is known as the mother’s market as when translated, Ima means mother and keithel means market, hence it is commonly known as the mother’s market in Manipur.
The market is said to have began in 16th century. Till today it remains one-of-its-kind shopping centre in the world. Earlier, it was a place with number of sheds but now the market has one big building.
The exact origins remain unclear, scholars believe that the market dates back to the 16th century. Studies suggest that the market’s female-only workforce originated as a result of the enforcement of the Lallup-Kaba, an ancient forced labor system in Manipur that sent men of the Meitei community to cultivate faraway lands and fight wars.
The women stayed back in the villages, working in their own paddy fields, taking care of their household and selling their farm produce in improvised markets. This led to the creation of markets where women played a central role, the most important and largest one being the Ima Keithal.
Mother’s Market –
The Ima Keithel market houses around 5000 women traders who sell varieties of goods. One can find fish stalls, clothes, bamboo crafts, fruit stalls, etc. Just a round in the bazaar will be enough for a good shopping day.
One can find almost everything in the market – food, vegetables, fruits, exotic vegetables and fruits, money changer (for retail as well as bulk requirements), dresses, fish, flowers, spices and most importantly those many other items which are required for worshiping of God.
You can also buy the beautiful “Manipuri hand woven saris” and “Innaphis” and try their exotic fruits and vegetables and savour the unusual sights, sounds, fragrances!
This is a must visit place in Imphal.