March 19, 2014

Blooming Madness – Calcutta's famous flower market

Flower sellers mingle at the Calcutta flower market
by Roderick Eime in Calcutta

Since 1780, thousands of Bengalis have thronged into the famous Mallick Ghat flower market on the bank of the Ganges in Calcutta (Kolkata).

Located at the foot of the famous Howrah Bridge (built 1943), these days the tradition of chaotic enterprise continues amid a continual din of bidding, bargaining and bustle.

Between 6am and 9pm every day of the year, more than 1500 tonnes of marigolds, sweet peas, roses, orchids, sunflowers and gladioli are traded by around 2500 busy traders and merchants at any one time.

The flowers aren't grown in Calcutta of course. Instead they are transported around 60kms from villages like Paskura where growers will sell their produce to merchants who then travel by train or road to Calcutta.

One kilo of marigolds costs around 60 rupees (about $1) and a bunch of 25 roses about 200 rupees ($3.50). Pre-made garlands for weddings and religious events are popular and can costs up to 400 rupees ($8) for the more intricate ones using tuberose.

Visitors can expect a wholly authentic experience. Be prepared to be jostled as you navigate the narrow ad hoc passages between the produce laid out on the muddy ground or in the dark corridors of the pavilion.

At the rear of the market, along the banks of the Ganges, the faithful come to pray, bathe and perform other bathroom activities in the holy waters.

It's an assault of the senses for sure. On one hand there is the fragrant perfume of tonnes of flowers while on the other there is the ever-present aroma of one of India's busiest and most densely populated cities.

Mother Ganga cleanses all!

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