The Bara Bazaar of Shillong is one place where you can find all the household items and witness the rituals of the tribals belonging to Meghalaya.
The north-eastern markets of India have been popular, ever since, for showcasing the talent and craft of the indigenous people of the large Indian society. Talking about Meghalaya, it holds one of the most culturally preserved tribes living in the East Khasi Hills and Bara Bazaar of Shillong; the capital city of Meghalaya well describes the true essence of it.
The trade, which has been prevailing for a very long period in this market, is distinctive in many ways. Being Shillong's most prominent traditional market, Bara Bazaar has been a marketplace dominated by a majority of women traders, hawkers, vendors, and shopkeepers. Not that one does only find women sellers, but they have been present in the maximum numbers here since the ancient era.
With no exact trace to the origin of this market, it has been a popular marketplace managed by one of the traditional Khasi states named Hima Mylliem. The original name of the market is Lewduh Bara Bazaar which translates to the "biggest market for common people." Interestingly, the meaning of the name justifies it, as the market is always filled with natives and city dwellers.
Not only is the market just for trade, but it is also a prominent place for the tribe to uphold their rituals and culture. The market observes one of the most awaited celebrations in April as it holds various religious rituals along with installing monoliths or ‘mawbynnas’ at Khlieh New, considered the most protected area of the market. The tribals worship the deity, U Blei Shillong, and take his blessings.
Amalgamation of villagers
The market welcomes people from not just the city but also the villages nearby. Run by local villagers, many tribals come from far-off places to trade objects that showcase their regions' specialty. As a result, a fresh stock of seasonal vegetables and fruits is often witnessed, along with various native and exotic spices.
Due to the strong influence of handweaving culture in the northeastern states, the Scottish Checks, handwoven shawls, and stoles are common here and are sold by various traders. These shawls are thinnest than you can imagine. Moreover, the patterns and the designs of these shawls also depict the belongingness of these tribes.
As one wanders through the market, many are in a lane for stitching and tailoring work. Although these people and their small shops do not appear very enticing, their age-old sticking and tailoring experience does not disappoint people. Popular as 'Darzi Gali,' the market has many tailors that can convert your clothes into a traditional tartan skirt.
Another thing the market is famous for is the inexpensive metal tools. There is a large variety of knives that are handcrafted by local craftsmen. The Khasis also widely use these for household purposes like cutting betels. Further, kitchen essentials are also sold here. Some of these are also good for cutting lawn grass and bushes.
Another specialty of this market lies in the bamboo dalis handcrafted by the locals. They work as perfect decor items for houses. In addition, the people of Meghalaya have been great practitioners of archery, and it is well reflected in this market as one gets to see various Khasi bows and arrows here.
Some specialties of this market have different names here, like Shyrmit (turmeric powder), Sohmirit (Khasi pepper), and Ryndiah (MUGA silk shawls). Another interesting fact is that there are various migrants from other states who shifted to Meghalaya and opened their stores, bringing in their crafts, elements, famous products of their states and regions.
MJ sweets, the owners of which migrated from Rajasthan, brought in their region's sweetness. A few people who migrated from Punjab can also be seen here. Adding to it, the market is a wholesome place for freshly baked items, a variety of fish species, flowers and much more.
So, if you still need to get the gist, let us tell you again the Bara Bazaar is the epitome of the space that upholds the Northeastern culture, rituals, trade, and the celebration of the local people.