Mesmerising tinkle of glass bangles

Colourful Trinkets

Amidst the food shops outside the Hanuman Mandir at Baba Kharak Singh Marg, is a vibrant bangle market. Not visible clearly from the main road, the market glitters with myriad hues as you inch closer. With over 25 small shops, sharing space with each other, the market is one of the oldest and popular destinations for bangle lovers after Ballimaran in Old Delhi.

The market is not what it used to be before Independence. “At the time of colonial era, our grandfather used to wander around the city and sell bangles in tokris. There were only weekly markets, which generally used to be held on Tuesdays, outside temples, gurdwaras and mosques,” said Nabi Ahmed, one of the oldest shopkeepers at the market.

With the passage of time, “Vendors transformed their shops from tokris to durries (carpets) and tents, turning into a regular market. It was after the 90s that the construction of shops started. And, it was only 20 years back we got our permanent shops here, which is presently under North Delhi Municipal Corporation,” he mentions.

But unlike days of yore when the day-long Tuesday market witnessed heavy footfalls, there is an easy pace to the activities today. People have realised they can visit the market as per their convenience. “There is hardly any rush these days. But the demand has become very specific. Women know what they want to buy,” says Ahmed.

He attributes the ‘family sagas on television’ for the rising demand of designer bangles. “Just like the trend of designer sarees has increased so has matching bangles and accessories with the attire,” he adds. It is for this reason Ahmed, who used to get chooris only from Firozabad, is getting the varied collection from Hyderabad, Muzzaffarpur, Bihar, Kolkata, Gujarat, Delhi and Meerut, and even Belgium!

“Everything has become fancy these days,” he says. According to him, the elite gentry always demands plain glass bangles. “Earlier, the plain resham chooris used to be popular. Women from royal families prefer plain chooris in glass cuttings. It costs Rs 40 a dozen which until a few years cost only Rs two to three.” 

Ahmed, whose forefathers have been in the business for ages, is well-known among the elite. “We have catered to all the rich in Delhi. Name it and we were a part of it. We even have clients in Bollywood. We attended the wedding of Raj Kapoor’s daughter. They call us and we go with our collection. Hum ek hall mein baithte hain aur sab aurton ko chooriyan pehnate hain (We sit in a hall and make women wear bangles).

But this was not so earlier, especially before Independence. “Families in bangle business were looked upon with pity. People used to say men in these families are dependent on women for livelihood. Generally, men would carry the basket of bangles from home to home and wives would assist the women in trying out bangles.

But as Westernisation spread in the country owing to British rule, the purdah system came to an end and men took over the market.

“But certain royal families still practise the purdah. Men chooriwallahs are not allowed to make women wear chooris even today,” he adds.

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