Bazaars by night

hyderabad lights

Bazaars by night

Every night during the month of Ramzan, while the rest of Hyderabad slumbers, the Old City is wide awake and bathed in light. Its streets are jam-packed with traffic and its bazaars teem with thousands of people. Surrounded by all this chaos, the famous Charminar stands by — tall, stately and magnificently lit up for the occasion.

Everything about this part of the city overwhelms the senses — the grandeur of the decorated Charminar and Mecca Masjid, the delicious smells of biryani, haleem, samosas and Irani chai, and the shops and stalls that cover almost every inch of the road, spilling over with clothes, shoes, perfumes, bangles, jewellery and bags. During this sacred month of fasting and prayers, this is exactly what the Old City is famous for — its Night Bazaar.

It is only during Ramzan that this special Night Bazaar is to be found. On a typical day during this month, signs of life begin here in the afternoon. Only when dusk approaches, however, do the crowds thicken. Shoppers throng the streets around the Charminar until the wee hours of the next morning; the shops, which normally run until 11 pm, are open until 3 am during Ramzan.

As there are both cheap-quality and good-quality products available here, the Bazaar caters to people from all walks of life. There are also hundreds of non-local shoppers here; they travel to Hyderabad from neighbouring districts — and even from Karnataka and Maharashtra — during this season, to shop at the bazaar. Even during Ramzan, shoppers are not only from the Islamic community; in fact, about fifty per cent of them are Hindu.

All this excitement is not without its problems; many Hyderabadis avoid the bazaar like a plague during Ramzan due to its notoriety for pickpockets and its jam-packed streets. Especially on the last few nights before Eid, it is hard to breathe and barely possible to move within the four-kilometre radius around the Charminar where most of the shops are located. During these nights, the frenzy is at its worst.

But the effort involved in an expedition to the Old City during Ramzan is not without its rewards; the bazaar yields its treasure to those willing to brave the traffic, the hordes of people and the damp weather.

Upon my arrival, I find that the area around Charminar has become a living, breathing thing, densely packed with traffic, shoppers, roadside shops, street vendors, policemen, bomb squad personnel, the Rapid Action Force, the media and the Fire Department. To see so much happening in one place is a rare sight.

Corners for trade

But when I finally get to the shops themselves, I can see what the fuss is all about. As I walk through the Laad Bazaar, which the Old City is particularly famous for, I see breathtaking displays of bangles in every shop. Upon entering one, I find that there is not an inch of the shop’s walls that does not shine and glitter with stone-encrusted bangles of all colours and designs. The Laad Bazaar — blinding and bright, shimmering and colourful — rivals the Charminar itself in its grandeur and the spectacle it offers. Its shopkeepers boast proudly of the hundreds of new designs that are available for Ramzan. Bangles are made of brass and lac and encrusted with colourful stones. They are sent from Hyderabad to other parts of the country.

The Old City might be especially known for its lac bangles, but the Laad Bazaar is certainly not the only happening place here. When I finally manage to tear myself away from it, I see roadside stalls selling fragrant attar in little bottles. Still further ahead, I find rows and rows of shops and stalls selling footwear from Delhi, Mumbai, Surat and Gujarat, among other places. I also visit the Cloth Bazaar, which sells a wide variety of designer saris, salwar-kameezes, sherwanis, curtains, tablecloths, napkins and bedsheets. Textiles, one shopkeeper tells me, are mostly from Mumbai, Surat and Delhi. As with Laad Bazaar, new designs are available every Ramzan.

It only takes a few hours in the Night Bazaar to discover that everything on Earth is available here — from footwear to pearls, from partywear to night dresses, from hairpins to jhumkas — and all of them, it would appear, are on high demand.

However, any description of the Night Bazaar would be incomplete without reference to the numerous roadside eateries and food stalls. I try some of the haleem — a Ramzan specialty — and find that it’s delicious. This place is equally famous for its roadside dosa stand, in which the masala dosas are known to be especially delectable. The area around Charminar is peppered with fruit stands — ideal for those who wish to break their fasts. Then, of course, there’s the Irani chai that Old Hyderabad is so famous for.

Unscalable menu

In addition to this, all the dum biryani, bhutta, pathar ka gosht, Afghani chicken, kheer and mithai are sufficient to pose a dilemma to any customer who will invariably want to try it all but regrettably, cannot possibly have a large enough appetite.

Needless to say, Night Bazaar is not for the faint hearted. However, those who wish for a more quiet, peaceful shopping experience can visit the bazaars during any other month of the year when the shops are open from morning to evening — regular hours. Admittedly, the decorations and splendour will be somewhat dull, and the number of shops will be fewer at  times other than Ramzan, but then again, so will be the place’s resemblance to a war zone.

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