Ima Kethel – the only market in the world run by women

Ima market, also known as the Ladies’ or Mother’s market, in the capital city of Manipur is not just any other market but is unique and different from all the other markets we have ever seen or heard.
All the shops in the market are headed only by ladies, although men can go and buy things, but they are not part of the selling side – which is totally opposite of what happens in other parts of the country and the world.
The market is said to have been established around 1500 AD and is run solely by women of different communities of the state. The market can be seen as a ‘mini Manipur’, which employs over 4,000 women selling all kinds of stuff ranging from fruits and vegetables to flowers and clothes and handicraft products. It is the lifeline of the state and serves as an important trading centre.

Ima Market
The earthquake that hit Manipur last year damaged the iconic Ima market building however, it failed to damage the spirit of women entrepreneurs in the market who stand tall and did not get discouraged by the damage done by the quake.
Building under repair
After the earthquake, the shops had to be shifted on the streets as cracks appeared in many pillars of the building and now ladies are sitting on the corner of the roads running the shops as they used to do inside the building.
When asked for the reason one of the shop owners who sell flowers said, “Waiting for the building repair will take longer and we also have a family to feed, we cannot wait for the work to be completed and then run our shops. We don’t have any other option, but to run the shops on the roads.”

Ladies selling vegetables outside the building
Echoing her, another shopkeeper at the market who sells fish said ,”If we wait for the building to be repaired, before we could set up our shops again, how will we run our households? It will take time to rebuild the market, but that doesn’t mean that our lives will come to a standstill!”

One of the shopkeeper
The market was also affected badly by the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes by the Government of India, due to which the sales were dropped as there was lack of proper cash flow in the city.
Left with no option, the sellers are forced to accept old currency, and ask the customer either to purchase goods worth the entire sum of Rs 500/ Rs 1000, or refuse them, due to unavailability of change.
The ladies running the shops are mostly those women who are the sole bread earners of their families, ranging from all age groups – starting from as young as 18 to around 65. They either own a particular section of the area to set up a shop, or they have to rent the place in the complex and the section owned by the ladies are only transferred to other ladies of the family – daughter or daughter-in-law – or can be only brought by other ladies. Men are not part of the transfer of the land.IMG_20161124_081420251.jpg
They either own a particular section of the area to set up a shop, or they have to rent the place in the complex and the section owned by the ladies are only transferred to other ladies of the family – daughter or daughter-in-law – or can be only brought by other ladies. Men are not part of the transfer of the land.
Earning is not only the sole reason they setup a shop in this market, rather it is also about engaging in productive time utilisation or being independent. Many women set up shops to feel independent by using the free time at their disposal.
“My family does not depend on me as my kids are working and they can manage to run the family. Even if I don’t work, I can live a fine life. My reason of coming here is just to utilise my time as I don’t have much to do in home,” said a lady in her sixties who sell fruits.
Echoing her, another lady in her fifties also said, “My husband was in government service and I too came here to use my time. My family is not dependent on me, all my children are doing fine jobs. I am running my shop here from the past seven years as I do not have much to do at home.”IMG_20161124_081503048
58-year-old Bilasini who is married to a retired policeman, started working at the Ima market three decades back, not for the money that the job had to offer, but to develop an identity of her own.
“It is very important for everyone to have an identity of their own. It should not matter whether you are a man or woman. Stepping out of the house and earning makes you independent and changes your vision as well,” she says.
The Manipuri society, which unlike most parts of the country is matriarchal in nature, upholds the rank of a woman in a household, and the Ima Keithel market is just one such example. The market opens as early as 7 in the morning and shuts as the sun sets. Situated near the Kangla Fort, the place is easily accessible by road.

A Small Town In Kerala Celebrates ‘Mini Diwali’ Every January

St. Mary’s Forane Church, Athirampuzha recently celebrated the annual feast of St. Sebastian with full energy and enthusiasm. The major attractions of the procession that is carried out during the festival are classic Kerala bands, school bands, flags, crosses of different types – golden, wooden, brass and silver – statues of saints, and muthukuda (beaded decorated umbrellas) which travels from the Athirampuzha main market to the church.

The procession is the most important and colorful part of the celebration, which lasts for more than four hours. In this, the statues of St. Sebastian and the Blessed Virgin Mary are taken out of the church at around 4:00 p.m. and after being taken around in the area, it comes back to the church at around 8:00 p.m.

beginning of the procession
The beginning of the procession

It is a parish feast where a group of Catholic families gather every year to celebrate the feast. The mass or Eucharist is held every hour and devotes make different offerings to the saint. The dazzling display of fireworks is a major attraction and adds color to the festival. It is more like the south Indian Diwali, with fireworks and people lighting lights and candles outside their houses.

“This is the biggest religious gathering of this place. People of all religions take part in it,” said Father Jose Parappallil. Explaining the reason for it, he adds, “years ago, the people of Athirampuzha were affected by smallpox. They all prayed to St. Sebastian and they were all cured. From then on, all religions began to take part in the feast believing that the saint saves them from all their troubles and problems.” The devotees offerKazhunnu – miniature arrow of gold and silver – and believe that the arrow stuck in the body of the saint has miraculous healing powers and keeps evil spirits away.

illuminated Back end of the church
Illuminated back end of the Church

The church was established in the 835 AD, and this feast has been celebrated from the year 1647, which lasts for a week beginning on the 19th of January and ends on the 26th of January. The main feast days are 24th and 25th, but the flag hoisting ceremony begins from 19th, marking the beginning of the festival. Thousands and thousands of people from various parts of south India come to attend it. Not only that, people of all religions take part in it be it Christian, Hindu or Muslims.

people and band going back to church
People coming back from the procession

According to locals, three statues of St. Sebastian were brought to Kerala during the time of Portuguese, one is believed to be in the St. Andrew’s Forane Church of Arthunkal and another was taken to St. Mary’s Forane Church of Kanjoor; but because of its small size, no one claimed third one. The traders of the Athirampuzha brought the smallest one to this place. This is known as Adiyelpicha Roopam (the tortured figure). The public is allowed to see the statue only during this festive season. The statue of St. Sebastian installed in the St. Mary’s Forane Church, Athirampuzha is special as it is considered to be one of the oldest statues in India, and also, it is the only statue of a saint without an arrow. The festival comes to an end with St. Sebastian’s statue being ceremonially placed on the altar of the church.

(Athirampuzha is a small town in the Kottayam district of Kerala state. it is one of the oldest trading centers in the Travancore. It is believed that this place has trade relations with the Middle East from centuries ago)people going to church

Jesus Christ Superstar Reloaded

In a time when things are only being banned, the famous Rock Opera ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ was staged in Pallikoodam School, Kottayam district of Kerala 25 years after it was banned in the same school.

On October 15, 1990, the children of the school (Corpus Christy School at that time) were all ready for the performance when founder Mary Roy received the order from Alphons Kannamthanam, former IAS officer and then Collector of Kottayam for the ban on the play. Although it was a temporary ban, it took 25 years to get it lifted. The case shuttled between the government and the Kerala courts for a decade before it went to the Supreme Court.IMG-20151204-WA0019

The rock opera, written in 1970 by Tim Rice with music from Andrew Lloyd Webber, tells the story of the last seven days of Jesus’ life on earth starting with Him and his disciples in Jerusalem and ending with His crucifixion. It highlights the struggle between Judas and Jesus with a psychological point of view that is not in the Bible. The opera depicts the agony of Jesus during his betrayal, trial and condemnation. The play shows that Jesus Christ was not the son of God but was actually nothing more than the right man at the right time. It also shows that Judas was much misunderstood and was depicted as a tragic figure dissatisfied with the direction in which Jesus steers his disciples. The rock opera also suggests that Mary Magdalene may have had a relationship with Jesus.

The ban was put on the drama because it was seen as both sacrilegious and blasphemous, against the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith and could hurt religious feelings. But Father Abraham Vellathadathil, former Principal of Henry Baker College, Idukki who challenged this ban in the Kerala High Court along with Mary Roy said that the rock opera is a literary piece and even the Christians of the Vatican enjoyed it.IMG-20151204-WA0007

On Friday, December 4 2015, the school witnessed the play again as the Supreme Court of India lifted the ban from this dance drama in April, 2015.

The bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that since Jesus Christ Superstar had already been produced all over the world and is available online, a ban based on an order by the district collector serves no purpose. People of Kottayam can easily watch the play on the Internet.

The interesting part of the play was that those who were students of the school during the ban are now parents of the school students; the music band still has members who were part of the 1990 play as student. No Christian was offended with the play or its contents when it was staged now, majority of the students performing the play were also Christian.IMG-20151204-WA0006

A Local Mela In Lucknow Has Been Smashing Communal Differences For Decades

Although there are differences in the beliefs of Hindu and Muslims, even then Awadh is considered as the centre of the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeebBudhakki ka mela, also known as Daliganj mela and Ganga Snan Mela is one of the finest examples of that. One can find the perfect blend of the Hindu-Muslim unity in this fair. Although it is organized after the Kartik purnima snan (a Hindu ritual), most of the shopkeepers are not Hindu. The customers are also of all religions.

It is also special because at a time when people prefer going to malls and shopping complexes, Budhakki ka mela is an amazing thing to see. It is a street fair with shops on the road’s pavement, where one can find almost all sorts of things. It not only deals with various jhoolas (swings and rides) and food stall like any other fair, but also deals with all sorts of household goods, clothing and footwear shops, handicrafts, utensils, glass wares, crockery, magic shows, photo studios and various other unique and fancy shops.

different jhoolas
rides to enjoy in the fair
jewellary sop
an artificial jewelry shop

The mela lasts for around 40 days after the Kartik purnima snan. Every day thousands and thousands of people came to this fair. It offers things on the cheapest possible rates. One can find items ranging from ₹2 to ₹2000. No one knows when this fair first began, but some say that it has been around from the time of Akbar. This fair flourished more during the time of Wajid Ali Shah. Shopkeepers from various parts of Uttar Pradesh came to sell special and low-priced goods.

Sansar Ali from Allahabad, owns a key-ring shop and has been participating in the fair for the past 28 years and does not have any permanent shop anywhere else. He writes names and personalized messages on the key-rings. He earns his living by the temporary shop only.

ladies crowd in a shop offering everything for ₹5
ladies crowd in a shop offering things at Rs 5
overcrowded shops
an overcrowded shop
pay ₹ 10 for three items
three things for Rs 10

Another shopkeeper Abdul Mannan, is from Lucknow and has a permanent crockery shop in Mahanagar but he has been coming to this fair since 1978. He too does not know when the fair started. Shahid, a utensil shop-owner from Kanpur said, “I have been coming here for 15 years and before that my father and elder brother used to come here.”

Recently, there has been a debate over where the fair should be held. The priest of the Mankameshwar Mandir is of the thought that this fair should be shifted to that part of Gomti near the temple, which has received a mixed response from shopkeepers.

Mohammad Nafis, a bangle store owner from Kanpur who has been a part of the fair from past 20 years feels that this is a better place for the fair. He said, “That area is not safe for women and also there are two educational institutes nearby – Lucknow University and Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama College and if the fair is shifted to that side then it will be a disturbance for those institutes as well.”

pick 3 items for ₹ 10
three things for Rs 10
a unique shop
a unique key-ring shop

Some other shopkeepers feel that it is better to shift there because the temple committee will be responsible for the security and safety of shopkeepers which isn’t available now and gunda elements keep threatening them. There will be regular rules for the shops since they are paying very high for it and have to pay at multiple levels. They will also get a proper parent organization for the fair. Some feel that the authority and police and not able to maintain the crowd and the traffic.

The debate was finally settled when it was announced that 2016 onwards, the mela will be organized in the Mankameshwar Mandir lawn. The authority has also promised free place and electricity for which the shopkeepers are paying ₹ 150 and ₹ 80 respectively per day right now.

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