Jalgaon – Banana City, Cloth City or Gold City? Believe it or not. There is a big market for each of these, in this quaintly rural western district of Maharashtra.
Navigating our way through the busy main street junction at Mahatma Gandhi road in Jalgaon, my sister and myself, finally stood opposite the crowded gate of the district’s famous cloth market. The Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Cloth Market, steeped in history, but lacking lustre.
Hanging electric cables overhead, run down paint peeling off the entrance wall, haphazard parked auto rickshaws and cart peddlers created a jigsaw blocked entry. Garbage and plastic bottles near the main entrance were a definite eye sore. In contrast, green, yellow, red bright lights that lit adjacent cloth stores enriched the drab ambience and lifted our curiosity. ‘It cant be THAT bad…let’s have a peek ‘ we muttered as we jostled the crowds that evening.
Jalgaon district in north-west Maharashtra, India, is more popularly known for its banana (Kela)crop. It is the largest producer and exporter in India. Banana plantations are grown in abundance with help of drip irrigation and tissue culture. THIS market does not sell bananas, but one can find carts and squatting vendors selling this ‘king’ fruit on every street, all through the year!
Jalgaon is also a leading cotton-producing district.The volcanic soil, dry weather and mild winters are perfect for this crop. Cotton bales are then sent off all around the country, especially to Surat and Ahmedabad for the garment making industry. Some shops stocked a good variety of fluffy cotton, stacked up in jute and cloth sacks. Mattress and pillow making are big business right here in the market, shops selling the loose cotton fluffs no less than 10 kilo.
Turning our heads left and right, keenly looking at the variety of embroidered dresses, kurti and lehnga sets, mannequins posing in regal attire were cramming for space as we made our way into the narrow streets leading inwards. Bright bulbs hanging loosely above on long electric cables lighting up makeshift stalls stood like beacons in darkness. Other regular shops were bursting with a variety of clothing and accessories. The market is open all 7 days of the week. Festivals and public holidays are the most busy time. Not an inch to walk as mostly women and children come here to do fancy festive or bridal shopping. they even come from neighbouring states or cities like Indore, Bhopal, Nasik, Nanded, Bhusawal, Surat and even Mumbai.
This cloth market is famous and has competitive prices.
Next we saw rows of colourful shawls, stoles, caps and socks, reminding us of the mild winter weather that had just begun.
Fancy bags, faux leather belts and handbags, beaded slippers, shops catering to needle craft lace, saree borders, beads, needles, buttons, knitting yarn, ribbons and headbands, school uniforms – all under one roof here. Women…, women shoppers everywhere!
Do we need to really buy something ? Just a souvenir dress material at the least? Well why not..as we women will say. Boldly, we emptied our pockets and bought few garments and dress materials, acknowledging the competitive pricing that made us feel satisfied.
It was time to head out of the surging crowds that seemed to increase as the night grew. Sighting a street cart selling the famous ‘banana crisps’ it was time to nibble and pacify the hungry stomach too.
Crisp, crunch, munch. Salty banana chips. A perfect end to the colourful sights and sounds of a busy market.
Jalgaon – banana city and cotton city, yes we had a good insight of life here.
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