Thursday, December 28, 2006

Crafts in Bazaars

Indian tradition has made no distinction between craft as art or as industry. Our crafts served both functional and aesthetic purposes. Pottery is as ancient as human civilisation and is perhaps, the first craft which came to be also a thing of beauty and artistic expression. Today, the earthen pot has little utilitarian value in the cities. The plastic containers, shaped often like the earthen pot, have come into use. There is the stainless steel filter that holds water, which runs from a tap and is not carried anymore to the house from a well. In the Bazaar, what are the products that can continue to be our ‘crafts’? Are these as refined as the work of our earlier craftsmen? Do bazaars generate their own genre of crafts?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Advertising the goods

One sees advertisements painted on walls in the markets, hoardings that hide heritage market buildings.

Advertising takes many forms and has begun to have considerable influence on contemporary society and commerce. But this was not always true. In the past, people lived in small, isolated communities where artisans and farmers bartered goods and services among themselves. "Distribution was limited to how far people could walk, and advertising to how loud they could shout"

Monday, December 25, 2006

Aesthetics in the Bazaar

Each vendor finds his own way of displaying the goods and makes a shelter within the given area with materials locally and easily available, with an aesthetic very much his own. This means that no shop has the same design because the parameters are not same; each is built within a different context. This applies to open bazaars where it is much easier to establish one´s own identity and define one´s own boundaries. It is an aesthetic that is native to the region, that cannot always be uprooted for use elsewhere.

There is ‘Art’ in the sounds, the forms, the colours, the spaces, the light, the textures, the materials that each vendor brings with him, some that he must part with before dusk and some that he must withold for the next day. There is a temporariness in this creation and every sunrise gives him a fresh palette to do as he chooses. He displays his wares artistically to attract people. Here, the art is functional; it attracts and the wares are sold. It is not the art that sells. Sometimes, it is a part of the selling concept, sometimes it is simply a part of the vendor’s being.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Planning for the Transition

Today, most towns and cities find it difficult to improve on existing markets because it is difficult to temporarily relocate the market elsewhere. Within the city, there is often no area available to insert a new market. The available option is usually to relocate them to the peripheral areas which are not so well connected by public transport or even if they are, customers find it tedious to travel large distances for their daily shopping. With markets, it is almost impossible to start work at any time and put up a board that says,


This just won’t work. So, how does one solve this practical problem, which is often the reason for municipalities being unable to improve market zones. Strategies need to be worked out in collaboration with the petty traders so that small parts of the market can be redone at a time. This sequential planning can only be executed with the help of people’s involvement in the project.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Design of Bazaars

Our cities no longer have the character and beauty that Indian towns once had. We need to design differently and design coherently. We need constant support from our local administrative bodies. Infrastructure is often more than drainage system, parking lots and water supply pipes. Planners will find that there are human factors that have often been overlooked. The vendors may like to create their own spatial patterns and such creations may be more appropriate for them as well as for the buyers. These individual inputs put together carefully by the authorities and the public may create environments that are both functional and aesthetically indigenous.

It is important for us to design our markets well, so that they are easy to maintain and to keep clean. The health of the entire town or city may be affected by the hygienic conditions prevalent in our marketplaces since that is where the food supplies enter the city. So, while we may appreciate the traditional elements enmeshed within the changing environment of the markets, we need to also resolve the practical problems faced by vendors and users.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Street Bazaar

In addition to the central marketplace, we also have the Informal sector or the Street Bazaar. This is made up of small enterprises that happen on every street in the town. These are the hawkers that occupy corner junctions and almost all our footpaths. It is interesting to look at the pattern that emerges out of these small units scattered all over and serving the needs of the entire city in no small measure.

Almost always, the business activity stretches beyond the stall onto the open space available just outside. Either a wooden counter or table is pulled out every morning when the shop opens or a raised platform in concrete exists that serves as an extension to the stall. So, the space requirement for the business activity is very flexible and always more than the 6’-0”x 6’-0” kiosk.

The random growth of small businesses can create unhygienic conditions for the public due to the lack of proper drainage facilities and thus increase the health problems of the city. The footpath is not anymore just a circulation space; it also becomes a business or commercial space.

It helps if the municipal authorities survey well the physical aspects of already existing petty trades such as spatial requirements, low-cost construction materials, and the unconventional servicing and infrastructural facilities in use. In the end, the designed space and shelter must be priced correctly.

For a Municipal authority to be able to administer the city well, it must know more about :

  • What kind of petty trades exist
  • How does the city’s sanitation or traffic (both pedestrian and vehicular) get affected with an increase in the number of petty traders.
  • Which locations are preferred for what kind of trade
  • What distances are people willing to walk to reach a kiosk
  • Government schemes that aid them or that are a deterrent in their development

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fruit & Vegetable market

When one experiences the markets in India, walks through them, learns about their history, one begins to gather what they have in common. The nucleus has always been the vegetable and fruit market and the streets surrounding it that have developed to make a larger bazaar. Commercial areas in our towns and cities have all grown around the vegetable and fruit bazaar because this was a place where everyone in the town or city came everyday.

The marketplace in India has always been a dynamic environment. It has been an excuse to gather together for festivals, to exchange news, to enact dramas, to make public announcements. Every village, every town, every city in every country has markets. Sometimes they are small, sometimes they are large.

When one looks at Bazaars in
India, one finds that :
Markets in
India are influenced by the local cultures, behavioural patterns of the people and social customs. Art is an integral part of the Bazaar. The principles that govern the making of markets remain the same inspite of the diversity in the different bazaars of India

Is it possible to study this aesthetic and to recreate it once again for the cities of India? In the urban areas markets are built by the Municipal Corporations with better infrastructure but they sometimes lack local flavour and the vigour of the lives of the Indian people. There is much funding being directed to build markets all over the country. An analysis of the life within a bazaar and an understanding of how markets evolve over time becomes essential. Here is a link to : Fruit and Vegetable Marketing and its Efficiency in India - a study of wholesale markets in Ahmedabad

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bazaars - the beginning

How do Bazaars in India grow? A walk through a bazaar in any village, town or city in India would establish the fact that here, art is a way of life. It is not easy to fathom what this way of life is. It is difficult to define it. It is a complex but very thoughtfully developed way that fascinates and enthralls as you understand it better.

“Everything flows. We cannot step twice into the same river. When I step into the river for the second time, neither I nor the river are the same”
- Jostein Gaardner

In the market or `bazaar´, there is art and culture evident in the mannerisms of the vendors and the buyers, in the costumes, in the baskets that hold the goods, in the wares that are sold, whether it is flowers or camphor, whether it is rope or white cloth - a sign of the myriad ceremonies that Indian households conduct.

Is it possible for us to study this aesthetic and to recreate it once again for the cities of India. In the urban areas markets are built by the Municipal Corporations with better infrastructure but they sometimes lack local flavour and the vigour of the lives of the Indian people. There is much funding being directed to build markets all over the country. We, in India, have also begun to replicate western concepts of shopping by introducing large store chains. Can a vegetable market in India really go online?

How do urban dwellers perceive bazaars? Are they still places that excite us? Or are we relegating bazaars to be those dirty, unhygienic backyards of our increasingly “modern” cities? Do we look upon them as evils that must be put up with for just a few years more, to be replaced soon with neat supermarkets and multi-level parking places? As our cities and lifestyles “progress” , we lose more and more our indian identity. It is time perhaps to think hard therefore if this is really what we want to see happening. The Indian mind can handle so much complexity that it is not difficult to absorb within our system new ways of thinking that may add efficiency and progress to our lives, while still witholding the customs and cultural traditions that have made us. Let us not believe that we must shed one lifestyle for another.