Delhi is a city that fights for your nose. Pollution squeezes through loosely-fitted windows. Simmering chole bhature drifts around the market. The public urinals brazenly announce their presence. But underlying all those bullying odors, always there when the wind blows just right, is the true scent of Delhi: flowers.
Streetside shrine near Nehru Place. Photo by us.
Flowers are the foundation all Delhi’s nasal signature. It’s the reminder that the plagues of the expanding city are fleeting, and that nature will reassert itself when humans are done playing their games — the frangipani trees will rise through the pavement, the oleander will climb the steps of Raisina Hill, wrap the Rashtrapati Bhavan, and collapse it in the floral embrace in which all civilizations eventually end.
Flowers bloom in Delhi’s parks and on its medians; frangipani trees drip blossoms onto the sidewalks; discarded orange garlands hang from tree branches. (We were told that you’re not supposed to throw ceremonial flowers away — instead, you hang them from trees so they can return to nature). More ubiquitous than the blooming flowers are those that are for sale: the market florists in their canvas tents, the old ladies stringing together bright orange marigolds outside of temples, the young boys walking through traffic selling plastic bags full of petals to scatter when you get home.
Diwali-time flowers for sale in Hauz Khas market. Photo by us.
All these flowers come from wholesale markets. And Sunday may be your only chance to tour these markets — because, according to Red Earth India, they’re about to close.
Red Earth is the organization that helped us discover the joy (and bhang) of Holi. This weekend, they’re hosting a tour of Delhi’s three main wholesale flower markets — all three of which, they tell us, the city is soon shutting down. Here’s what they say:
The walk will take you to the three main flower markets of Delhi. The flower markets of Delhi are temples of beauty amidst the concrete jungle of the city, and an integral part of the city’s heritage and culture.
Delhi flower market. Picture by Flickr user Douglas Martell.
Sadly however, the Government of Delhi, in an extremely myopic vein is relocating these flower markets to one singular flower market in Ghazipur. We at The Genda Phool Project however are formulating a strategy of building public opinion against this proposal. We are working towards the possibilities of a campaign to save these markets on grounds of right to livelihood, issues of displacement, as well as issues of urban heritage and aesthetics, and those of people’s participation, involvement and consent in development initiatives.
Each of the three flower markets is beautiful in that they have a distinct and unique character, which will be lost once they are relocated in a strange ‘flower market building’ on the outskirts of the city.
Another flower market in Delhi. By Flickr user kdombrowski. (Spot the monkey!)
We will start our Phool Mandi walk with the market at Baba Kharak Singh Marg, opposite Hanuman Mandir. The mandi operates from 4 am to 9 am, and accomplishes business worth crores in this duration. The flash in the pan phenomenon – here now, gone in a second, is fascinating. This is the city’s largest flower market, and specialises largely in cut flowers of all varieties and even some dry flowers and flower decoration equipments.
From New Delhi we move to Old Delhi, to explore the Genda Phool Mandi at Fatehpuri Masjid, Chandni Chowk. Again, only a morning mandi. Farmers and flower sellers are seen milling around, and again, by around 9 am the mandi vanishes, and the spice market of Khari Baoli, around which the mandi is located, emerges. This mandi only sells genda phool (marigold flower) in its loose form.
Finally, we will take you to another city of Delhi – Mehrauli. The Mehrauli flower market again largely specialises in Genda Phool (in loose and garland form) but also some cut flowers. This Mandi however, is open all day, unlike the other two which are temporary / morning ones.
Do join us for this one, it may be one of your last chances to see these lovely flower markets if the government has its way. But we are hoping it will not…”
It sounds like a spectacular tour. Here are the details:
- Sunday 18th July 2010
- 6 am: Collecting at meeting point
- 11 am: Walk finishes at meeting point
- Meeting Point: Near Ticket Counter, Dilli Haat, Opp. INA Market
- Please park your vehicles here, the group will proceed in an AC bus from here.
- Contribution: Rs. 500/- per person.
- No contribution to be paid for children if they are sharing a seat.
- To register and for details contact Himanshu Verma / 41764054 / email@example.com. (Make sure you tell him you read about this here!)
- Please carry the following: umbrella / hat, water.
- We will provide some sharbats (traditional Indian cold drinks) / tea / refreshments on the bus.
- Carry bags for buying flowers. Say no to plastic!
- Dress Code: Wear genda colours – orange, yellow, red & maroon.
We encourage all our readers to go. Send us pictures that we’ll post here after the event!