this sunday: walk the dying flower markets of Delhi

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.

A Blueline tries to camouflage itself. Photo by Bradford Daly.

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 / (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!

8 responses to “this sunday: walk the dying flower markets of Delhi

  1. Wow, sounds amazing. Wish I wans’t already busy. 6 AM is a rough time to start, but it sounds worth it.

  2. Wish I could go as well … but Sunday mornings are family time (not necessarily at 6am, but …)

    So sad that they are doing this … I love Mehrauli and this just makes me SAD!

  3. Never visited the flower markets when I was visiting Delhi. Will try to do next time if they remain there.

  4. Hi there,

    During our year in Delhi as Fulbrighters (2009-2010), my two roommates and I were so inspired by your blog that we hunted down Vijay and had our own Bollywood poster made. We wanted the poster to reflect our life in Delhi–we lived in Lajpat Nagar. Thought you might like to see how it turned out:!/photo.php?pid=33896491&id=2906737


  5. i hope the flower markets don’t get moved. that seems as if it would go completely against everyones way of life and make some people’s lives more difficult. why do governments always want to fix things that aren’t broken?! and never fix things that are! interesting to learn about the flower markets, i had no idea.

  6. Never visited the flower markets when I was visiting Delhi.
    Great blog! Keep up the great work

  7. Stop pollution in Yamuna River Delhi ( BHARAT )

    Sub: Subject: Soliciting your co-operation in fulfilling our sacred mission of cleaning the Yamuna River.
    A plan to clean and stop pollution in Yamuna within 7 months.

    Aim is to serve the nation in various ways. You must be aware of the pollution being caused due to the disposal of used flowers and other worship materials in our Holy River Yamuna , and carried by all the rivers of India. Our organization, YFF, has undertaken a project to clean the rivers of INDIA starting with The YAMUNA, which will be starting from Delhi .
    We have devised a 3 Point Programme to help clean YAMUNA RIVER in DELHI.
    A) To stop people from throwing the Ceremonial flowers / Poly bags etc in YAMUNA River.
    B)All things being currently thrown in YAMUNA to be collected & a recycling process to be initiated.
    C) To organize children currently engaged in coin collecting & rag picking and give them employment & education.

    I Gopi Dutt want to draw your attention to problem that Delhi has been facing since as long as 10 yrs now. I am talking about the pollution in Yamuna caused by devotional material, Polybags, Flowers etc. Our govt., different NGOs and now Maharaja Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ji have put their best efforts to clean up the river.

    Sri Sri Maharaja Ji is a spiritual guru he has no desire or want for money or fame. From South Africa to America, Iraq to Kashmir people worship him and follow him. Whole world wants to meet him, seem him and Seek his blessings, still he took over the charge to clean the Yamuna in Delhi from various disposed things. Maharaja Sri did the work with his own hands, he tried cleaning up the river by picking up the disposal on his own. He is the first spiritual guru in the world who left popularity and still tried to clean the Life Line of Delhi – The Yamuna. Do you know why? He did this to awaken Delhi. But did we WAKE UP?

    24/4/10 Maharaja Ji finished up his tasks and camps associated with the river and cleaning up river banks. And on 25/4/10 people of Delhi disposed approx. 3,50,000kgs of used hawan samagri, flowers etc. I have some pictures to show this.

    The same way other NGOs, NDTV, the CM of Delhi (Yamuna Mei Jaan Dalo) with various programmes and camps have been trying to clean up the Yamuna but due to lack of a disposal sytempeople still turn to Yamuna for disposing the used materials during pujas into the Yamuna. We need a Disposal System that stops people from throwing these materials in the River. Even though Sri Ravi Shankar Ji tried his best to clean up the river but people still dispose off the samagri and flowers into the river which results that the efforst put in by all the people associated with the cleaning up the River in Vain.

    We all have been trying to clean it up for the past 10 yrs but it hasn’t stopped yet. Does anyone have a plan to stop this that here is no further need to clean n re-clean the river? The problem is that we only create awareness that people should not pollute the river but there are no measures taken to stop this pollution.

    Very soon Delhi is conducting the Common Wealth Games and people from all over the globe are going to travel the city. They talk about Indian Culture which fascinates them, but what are they going to think when they see the flowers used in worshipping God 10 minutes back are in the garbage can or in the river polluting it? What message are we delivering to them? We have to stop this pollution before other nationals start noticing.

    I have researched about the whole polluting issues for the past 7 years; have also noticed it in 22 different states. I have found the cause and the Solution of the problem. During my research I have met CM’s of different states and 162 MP’s and have brought their attention to the issue. I have also met the religious heads of different religions and they have all agreed upon the solution I have now. According to the time limits and need of the hour. They have found my solution to be the best possible way as there is no other option that stops pollution in as soon as 7 months after being implemented.

    In 2006, I met the President APJ Abdul Kalam and the Vice President B.S. Shekhawat and discussed the whole plan with them. The president initiated the project and promised to keep it running believing that this is the only way to save Yamuna.

    I have run the plan in small yet different places to check if what I had researched and concluded can be done practically. Thankfully, it was successful everywhere it was implemented.

    Now I want to implement the whole plan in the region of Delhi so that we can clean Yamuna and stop it from polluting further in future.

    So if you don’t have a plan I have it. I am planning to conduct a 108 days programme called Delhi ki Ganga – Yamuna Mahotsav.
    Fresh Air….
    Fresh Idea….
    Fresh Talent….
    Fresh Energy….
    I need your support Sir.

    Thanking you.
    Kind Regards,
    Gopi Dutt Akash
    President – Youth Fraternity Foundation

  8. Good blogs found for flower market. you can check- India Largest flower market

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