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In Manipur's Imphal, Asia's Largest All-women Market, Run by Thousands of Female Traders

By: Buzz Staff

Local News Desk

Last Updated: December 17, 2021, 16:42 IST

Post-Independence, over the years, the old market transformed into a bustling market of thousands of female traders.

Post-Independence, over the years, the old market transformed into a bustling market of thousands of female traders.

The name Ima Keithel means Mother’s Market, and it started back in the 16th century with just a few stalls run by women.

Tucked away in a corner of northeast India, there’s a market in Manipur that is conventional in more than one way. Not only is it iconic for the fact that it’s an all-women market, but also Asia’s largest, solely run and managed by female traders. Located in Manipur’s capital Imphal, this market is a workplace for more than 5,000 women vendors.

The market, which has a history of over 500 years is popularly known as Ima Keithel or Ima Market or Mothers’ market, but residents call it Nupi Keithel.

The name Ima Keithal means Mother’s Market, and it started back in the 16th century with just a few stalls run by women.

Post-Independence, over the years, the old market transformed into a bustling market of thousands of female traders. As the traders grew into numbers and the market flourished, every little item from household, textiles, handicrafts to vegetables and meat started selling there. This market gradually became a hub for Imphal’s commercial and economic activities. The market plays a hugely instrumental role in boosting the state’s economy.

The market is wholly managed and run by a women union. As per a custom, which has been passed on for years, only married women are allowed to indulge in trade activities in the market. At Nupi Keithel, married women loan the money from the union to purchase goods to kickstart their business, and pay them back later.

It is said that between 1948 and 1952, some people tried to get the place vacated, but the traders from Nupi Keithel stood against oppression and injustice. Earlier, there used to be shed shops, now the Imphal Municipal Council has developed the market into a four-story building. Now women set up shop in the same.

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first published:December 17, 2021, 12:42 IST
last updated:December 17, 2021, 16:42 IST