If you’re anything like me, then you absolutely and completely love flowers, and would search down any place that had them. So if you ever find yourself in Kolkata, you should definitely head to the wholesale flower market under the iconic Howrah Bridge one morning, and simply feast your eyes on the myriad hues and breathe in the heady scent of the blossoms heaped in zillions, all around you.
The flower market at Malik Ghat is said to be the oldest and largest wholesale flower market in India. Over a century old, it also looks like it hasn’t been cleaned for that length of time. But if you can ignore the general squalor and open toilets and focus your gaze on the multitude of flowers and the imposing bridge that rises in the background, you could enjoy your time here, in this large market with its crowded and claustrophobic, narrow lanes.
We visited the market at around 4.30am last week. It was still dark, and yet, the market was already in full swing, with a steady line of sellers hurrying into the bazaar from the direction of the bridge, balancing huge baskets of flowers on their heads. Within a few minutes, they had set shop in the lanes. Business was on!
The vividly hued yellow and orange marigolds seemed predominant in the marketplace, followed by tuberose, jasmine and rose. I especially liked the way strings of marigolds swung from the shoulders of the sellers, giving them a bright, floral attire!
Sunflowers added a happy ray of sunshine to the place, while tuberoses mercifully overpowered other unpleasant smells with their strong fragrance. Here’s the husband with a bunch of sunflowers for me!
I thought this little arrangement looked rather patriotic!
Many other flowers competed for space, those whose names I don’t know, but recognize as flowers from my childhood.
In the interior lanes of the market, there were other flowers, like orchids, chrysanthemums and gerberas. It was crowded beyond measure so we didn’t venture too far in.
We spent almost an hour wandering down the lanes, taking in the bustling activity in the flower bazaar and getting stepped on and shoved as people hurried to buy or sell or simply pass through. Then, we stopped at the ghat for a better view of the Howrah Bridge spanning the Hooghly River, before turning our wandering footsteps homeward.