Burrabazar expanded from a yarn and textile market into the commercial nucleus of Kolkata and one of the largest wholesale markets in Asia. Here are 7 amazing things you never knew about this bustling area in the heart of our city
- ETYMOLOGY – Burrabazar (Hindi: बडाबजार) is a Hindi word meaning big market. In Bengali, it is called Barobazar, (Bengali: বড়বাজার), the meaning remaining same. However, there is another theory. The neighbourhood was earlier named after ‘Buro’, the popular name of Shiva. The Hindi-speaking merchants who ousted the earlier local merchants, made it ‘Bara’. Talk about survival of the fittest!
- SUTANUTI HAAT – This entire area was once dominated by yarn and cloth merchants and was called Sutanuti Haat (since it was in the part of Calcutta that was then called Sutnanuti). Sutanuti haat has been traced back to 1738 by Orme. In the siege of 1756, troops of Siraj ud-Daulah set fire to the market and took possession of Jorabagan and Kumortuli, neighborhoods further north where the merchants lived.
- MAHATMA GANDHI ROAD – Cutting right across Burrabazar is Harrison Road, which runs straight from Howrah Bridge to Sealdah railway station. It was constructed between December 1889 and 1892, sweeping away many an overcrowded tenement and festering lane. It is of the uniform breadth of 75 feet and named after Sir Henry Harrison, chairman of the corporation, by whom the scheme was inaugurated and matured. It has been renamed after Mahatma Gandhi.
- ECONOMIC BRILLIANCE – Burrabazar expanded from a yarn and textile market into one of the largest wholesale markets in India. Burrabazar is divided into highly specialised sub-markets, according to the commodity it deals in – Dhotipatti, Fancypatti, Tulapatti, Chinipatti etc. Further subdivisions are katra, chowk or kothi.Each katra (market) is known for a particular item. There are approximately 25 katras in Burrabazar. At Raja Katra, which originally belonged to the Maharaja of Bardhaman, most of the shops deal in spices. At Manohar Das Katra it is mostly hardware and textile. Vikram Chand Market and Khangrapatti sell mostly electronic goods and artificial ornaments.
- A SYNAGOGUE! – Did you know that there is a Jewish synagogue right in the heart of Burra Bazar? The address is – 201B, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Burrabazar, Utkalmani Gopabandhu Sarani, Raja Katra, Kolkata, West Bengal 700007, India. And here’s a picture –
- CASH AND MORE CASH – Burrabazar runs on huge volumes of cash transactions. It is rumored that the local merchants pay some employees of bank branches in Burrabazar for just counting currency notes. The Telegraph once reported – “The intricacies of the money transactions at Burrabazar can stump finance whizkids from the best of B-schools. In 10ftx10ft gaddis (offices), deals running into crores are struck without any written records. It’s all an act of faith and defaults are few.”
- MECHUA FRUIT BAZAAR – Rumored to be one of Asia’s largest and fastest moving fresh fruit markets, Mechua Bazar sees truckloads of fruits being auctioned 24×7 right on the streets. Check out this video of a fruit auctioneer plying his trade in Mechua.
A FINAL WORD – A popular saying goes, “Anything and everything is available in Burrabazar. Even the tiger’s eye is available for the right price.” We salute the spirit of business this part of Calcutta brings to us!
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