The Hindu Business Line
HERITAGE Gujarat’s century-old-market continues to serve a village
Built in 1905, the complex houses 8-10 shops; some as old as 75 years
Nestled in the dusty alleys of Kharaghoda village in Gujarat, a 111-year-old covered market set up by the British and called the “country’s oldest mall” by locals, has been catering to the needs of the villagers besides acting as their meeting point.
The Bulkley market, located in Surendranagar district, was built in 1905 by Hindustan Salts Limited, a company engaged in salt manufacturing. The small market complex houses 8-10 shops under one roof. The shops are lined neatly along a passageway and the shopkeepers sit on elevated platforms, where they also display their wares.
The market caters to the villagers of Kharghoda, most of whom work in a salt factory nearby. This nucleus of shops stocks items ranging from daily necessities such as groceries, vegetables, clothes to bicycle tyres.
The shopping area also serves as a meeting point of the village, where the locals gather daily to talk and exchange news.Most shopkeepers have owned the shops in the complex for over 25-30 years.
Poonamchand Jain owns a 75year-old shop in the market. Jain, who traces his roots to Rajasthan, says, “This shop has been in my family for over 75 years now. It’s difficult to run a business in such a poor village but we would never want this market place to shut down, as this is our heritage.”
Habib Khatri, who owns a tailoring shop in the market, says, “My forefathers started stitching garments in this small shop and I continue to do what they began. I make clothes for men and boys only, as women in the village mostly stitch their own outfits.”
The villagers claim that the market has never been renovated. They say the thatching on the rooftop has been replaced over time, but its basic structure remains the same as when it was built a century ago.