By Pooja Shrimankar
Nupi keithel, or Women’s Market, is a 16th-century market where all the vendors are women thus is a symbol of political and social activism in the Indian state of Manipur.
A state in the northeast of India, Manipur was once a sovereign state called the Kangleipak kingdom. This kingdom used to be often at war with its hostile neighbors and to keep the enemies at bay, men had to serve the monarchy. As the men were mostly at war the women had to take care of trade. In the year 1580, the monarch established an exclusive trading center for women called Nupi Keithel, in Imphal, which is also the capital city of Mizoram.
‘Nupi Keithel’ is entirely managed by women and is one of the largest and oldest markets in Asia. It is spread over three large two-storied buildings and houses everything, fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, textiles, and woven products. As of today, the market’s run by more than 3500 ethnic women.
This market has been a hub for retail. Only married women are allowed to work here, and traditionally the shops ought to be transferred from mother-in-law to daughter-in-law.
This market is very inclusive. Individuals who’d traditionally be-shunned out of society have been able to start their businesses with the help of the local community.
Unity and Camaraderie have been the pillars of Nupi Keithel. The market’s golden legacy has continued to behold over the past several glorious centuries and will continue to do so in the future.