Thanks to Trishna Mohanty for another transporting article in this well-conceived series:
THE WORLD THROUGH A LENS
Nupi Keithel, or Women’s Market, a 16th-century bazaar in which all of the vendors are women, is a fountainhead of social and political activism in the Indian state of Manipur.
Barely five feet tall and hunched over, Anjana Devi, who is in her 80s, bellows instructions at two men as they unload crates of fruits from a mini truck. All around her, hundreds of women — most of whom are over 60 — mirror her actions. Farm-fresh produce surrounds them. The air is full of heady aromas: incense and fermented fish, jasmine buds and pungent spices.
Every shopkeeper in sight is a woman. Collectively, around 5,000 of them here in the Indian state of Manipur constitute one of the largest markets run solely by women in all of Asia.
Tucked away in a corner of northeast India, Manipur was once a sovereign state called the Kangleipak Kingdom. The valley was inhabited by various ethnic groups, and while patriarchy underlined their traditional norms and social structures, women were not confined to traditional roles.
The kingdom was often at war with its hostile neighbors, and, to keep them at bay, able-bodied men served the monarchy. In their absence, women took care of both households and trade. Around 1580, the monarch established an exclusive trading center for women called Nupi Keithel, or Women’s Market, in Imphal, what is now the capital of Manipur…
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