The beauty of the North-Eastern states in India cannot be described in a few words. Known for its idyllic and tranquil surroundings and old-fashioned cottages, Shillong, a famous hill station and also the capital of Meghalaya, takes a special place in the hearts of tourists. The city has retained its cultural heritage and scenic beauty, despite changing powers. One visit to the place made me go spellbound by its charm and alluring backdrop, and I realized why it was popular amongst the European colonial powers of the Indian subcontinent. It is said that the European settlers referred to Shillong as the ‘Scotland of the East’.
Lewduh Bara Bazaar – Largest Traditional Market in Northeast India is known to be one of the popular places to visit in Shillong . Lewduh Bazar is what the locals call it and Bara Bazar is how the tourists know it. This market is one of the largest and the oldest trade centres in the Northeast and is managed by one of the traditional Khasi states named Hima Mylliem. Khasis are the indigenous people of Meghalaya. As its name suggests, it is a marketplace for the common people and is a collection of many traditional markets. April month is considered to be the best time to visit shillong , as the bazaar undergoes religious rituals and sees the installation of monoliths or ‘mawbynnas’ at the most protected area of the market also known as Khlieh Iew. The ceremony is conducted to worship the deity, U Blei Shyllong and to invoke his blessings.
Interestingly, most of the shops here are run by local women, and those shopping in Shillong find this unique and encouraging. One would wonder what things are on sale here, for it is being run by the local villagers. The marketplace is a one-stop solution for everything on your shopping list. The narrow alleys lead you to hundreds of shops that sell an array of items including seasonal fruits and vegetables, native and exotic spices, clothes and dress materials, handicraft products, meat, fish, and more.
Of all the things I got to explore in the market, a few really caught my attention and I had no hesitation in taking home those souvenirs. Here are the 4 keepsakes I grabbed for myself:
1. Handwoven Shawl and Scottish Checks
In Shillong Lewduh Bara Bazaar – Largest Traditional Market in Northeast India, there are shops selling Scottish Checks and handwoven shawls and stoles. Seeing those colorful shawls, I could not stop myself from buying the one that was the thinnest of all, just to make sure it would be of use to me. The shawls usually feature different patterns. Initially, they might look like some geometrical shapes or random patterns. But a closer look would reveal that the patterns are depictions of the specific tribe that has woven them. These shawls are the identity of the tribes weaving them. Chit-chatting with the shop lady gave me some insight into the making of these shawls, and of course the tribes associated with them. I also grabbed a Scottish check dress material and got it tailored into a plaid tartan skirt at the Darzi Gali.
2. Khasi Knives
For those in love with tools, Khasi knives would make great keepsakes. They are quite inexpensive and feature a metal blade attached to a split-wood handle to provide better grip. These knives are handcrafted by local craftsmen and are widely used by the Khasis to cut betel nuts and also for household purposes. It is easy to find a store at Shillong Lewduh Bara Bazaar – Largest Traditional Market in Northeast India that sells knives and other handy tools. Another impressive thing that I found in the store is a Khasi spade that I thought would make a great tool to cut lawn grass, bushes, and hedges. The Khasi knives are quite lightweight and easy to handle, and can also be used to do some heavy-duty chopping inside the kitchen.
3. Khasi Bows and Arrows
The people of Meghalaya have been practicing archery for centuries. The locals even have some fascinating myths and stories about this game. The Khasi people still believe that archery is a gift to them from God. Khasi bows and arrows from the traditional markets would make good choices if you have a flair for archery or are looking for ethnic showpieces to display at your home.
4. Bamboo Dalis
My shopping in Shillong at the Shillong Lewduh Bara Bazaar – Largest Traditional Market in Northeast India, got more exciting with a visit to the first bamboo store that I found. The store featured a myriad of bamboo dalis handcrafted with such perfection, just to my excitement. Even though it was never on my shopping list but I decided to splurge on these intricate handicrafts as I knew how great they would look as décor. The blinds are so artistic and visually appealing that I grabbed 4 shades to accentuate the wicker furniture in the balcony of my house.
My shopping at Shillong Lewduh Bara Bazaar – Largest Traditional Market in Northeast India, did not end there. I still miss the bamboo shoot pickle and the long Khasi scrubs I bought during my shopping in Shillong. Meghalaya being renowned for its red plums, pears, and peaches, Bara Bazar sees a lot of customers buying these local fruits. Do not hesitate to grab a few and savour them before you leave the picturesque city. Also aromatic and authentic were the handful of local specialties such as turmeric, chilli peppers, and special masalas that I bought from the traditional markets.
To satiate one’s hunger pangs during the exploration of Shillong Lewduh Bara Bazaar – Largest Traditional Market in Northeast India, local restaurants, and eat-outs come to rescue. They serve a multitude of local dishes including dohkhleh or pork salad, pork intestine sausages, and flavoured rice. If you are open to experimentation then you can try some of the nutritious worm-based dishes that the locals swear by.
Although vibrant, do not expect a leisurely shopping experience in Bara Bazaar as the tiny alleys are filled with busy people and open drains. If you are going as a group, stick together as there are high chances of losing your way in this labyrinth. One look at the place can tell you how messy it can get when it rains. But none of these challenges mattered to me once I entered the extremely crowded bazaar, since nowhere else could I find local items for much cheaper rates and tailors swiftly and perfectly stitching clothes for an unbelievably meagre amount. This is how my shopping in Shillong adventure ended with money well spent on bags full of local handicrafts and goodies.