Author – Hemal Mehta
Street shopping is as famous as street food in India. However, while shopping at Fashion Street in Mumbai or on Commercial Street in Bangalore, you will realise that most Indian street markets sell affordable fashion imported from China or Thailand these days! Fortunately, street shopping at the Law Garden in Ahmedabad (or Amdavad as the locals call it) is a rare exotic experience.
There are many factors that differentiate this market from other markets in India. For starters, this colourful shopping street is a night market. Not a common sight in India unless you are in Goa! Since Ahmedabad is predominately a hot city with dry weather, a night market suits the city and its residents. Like other night markets that are illuminated with tube lights, this market too comes to bloom in the evening with some additional help from oil lamps! It is a dynamic makeshift market with no permanent shops.
If you visit Law Garden in the morning, you won’t even find any trace of the night market! By day, this area is famous for a law college and a garden aptly named after it – Law Garden! Later in the evening, the garden closes down and the wall adjacent to the garden transforms into a bustling market. It is believed that some affluent families had settled down in this area few decades back and the land around the garden was barely used at that point of time. Utilising this opportunity, hawkers from other areas packed their bags and moved in here to set up their temporary shops!
History aside, the most prominent differentiating factor that sets apart the Law Garden market is its sole focus on selling traditional handicrafts made by artisans such as weavers and quilters from Gujarat. No, this isn’t a market just for tourists visiting the city! It is a handicraft hub to which even the locals throng regularly to pick up unique pieces of traditional items.
If you love fashion then the Law Garden market allows you to explore the rich ethnic fashion sensibilities of the Gujarati community. Apart from the embroidered wall hangings, costume jewellery, the main highlight obviously is the Ghagra Choli that is worn during the Navaratri dance festival. For the uninformed, here’s a simple explanation – The Ghagra is a flirty long skirt and the Choli is a short blouse to go with it.
Owing to the creative abilities of the Gujarati artisans, each pair of Ghagra and Choli sold here is a bespoke work of art. Although certain design elements such as Rabari designs, applique embroidery, the use of flower and animal motifs, mirror work and tie and dye prints do prevail over others, the ultimate garment is unique in its own respect and it is hard to find two pairs that are an exact replica. If you love a particular piece of Ghagra Choli, we suggest you pick it right away. Chances are that you may not find it at any other shop in the market!
If bling and accessories is more of your thing, then the Law Garden has a diverse range of pieces made from semi-precious metals on display. From small studs, to drop earrings to complete sets with neckpieces, matching earrings and bangles, you will find almost any design to compliment your look. My personal favourite accessory is the unique waist belt made from seashells and mirror work.
If you are a guy with zero interest in women’s shopping, then head towards the stalls that allow you to take home an essence of Gujarat in the form of bedspreads, cushion covers, bags and tabletops. Intricate embroidery in bright colours forming myriad patterns such as peacocks, lotuses and fishes is sure to brighten up any room in your home!
They say you can’t put a price on art and everything in this market is sold as art! Therefore, don’t be shocked when you hear the ridiculously high prices. A Gujarati businessman will put in his best efforts to maximise profits, while the Gujarati womenfolk will put their best efforts in bargaining to get a good deal. If you are not good at bargaining, we suggest you take some help from the local aunties shopping there. Bargaining is a talent they definitely flaunt a lot at this market!
When you visit this market, you literally breathe in the Gujarati culture, which is vibrant, artistic and rooted in tradition! Next time when you visit Ahmedabad, make sure you do not miss the Law Garden!
Text & Pics – Hemal Mehta