Early on the morning of our first full day in India, we took a tuk-tuk to Kolkata’s wholesale flower market, near the city’s famed Howrah Bridge. What a bold introduction to the country! Flowers arrive around sunrise each day and are sold by the kilo to retailers who then resell the blossoms for weddings, temple visits and puja ceremonies.
Kolkata’s flower market as seen from Howrah Bridge.
Making a delivery.
Many of the market’s vendors also live in their stands.
A rare female vendor selling fresh greens for cooking.
The market is almost exclusively male; we saw very few women. As in most parts of India we’ve traveled – except in the larger cities – women remain largely behind the scenes, caring for the home and the children.
Let the haggling begin.
Marigolds are the primary flower sold at the market. The Portuguese introduced marigolds to India in the 1600s, and they’re now ubiquitous at all sort of ceremonies. Their rich shades of saffron and gold dominate the scene.
Stringing a marigold garland.
Marigolds now bear enormous cultural significance here; the blossoms are threaded onto string and used as temple adornments and offerings. They’re also made into necklaces and given as gifts to welcome honored visitors, similar to Hawaiian lei tradition.
The white garlands are made of jasmine flowers, and they smell absolutely amazing.
Immense quantities of flowers are sold every single day; the market operates around the clock.
Women negotiating prices with the seller.
Loose blossoms are sold by the kilo.
Unsurprisingly, a market like this generates a lot of waste.
Marigold blossoms are used in offerings like these aartis, which are set alight and floated on the Ganges.
The streets of India are filled with small altars; shops selling flower offerings are always nearby.
Like everything else in India, the market was loud, hot, chaotic and messy…but completely worth a visit!