The most underrated gem in the Rajasthani capital is the Jaipur Wholesale Flower Market, also known as the Phool Mandi.
The market starts to come alive in the very wee hours of the morning, where farmers from the surrounding villages drive three hours to bring their freshly cut flowers to Jaipur, selling up to 50,000 kg a day.
It's 6am on a cool March morning. The birds are loudly chirping and the streets are sequentially filling with the usual suspects - laborers sleepily waiting at bus stops, stray dogs, chai walas and their clinking clay cups. The sun has not yet risen, the skies are deep blue. The bright lights above Sahu Chai Wala hurt my heavy eyes, but my morning chai is fueling me for the floral fulfillment that awaits at the Jaipur Flower Market.
We pull up outside the flower market entrance by Chandi Taksal Gate, and are instantly greeted with the strong floral aroma. Pink roses, yellow and orange marigolds, and white chrysanthemums. At what seems like the unloading station, men scurry about, yelling at one another, pointing in different directions. Trucks overflowing with flowers are emptied and sacks are placed on the heads of women in colorful saris, who gracefully balance and place them on the market grounds. The perfectly imperfect market is filled with little storefronts, each with nothing in them but a desk, a man equipped with a calculator and notepad, and photos of Gods to bless the business day. Outside the storefronts are turbaned men, smoking and waiting for the bartering to begin. Sacks and saris bursting at their knots quickly fill the market, showing little ground beneath them.
There are very few flower stems in sight. Flowers in India are commonly sold as the flower head only. Flower heads are used throughout the country in different ways; Hindus use them as offerings for daily prayers in temples, homes, and offices, commonly only petals. They are strung into garlands for ceremonies and for the adoration of Hindu Gods. Boutiques, hotels, restaurants and people's homes are embellished with decorative vessels filled with water and floating flower heads. Brides and grooms exchange flower garlands during their wedding day at the Jaimala ceremony, and strings of marigolds routinely decorate Indian wedding homes and venues. This alone has boomed business here in the last few years with Jaipur becoming a prime wedding destination for Indians due to the number of popular regal and royal wedding venues in the Pink City. The flowers are sold and traded by weight to anybody that visits - florists, street vendors, door-to-door peddlers, wedding planner associates, you or me.
Post sales - bikes, rickshaws, autos, motorbikes, donkey carts, trucks, you name it, are loaded with the flower filled sacks and taken to the next person in the supply chain. Later on in the day, street sellers scattered everywhere will sew their fresh flower heads into garlands and sell them throughout the city. Florists will trade at increased prices with clients and customers at their elegant outlets. Women will sit with baskets outside temples reselling their purchased flowers to the worshippers that pass them on the way into the temple. And just like that, the entire city is reselling flowers that came from the humble Jaipur Wholesale Flower Market.
The market is open everyday from 6am. To watch the entire process from the arrival of the village trucks to the trading, arrive at opening time. The market is most alive between 7-8am, although it is open until 12 noon. After visiting the flower market, walk over to the fruit and vegetable market which is directly next to it. A similar process happens here shortly after the flower market starts, where you can see and try the regional fruits and vegetables, stacked in mountain high piles.
The Jaipur Wholesale Flower Market is a must for anyone wanting to experience true Jaipuri life and learn more about the Indian culture. The market offers a stark contrast to the city's magnificent forts and palaces, yet just as breathtaking with its colorful riot of color and scent. The cultural experience is worth the early start and I promise you, this will be one of the most cherished memories from your trip to Jaipur. Don't forget to take your camera!
There is no entry fee and the market can easily be explored without a guide or tour booking. Seasonally, India is more popular and at peak tourism in spring due to the perfect climate. Summer can get very hot and uncomfortable. The official spoken language in the city is Hindi with the dialect of the city being Dhundari. English is not spoken by everyone, although locals will try to help you as much as they can. The vendors do not mind if you take photos of them and will often strike a pose! However, do be mindful as they are working. The currency used is Indian Rupees and it's encouraged to haggle before purchasing.