Everything you should know about this 500 year old Asia’s largest women run market in Manipur
‘Ima Keithel’ is a 500 year old market located in Imphal, Manipur. Besides being one of the oldest markets, its specialty lies in the fact that it is Asia’s Largest Women Run Market, and possibly the world, where a man can buy but can never sell.
In Manipuri, Ima means mother and Keithel means market. This market is run by only married women and has 5000 shopkeepers. Scholars believe that the market dates back to the 16th century. Research states that the market was a result of the enforcement of the Lallup-Kaba, an ancient forced labour system in Manipur that sent men of the Meitei community to cultivate faraway lands and fight wars. The women used to work in the paddy fields, take care of the household and sell their farm produce in improvised markets. This led to the creation of markets where women played a central role.
The women of Ima Keithal have formed an union that manages the market and runs a credit system for the women traders. They can borrow money to purchase goods and pay it back to the union later. The Shopkeepers earn between Rs. 73K & 200K Annually. The annual turnover of the Mother’s Market is Rs. 40-50 Crores.
Over the years, Ima Keithal has been offering everything to its customers; including traditional handicrafts, modern clothing, local produce like, dried fish and the famous Morok chili etc.