The Jaipur Flower Market
If you follow me on Instagram then you may know that my family and I have recently been travelling in India. And, as I’m sure you also know, at any given moment I like to think that I live a perfectly imperfect flower strewn life in colour. This sentence alone could sum up India in general, but in particular it sums up a visit to the Jaipur Wholesale Flower Market otherwise known as Phool Mandi.
I am lucky enough to have visited this market once before. I couldn’t wait to return, because truly, there is nothing that comes close to it. It is one of those unforgettable must-do’s in the pink city.
Definitely flower strewn, definitely colourful and colour filled, and perfectly imperfect in every way, multiplied by a hundred – just to give you some sense of the cacophony!
Milly was up for the challenge of accompanying me, so, alarm clock set for the up with the birds sunrise start, together with Rupsing, our driver, and Annpurna, our guide, we set off.
The city was just waking as we drove through it. The streets are strangely empty and quiet at this time. Until you arrive at this bustling and fragrant market. Then it is instantly obvious that the farmers and growers and pickers must have been up for hours already. Turbaned crowds are gathered to trade sacks and saris and crates bursting full with marigolds and roses and chrysanthemums all freshly picked from the flower farms sometime between midnight and dawn.
I apologise in advance for the floral spam. I found it hard to edit the florabundance. Never before has that word been more apt than at this market!
Milly and I don’t quite know where to stand. It seems that wherever we choose is kind of in the way. But though bemused, the locals are tolerant and patient with us and our cameras – so long as we don’t get in the way of a sale!
The over-whelming fragrance is of tuberose and roses, mixed with coriander and mint and tobacco. The old sacks and old saris are bursting full with marigolds and roses. The colour combination of yellow and orange is cheerful and joyous and optimistic and happy. The hustle and bustle of commerce is mixed with some larger than life market characters.
Most of the flowers come to market as flower heads only, no stems.
This is because they are mostly used as offerings in the temples and shrines, or strung into incredible garlands as decorations for ceremonies and weddings. Or floated in bowls and vessels, where the simple beauty is almost overwhelming. I vow never again to waste a floating petal opportunity!
I cannot not buy some garlands. Resistance is futile. I absolutely know that I am paying over the odds for them, but at about $4 for twenty five beautiful rose, marigold, and ashoksa leaf garlands, I am not going to barter.
After purchase from this wholesale market, where the flowers or garlands are sold and bargained for by weight, they are loaded up on to carts, bikes, tuktuks, donkeys and heads, and taken to be sold door to door, or on a stall outside a temple. And the whole process is repeated every day. All over India.
And then it was time for a steaming hot masala chai and a paratha for breakfast, before the rest of our day got underway. I took my garlands back to our hotel where I proceeded to play hotel stylist, as you do!
When I was small, I decided that I wanted to change my name. In many of my childhood books and my old school suitcase, I’ve crossed out Mandy (as everyone called me then), and written my new name… Marigold.
(photography by Amanda Holland for perfectly imperfect living, except for pink sari lady and sari bundle image by Milly Brunel)