How Did Women Transform a Local Market into a Cultural Icon? – A Walk through Ima Keithel

Image Credit: SheAtWork

Let me tell you about a special place in India, Ima Keithel in Imphal. It’s a market unlike any other, deeply rooted in a story that stretches back to the 16th century. Back then, while the men were busy in the fields, the women of Manipur were the backbone of their households, managing homes and trading surplus produce. This was the humble beginning of Ima Keithel—a space created by women, for women, at the heart of Imphal.

Throughout its history, Ima Keithel has faced its share of challenges, especially during British colonial times. Back then, economic policies imposed by the British made life tough for the locals. But the women of Ima Keithel were not to be underestimated.These women stood strong against oppressive economic policies with their protests in 1904 and 1939. These movements, known as Nupi Lan, were crucial in asserting their rights and highlighting their crucial role in the socio-economic fabric of Manipur. As the years passed, Ima Keithel evolved into more than just a marketplace.

Image Credit: India TV News

Today, a walk through Ima Keithel offers a glimpse into the vibrant daily life of Manipur. There is a section brimming with fresh vegetables where every stall, from juicy tomatoes to spicy chilies, seems to celebrate the bounty of the land. Nearby, the textile area dazzles with its colorful display of handwoven saris, intricate phaneks, and shawls, each piece a testament to the local heritage and craftsmanship.

Beyond these, the market also features areas dedicated to household essentials and local handicrafts. These sections not only meet the practical needs of the community but also showcase the entrepreneurial spirit of the local women.

Ima Keithel stands as a powerful symbol of empowerment and resilience. This market is a place where traditions are actively maintained and shared. Grandmothers pass down their stalls to the next generation, and young mothers manage their businesses while nurturing their children. It’s a community hub where Ima’s gathering marks the end of each day to share stories and laughter. Their hands, skilled and gentle, do more than create products; they weave resilience into the community’s spirit.

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In Ima Keithel, the threads of tradition link the past with the present, crafting hope into the daily lives of Manipur’s people. It’s a place rich with stories of endurance, unity, and the enduring strength of women.

-Staff Reporter

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