The Chowk Bazaar, the main market area for the people of Darjeeling, was set up only in 1920. Before that, it was just a vacant plot where musical performances were organized and dignitaries visiting the town were accorded welcome. It is not exactly known why the area was turned into a marketplace; in all probably the authorities could not find a better place for it.
Easy Accessibility of Chowk Bazaar
Indeed, the plot we know as Chowk Bazaar today is ideal for setting up a market. Located on the lower echelon of the town, just beside the taxi stand on Hill Cart Road, this flat piece of land is accessible from all side. It does not take more than twenty minutes to reach the bazaar from upper section of the town such as the Chowrasta Mall. From places such as Lebong, this place is equally easy to get to. Moreover, its proximity to the Hill Cart Road taxi stand allows easy transportation of goods. May be that is why this place was chosen as the main market area of the town. Incidentally, this market is also known as the Lower Bazaar in some quarters.
Chowk Bazaar Yesterday and Today
Initially, Chowk Bazaar comprised of a vacant space measuring 180 sq meters. Like a true chowk, it was enclosed by buildings on all sides. In the beginning, the traders had their wares displayed in the open air during the day and by night fall had them packed and moved to safer quarters. Permanent concrete structures began to come up only in the 1950s. Now, it is full of shops selling everything from vegetables to garments and other essential items. Budget conscious tourists too may find beautiful knickknacks at a reasonable price in the small gift shops inside the market.
Indeed, if you are looking for small gift items such as hand spun textile, fur caps, masks, embroidered work, rugs, carved boxes, brass ware, silverware at an affordable price this is the place to go. However, in places such as this, to get the best value, one may have to bargain a little.
At a glance, one may find Chowk Bazaar to be too full of raucous to enter. Indeed, one cannot deny that new comers may find the place not only dusty and noisy, but a bit confusing too. Trying to negotiate through the sea of people who come here every day to buy the essential commodities is indeed a hard job. Vehicles that ply through the market add to the chaos.
Chowk Bazaar of the Future
However, very soon the chaos may give place to an orderly market. Gorkhalnd Territorial Administration in tandem with Darjeeling municipality has decided to build a modern structure in its place. They plan to build a super market, with the ground floor dedicated to perishable goods. While that is good news for the local people who have to come here every day to get their essentials, Darjeeling is sure to lose part of their history. Indeed, for the people of Darjeeling, Chowk Bazaar is not only a market place; it is also the place where they interact with others and give vent to their feelings.
Of late, Chowk Bazaar has seen number of political rallies. That apart, people also come here to meet their friends and to socialize. This is indeed the place where one can see the true color of Darjeeling. That is why if one wants to understand the true culture of Darjeeling, one cannot give Chowk Bazaar a miss.