The 200-year-old ‘phool mandi’ near Chowk – the oldest and the only traditional flower market in Lucknow – is set to be shifted to Kisan Bazar in Gomti Nagar. Locals say this would mark the end of a ‘fragrant chapter’ in Old City’s history.
“Nawabi era structures seen all along the Old City are not the only thing that makes Old City a heritage nerve centre of UP,” said Mohammed Mubeen, one of the oldest flower traders here.
“It’s also the traditional markets, cuisines, culture and all things that have contributed to its history. And the traditional flower market near Chowk is no exception,” he said highlighted the Phool Mandi’s contribution to the city’s rich culture.
Though the city’s historians don’t know the exact year when the flower market came into existence. But they tell that the market came into existence during the regime of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula (from 1775 onwards). It was initially located in Phool Wali Gali in Chowk.
“Phool Wali Gali holds a lot of importance in Lucknow’s history. It came into existence with the Chowk market that is one of the state’s oldest markets serving as a window to Lucknow’s rich cultural heritage,” said Yogesh Praveen, a historian who has penned many books on the historical structures of Lucknow.
Praveen said initially the Phool Wali Gali was known exclusively for ‘gajras’ – a garland of jasmine flowers, preferred by the royals. But later on, after the decline of the nawabi era, the florists here engaged in selling other flowers as well.
Apart from flowers, the market comprising more than 5,000 shops was also famous for authentic zari work, chikankari, hand-made jewellery, handcrafted decor items of wood, bamboo and ivory, nagras (shoes), ittar (perfume) and other items.
Phool Wali Gali continued to spread its fragrance till 2000 – the year when the administration directed shops to shift to the Kanchan Market in Chowk, behind the Bada Imambada.
“Over the years, the numbers of florists in the Phool Wali Gali increased manifold and hence the congestion in the ‘flower lane’. Therefore, we were asked to shift to another market and we did,” said Mohd Nadeem, another florist.
The florist said: “Kanchan Market was just a few metres away from the Phool Wali Gali, hence the shifting didn’t affect our business much. But, the florists do have an objection to the district administration’s new directions that came in 2017.”
As per the new directions, the market has to be shifted to Kisan Bazar in Gomti Nagar area. But the florists said shifting would leave a severe dent on their business.
“Shifting the flower market to Gomti Nagar, which is around 18 km away, is not a feasible idea. This will not only increase the transportation cost, but also create other problems for those engaged in flower trade,” he added.
At present, the location of the flower market is favourable for flower farmers who generally come from Barabanki, Hardoi road, Mal, Malihabad, Kakori, Gosainganj and Sultanpur road to sell their flowers, he said.
“Administration officials say shifting the flower market to a posh area like Gomti Nagar would fetch good prices for flowers,” said a few florists.
“Shifting won’t affect the pricing as our customers are not the ones living in posh areas. Our business largely depends on the marriage season and occasions like New Year and Valentine’s Day,” said another florist.
Lucknow’s traditional Phool Mandi deals in sunflowers, gladiolus, roses and ‘Rajni Gandha’ that are dispatched across the country.
According to florists, gladiolus flowers here are of better quality as compared to those available in Delhi or Mumbai. “These flowers have a shelf life of around 8 to 10 days whereas those grown in Delhi or Mumbai last up to 4 to 5 days,” said flower traders.
District administration officials said the shifting would begin soon. “The city’s flower market would be shifted in next few days to Kisan Bazar – a dedicated place for farmers that will benefit them in many ways,” said Anil Kumar, additional district magistrate.
“The shifting of the traditional flower market would be a dent on the city’s rich heritage,” said Zafar Rizwan, an old-timer.
Old City will no more boast of its over-200-year-old ‘phool mandi’ as the traditional market is set to be shifted to Kisan Bazar in Gomti Nagar area. Locals said this would mark the end of a traditional flower market that is also city’s lone and oldest flower market, would be a closer of another chapter of city’s rich history.