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Trousseau Shopping in the City of Joy – Part I

Sayanti Mukherji

It was a revelation for me to know some time back that our dear old Kolkata was a shopper’s paradise when it comes to trousseau shopping. Not Delhi, not even Mumbai, which I thought was the fashion capital of India but Kolkata. Well, well, well surprise never ceases! But then if you think about it why not? A wedding is all about tradition, culture, and reflection, looking back to your root, of bonhomie, love and positive vibes. Its ambiance is of nostalgia, with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and relations who you have not met in ages… And which other city defines this slow way of life better than Kolkata, perhaps the last bastion of the slow movement.

And then there is of course the creative talent of this city, of embroiders, weavers, tailors who have honed their skills over the ages. Whose ancestors perhaps catered to the wealthy Bengal zamindars, finicky to the core and even to the memsahib’s of the British Raj, stitching their gowns and bodice, coats and stylish bonnets. The lanes and by lanes of the city are dotted with such traditional craftsmen and to list all of them here would be quite impossible. However here are some of the iconic shops which are a must visit for trousseau shopping.

Well known Burrabazar, of Kolkata is as its name suggests ‘the big market’. It is the whole-sale market of the city across the Hoogly as you come from the Howrah Station. The market is a chaotically busy place with different sections catering to different kind of goods. This wholesale hub is the ultimate place to find the best variety and prices; whether it’s a traditional Bengali Benarasi or a North Indian lehenga set. One of the better known shops here is perhaps Mohinimohan Kanjilal on B.B Ganguly Street, there are also tons of lesser but equally good shops in the precinct to suit all pocket size. B.B Ganguly Street or Bowbazar is also the heart of the gold jewelry market of Kolkata with all the major jewelry stores of the city specializing in the intricate but light jewelry Kolkata is famous for, having their flagship showrooms here. Close to Bowbazaar is Mahatma Gandhi Road or popularly known MG Road where you can find the best tailoring shops for your bridal attire. Another wholesale market close to Burrabazar is Bagree Market for costume jewelry, cosmetics and other accessories.

From Burabazar let’s move towards New Market. This historical Victorian Gothic market complex is more than 100 years old. And the red main building with the clock tower still houses most of the shops New Market is famous for though there is an extension at the back after the 1985 fire. The market is home to a plethora of saree shops, such as Dayaram & Co. Bombay Silk House, Lakshmi - The Saree Shoppe and Ghanashyam. Explore the lanes in front of Globe cinema hall another iconic building of the city opposite to the Market for the perfect lehenga.

And then there is College Street. Shops like Indian Silk House, Adi Mohini Mohan Kanjilal make College Street another hotspot for the wedding shoppers especially for traditional Bengali wedding Sarees.

Moving south you cross Park Street, this prestigious area may be associated with British India more than any other parts of the city but some of the best saree shops can be found around it. Check out Saarang, Raj Gharana Saree, Ruprashi Saree, Ananda on Russell St, and Gourisaria Saree on Theatre Road to name a few. All these shops offer an amazing choice and the latest designs. On Russell St there is ‘Good Companion’ for nightwear, lounging kaftans, linen and household accessories. ‘Women’s Friendly Society’, on Park Lane off Park St is another such shop. Old-fashioned English embroidery is the hallmark of these shops. A little further away from Park St is Park Circus here in an obscure galli close to the main market is Mukhtar at 4 Circus Plaza, Circus Avenue, perhaps the best place for the exquisitely-stitched classic cut bridal lehenga.

Let’s move further south to Gariahat, though the busy crossroad of Rashbehari Avenue and Gariahat Road does not resemble a traditional Indian haat anymore by any stretch of the imagination, the name has somehow stuck. From Priyo Gopal Bishoyi, Adi Dhakeshwari Bastralaya to Benarasi Kuthi, Traders Assembly, Rashbehari Avenue is dotted with shops offering range of exotic wedding collections for the brides-to-be. Kimbadanti and Punjabi Darbar, Kinnar Kinnaree opposite Basanti Devi Girls College are good destinations for the guys’ ethnic wardrobe. For high-end Sherwanis and Punjabis, there is Manyavar just a few steps away. A little more southward towards the Dhakuria Bridge is Kohinoor Panjabi Store; for a long time the store was the last word for men’s ethnic wear and their standard hasn’t dropped. Towards Triangular Park are some exclusive shops like Jailakhsmi, Bhojraj and Asha Brothers. These shops vie with each other in offering an amazing range of the choicest sarees.

The above are the typical shopping hubs our mothers and grandmothers visited as young brides-to-be and though they still remain the place for solid shopping Calcutta overtime has become a serious destination for couture shopping. Next month we will explore couture destinations in Kolkata for bridal shopping.