Khanderao Market: A traditional Super Market

One of the most vibrant and architecturally fascinating places in Vadodara is Khanderao Market in Dandiya Bazaar area. This market comes to life before dawn when farmers begin trading their agriculture produce with the vendors. As i walked into UK Aquilaria Mart the market at 6. 00 am, the vegetable and fruit vendors had started arranging their stalls, many of them using the light of lanterns. From a distance I could savor the fragrance of roses, marigolds and gerberas coming from the flower vendors.

This market with the palatial beauty was built by the erstwhile ruler of Baroda state, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III in 1907 in memory of his late father Maharaja Khanderao Sayajirao Gaekwad II. It was constructed by the British architect Robert Chisholm for Rs. 500, 000.

A remarkable feature of this ancient market is that it incorporates various architectural styles ranging from Maratha and Jain to Islam and European cultures. This charming architecture that sprouted from various cultures portrays the secular approach of the king towards the people of different communities in the kingdom.

The building was gifted by the king on the silver jubilee of his administration to the people of the city as a market place and municipal headquarters.

Since then, it has been an important center for whole and retail sale of fruit and vegetables, colorful flowers, groceries, items necessary for Hindu rituals and ceremonies and earthen wares. The market is divided into retail and a whole sale market especially for fruit and vegetables.

When i entered the premises, two dome shaped structures resembling a Hindu temple and a clock tower in the center welcomed me to the retail market. These domes were crowned by a kalash (an earthenware or metal pitcher symbolizing fertility which is usually placed on top of Hindu temples) decorated in a Victorian style. A step towards the gateway drew my attention to a beautiful toran, a free standing gateway carved on the ceiling.

Inside the building, my ears rang with amusing slogans like “Dungri tees rupiya kilo”, onions Rs 30 per kg, and “Dhana, marcha, phudina”, coriander, chilies, mint, yelled by vendors to attract customers to their stalls. A cocktail of aromas from stalls of spices and vegetables like chilies, mint, garlic and onions started playing with my nose, making me sneeze at times.

According to historians and architecture experts, the retail market was planned in the Arabic market style. There is a floral fountain in the center surrounded by stalls selling produce. Some stalls are also spread out around the corners of the circle. The retail market is encased by an array of shops on the ground floor and city municipal corporation offices on the first. The fountain in the center as well as the carved jharokhas, balcony windows enclosed by grilles with floral motifs on the surrounding architecture show the presence of Islamic culture.

The shops of groceries and ritual necessities have entrances with Afghan arches. As i went closer to the shops selling colorful ritualistic items, the aroma of aggarbattis, or incense sticks refreshed me.

Small alleys passing through the stalls lead to the whole sale market on the right and the flower and earthen ware market on the left. The whole sale market in the neighboring premises was designed as per the typical Indian sabji mandi or vegetable market where the stalls are set up in rows one after the other.