Laad meaning lacquer is used to make bangles, on which artificial diamonds are studded. In this 1-kilometre long shopping strip, most of the shops sell bangles, Saris, wedding related items, and imitation jewellery.
Choodi bazar is the main market for bangles. It is popular for bangles, semi-precious stones, pearls, jewellery, and products such as silverware, Nirmal, Kalamkari paintings, Bidriware, Lacquer bangles studded with stones, Saris and handwoven materials of silk and cotton.
The narrow lane is filled with Burkha-clad women, bangle shops and old buildings with wooden balconies.
Bargaining and haggling is part and parcel of this market. Shopkeepers employ ‘beckoning’ tactics, placing an employee at the entrance of the store beckoning passers-by to enter their shop.
Many stores are furnished with a clean, soft cotton mattress that covers the entire floor.
Customers sit on the soft cotton mattress without shoes, lean against a wall with a round pillow and the sales person presents all items on the floor. All business is conducted on the floor.
This city of Hyderabad is known for these glittering lacquer bangles.
Weddings and religious festivals – neither of which are in short supply in India – are a reliable excuse to amass new sets of bangles.
Hyderabadi women regularly refresh their collections with the latest designs.
Brides from across India come to Laad Bazaar to match bracelets to their trousseaus; and tourists come to the lively market for the ambience and the sparkly souvenirs.
Laad Bazaar occupies the artery to the west of the Charminar. The first few steps are always the most disorienting, as one blinks to adapt to the blinding displays.
Thousands of bangles keep twinkling in shop after shop, with lights coming off the glass cases like fireworks.
Hawkers sell bundles of bangles on street carts in front of showrooms where salesmen beseech you to browse their collections : “Madam, madam, one minute, one minute.”
There’s plenty of finery on sale in the Bazaar and the nearby markets, including antique jewelry from the era of the Nizams.
Delicate crystal bottles of Attar perfume, embroidered borders, or Gota Masalas, for traditional Hyderabadi Khada Dupattas, bridal outfits – the list looks almost endless. But it’s the bangles that draw most of the traffic to the Bazaar, which locals often call Choodi Bazaar meaning bangle market.
Shopping in the Bazaar is as much about enjoying Hyderabadi hospitality and humor as it is about commerce, and as with many things in Hyderabad, there is no rushing the matter.
People usually arrive with swatches of colors they want to match and then settle in for the long haul, leaving the negotiations for later discussions.
Set after set is presented with a flourish, and if they don’t have the color or size you want, a boy might be sent to a relative’s shop nearby to get it, while the salesman distracts you with tea and conversation.
Like any other Bazaar, there are family businesses where there are father, sons and cousins who have four or five shops between them.
People have different takes on the history of Laad Bazaar, but a popular origin story, recorded on a placard at the Charminar, dates it to the late 16th century.
It says the Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah, founder of Hyderabad, established the market for the wedding of his daughter; the tangle of bangle shops came later.
Laad means lacquer. Hence the name Laad Market for of bangle market, where there are an estimated 200 shops dedicated to these bracelets.
The bangles are handmade by artisans in nearby workshops. Lacquer comes from resin, which is melted over a furnace and molded into a circle, then embellished with crystals, beads or mirrors.
‘We’re famous in the whole world’, says a shopkeeper listing the destinations he’s traveled to for exhibitions, including Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.
The intricacy of the patterns the artisans etch out of crystals is remarkable, and the palettes and designs seem to evolve with every visit.
The wedding industry and a full calendar of festivals keep the Laad Bazaar very busy.
While the Bazaar preserves and promotes a long-beloved craft in the modern era, it also helps preserve a slice of Hyderabad’s syncretic culture, and that’s the thing that’smost amazing.
Auto rickshaws and cars are barred entrance from Charminar end (the preferred entrance) of the strip due to the narrow street being crowded, and only pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles and scooters, and sometimes cycle-rickshaws are permitted to enter.