The name literally translates into ‘the market of potters’. Ghumar mandi, however, has undergone a metamorphosis over the last 25 years or so, now known not for the potters but as a one-stop locale for your entire daily shopping needs as well as for special occasions. Denizens even say that no festival is complete if a visit to Ghumar Mandi has been missed. And indeed. With an array of shopping points, loads of places to eat at, and a central location, the market has earned the reputation of being one of the most sought after destinations in the city to hang out. At least five colleges and a number of coaching institutes are located in the 2-km stretch beginning a little before Khalsa College for women till Aarti Chowk that forms the market. While students throng the market during the day – which is why many call the stretch a dating point – denizens flock to the place during evenings. Technically, Ghumar Mandi refers to the market structure, but over the years even the area around is referred to by that name.
From the budgeted shopper to the lavish spender, the market caters to all. There are myriad big and small shops selling clothes, footwear, accessories and jewellery. Some of the popular ones are Kala Mandir, Wardrobe, Instyle and Silver Arc. These apart, everything from groceries, fruits and vegetables, kids apparel, school uniforms to hardware stores, electrical items, electronic items, tailors, salons can be found. There is also a handful of surviving earthenware sellers. In the midst of all this, there is an art gallery that sells and frames paintings and has been around since 1967. Initially dealing in plain glass, Jassal Art Gallery started with its present business in 1978 and is one of the first businesses set up in the market.
The place is known for a rich variety in street food. Come evening, and the stretch buzzes with activity as a number of street food vendors flock to this stretch. It’s brisk business for them as, on the carts and makeshift stalls, pizzas, pao bhaji, Amritsari kulcha, dosa sell like hot cakes, available at throwaway prices. The market also houses a few popular sweets shops, namely Bengali sweets shop and Dhodha Sweets that have been round for four decades. Though there is clearly a dearth of restaurants here, Bistro 226, a coffee-shop that doubles up as a multi-cuisine restaurant in the noon, is quite an attraction for the college goers as well as the elite. Bake 4 U is a good option for bakery products.
Some of the shop owners will tell you that the market is around a century old, though it has really expanded in the 80s with the influx of people from other cities, mainly Delhi, after the riots. Earlier, it was an exclusive domain of potters who had a huge area at their disposal to make and bake earthenware. Gradually, the business declined and the younger generation left it, many accepting odd jobs in the industries setting up all around – mainly hosiery and automobile parts. Interestingly, the market area was once a desolate place on the city’s outskirts. “People from the city would board a bus to come here,” an old-timer recalls.