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Automobile springs being sold at Chor Bazaar
Barbells for sale at Chor Bazaar

Chor Bazaar (also called Bhendi Bazaar) in South Mumbai is one of the largest flea markets in India. The word Chor means "thief" in Hindi-Urdu. Chor bazar is Mumbai's famous Thieves Market where bargain-hungry tourists rummage for Ming vases and Muranos at throwaway prices. The main avenue is Mutton Street, flanked by rows of little antique shops that look like musty attics and sell just about anything at bargain prices from old ship parts, grandfather clocks, gramophones, to crystal chandeliers and old English tea sets antiques at throwaway prices, including colonial-era lamps, Art Deco clocks and trinkets of every kind. A store called Mini Market also offers old Bollywood posters for sale[1]. Others offer authentic Victorian furniture, wonderful for browsers, antiquarians and restorers. Although bargains are sometimes staggering, most of the shop owners are pretty street smart and haggling is considered mandatory[2]. This area can be considered one of the tourist attractions of Mumbai.

This is basically an "organized" flea market, where one has to rummage through junk and hopefully find treasures. The reason it is known as "thief's market", is because it assumed that goods sold there are stolen. Chor Bazaar is off the beaten path, but everyone knows about it. It is basically a maze of alleys.

Most of proper shops are closed on Friday as this area is in the heartland of one of the largest Muslim populations in Mumbai. There's a saying about this area, if you lose anything in Mumbai you can buy it back from the "chor bazaar"[3]. It has been mentioned in popular novels like Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey[3] as "not a nice place"[4].

References

  1. ^ Giridharadas, Anand (June 22, 2008). "36 Hours in Mumbai". The New York Times. http://events.nytimes.com/2008/06/22/travel/22hours.html. Retrieved 2009-03-06.  
  2. ^ "Chor Bazaar". Fodors.com. http://www.fodors.com/world/asia/india/mumbai-bombay-and-maharashtra/review-446183.html. Retrieved 2009-03-06.  
  3. ^ a b Brooks, Victoria (2000). Literary Trips (Illustrated ed.). GreatestEscapes Pub. pp. 36. ISBN 0968613705. http://books.google.com/books?id=JbktvlhYdr8C&pg=PA36&dq=chor+bazaar&client=firefox-a#PPA36,M1. Retrieved 2009-03-06.  
  4. ^ Mistry, Rohington (1991). Such a long journey. Knopf. pp. 92. ISBN 0679400095. http://books.google.com/books?id=0WliAAAAMAAJ&q=chor+bazaar&dq=chor+bazaar&client=firefox-a&pgis=1.  

Mumbai's Chor Bazaar, which literally means "thieves market", has a fascinating history that spans more than 150 years. Apparently, it was originally called Shor Bazaar, meaning "noisy market", but "shor" became "chor" because of how the British mispronounced the word. Eventually stolen goods started finding their way into the market, resulting in it living up to its new name! These days it's famous for antique and vintage items.

To find Chor Bazaar, you'll need to venture right into the thick of Muslim Mumbai. It's located on Mutton Street, in the busy market area between S V Patel and Moulana Shaukat Ali Roads, near Mohammad Ali Road in south Mumbai. The closest local railway station is Grant Road.

The area is full of crowded streets and crumbling buildings, and can be a little overwhelming. Don't be daunted though, it's quite safe but do be careful of pickpockets.

The shops in Chor Bazaar are open from 11 a.m. until 7.30 p.m., every day except Friday (which is Muslim prayer day). However, the area is still worth a visit on Friday when it comes alive with the Juma Market. This is the real thieves market. From sunrise on Friday morning, vendors cram the lanes selling all kinds of goods, many of them stolen. You'll have to get there early to get the best stuff though.

Prices at Chor Bazaar are very fluid and will depend on how good your bargaining skills are (or aren't!). The usual tips for bargaining at India's markets apply, and you should only aim to pay around half the price initially quoted for the goods. Shop keepers are very savvy and will quote ridiculously high prices to unsuspecting tourists.

One other thing to keep in mind is that the area is a conservative Muslim area, so do dress in loose clothing that covers your legs and shoulders.

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