Bangladesh is famous for its woven fabric worldwide, the tradition stretching back to over one thousand years. Previously, there were arrangements for selling the woven clothes locally through informal channels. Later their marketing has been consolidated through establishment of 'haats' (markets or temporary bazaars) at different locations of the country. Among these, there are 11 outstanding woven fabric markets that attract buyers from all over Bangladesh. The turnover of these markets total around Taka 14 billion per week. All these markets have histories and heritages of their own. They also have their own customs, cultures and modus operandi. Usually these markets sit for one day in a week, but some continue for even three to four days. On the market days, a huge numbers of people throng these spots and the locations turn into huge melting pots of buyers and sellers. The following paragraphs provide short descriptions of some of the country's leading hubs of woven clothing.
Demra Bazaar Jamdani Haat: The Demra Bazaar can be reached by proceeding to the north on the Latif Bawani Jute Mill Road from the Demra crossing. The Jamdani Haat has been built here on the bank of the river Balu. The Jamdani weavers of Rupganj, Sonargaon and Siddhirganj upazilas sell Jamdani saris at this market. There is a legend that the Muslin artisans from the southern bank of river Shitalakshya built this market after crossing the two rivers. Later, Jamdani clothing also started to be sold here alongside Muslin. It is estimated that the market is between 200 and 350 years old. One of the oldest haats in the country, this market runs from five at dawn up to nine in the morning every Friday. The majority of the buyers here are wholesalers from Dhaka, Jashore, Khulna and Chattogram. Again, many wholesalers from India also purchase Jamdani sari from here before the advent of Durga Puja.
Noapara Jamdani Haat: The Noapara Jamdani Haat is located inside the BSCIC Industrial Town cum Research Centre at Noapara under Tarabo municipality of Rupganj upazila in Narayanganj district. This market was established in 2001 by the BSCIC industrial town cum research centre for creating an easy marketing outlet for the Jamdani saris woven by local weavers. Some selected varieties of high quality Jamdani saris are found here. The market runs from five at dawn to eight in the morning every Friday. Around 500 saris worth Taka 3 million are sold here each week. The sellers do not have to pay any extra tax as the market is operated by BSCIC.
Kumarkhali Haat: The main driving force of the local economy in the small habitat of Kumarkhali under Kushtia district is the weaving industry. This clothing market was built in the Kumarkhali municipal area around 150 years ago. The market runs from Thursday noon to Saturday midnight each week. About 75 percent weavers in the market hail from Kumarkhali and Khoksha upazilas. Some sellers also arrive from Pabna and Sirajganj districts. Merchandises worth Taka 40 million are transacted here each week.
Poradaha Haat: This clothing outlet of Poradaha under Kushtia district dates back to around 90 years. The small shops in narrow alleyways here display saris, lungis, gamchhas (towels and napkins) and fancy dresses for children. The market conducts business of around Taka 1 billion each week. The small shops numbering 634 stand on a 15-bigha plot of land beside the Poradaha railway station in Mirpur upazila of the district. This market now spreads over another 30 bighas of surrounding land. The shops number 580 in these adjacent plots. The market was established by the then yarn traders Nuruddin and Hashem Ali et al towards the beginning of 19th century. It runs from six in the morning up to 12 midnight on Thursdays. Some transactions also take place on Fridays. Around 95 percent of the commodities here are produced locally, while the remaining 5 percent are foreign-made.
Enayetpur Haat: The Enayetpur Haat is a big market of Sirajganj district. At one time, the weavers of this locality had to go to the Ghatabari Haat on the bank of the river Jamuna for selling their products. They had to face many problems as a consequence. Later, some community leaders of five local unions established this market at Enayetpur. The age of the market is around 50 years. Woven saris, lungis, gamchhas (napkins or towels) and yarns are sold here. The market was renamed as 'Mujib Hat' during the liberation war. It soon became popular as the buyers were treated to a feast on the day of the haat. Although it originally ran only on Fridays, the market now sits on four days per week. The local weavers directly display woven saris and lungis for sale on Wednesdays from morning to noon. Only the grey lungis are sold on Thursdays. The saris and lungis are sold in packets on Friday alongside threads and other essentials. All items sold in the market are locally produced. The market sells between Taka 600 million and Taka 700 million worth of saris each week and other items worth about Taka 100 million.
Shahjadpur Haat: Another big market of Sirajganj district is Shahjadpur Haat. The local weavers originally had to travel to Ghatabari Haat and Ataikula Haat of Pabna for selling their commodities. The Shahjadpur Haat was established in 1972 through the initiatives of the local people. The woven saris, lungis, gamchhas, three-pieces, dyes and threads are sold here on a wholesale basis. The market sits for four days a week, viz. Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Saris, lungis, gamchhas and three-pieces worth Taka 300 million and dyes plus yarns worth Taka 250 million are sold here each week.
Sohagpur Haat: Located in Belkuchi upazila under Sirajganj district, the traditional Sohagpur Haat is around 65 years old. Previously, the market used to sit at village Sohagpur every Wednesday. When the entire Sohagpur area was inundated by the river Jamuna in 1985, the market was shifted to its present location at Mukundagati of the same upazila. It now sits on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Readymade saris, lungis and gamchhas woven by the weavers of different upazilas under Sirajganj district are sold from morning to noon on Mondays and Tuesdays. Yarns and other essential items are sold on Wednesdays. Saris, lungis, gamchhas and other essential commodities worth over Taka 140 million are sold here each week.
Bajitpur Haat: The Bajitpur Sari Haat sits at the Bat-tala (below banyan tree) of Bajitpur uazila under Khishoreganj district every Friday and Monday. The market starts at dawn and continues up to 9.30 in the morning. The main commodity of the market is woven sari, mostly from Tangail. Besides, yarns and other ingredients for making saris are also sold here. The surrounding villages of Bajitpur are known as a weaving locality for ages. This market was built at least one hundred years ago.
Karotia Haat: It is believed that the Zamindar Panni family of Karotia built this market in the Tangail district during the British era. Originally, it was an ordinary market. The market for saris, chadars (scarf or wrapper), lungis etc. started to undergo expansion here at the start of the decade of 1990s. At that time, the market used to be run from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon. The general market runs on Thursday as before. The saris, gamchhas, three-pieces and chadars of Tangail and Sirajganj regions are sold here. Transactions worth over Taka 1 billion take place each week, but exceed Taka 3 billion prior to Eid festivals.
Babur Haat: Babur Haat of Narsingdi district is the biggest wholesale market of woven textiles in the country. Known as Manchester of the east with a rich heritage of weaving industry, it is located in Shekherchar-Baburhat area of Narsingdi. Run for around eight decades, this market was previously operated once a week. At present, the market sits for three days from Thursday to Saturday. Woven clothing made in Narsindi district and adjoining areas are sold here. The products range from Jamdani sari to handkerchiefs. According to historical narratives, the three Zamindar brothers named Gopal Babu, Prasad Babu and Bishad Babu had established a market at Madhabdi. They used to live in Kolkata, while a manager used to collect tolls on his behalf there. One day, the manager doubled the tolls in the market. In protest against this increase in taxes, the then Shekherchar Zamindar Haladhar Babu, Balapur Zamindar Kali Babu and a leader of the Swadeshi movement Sundar Ali Gandhi established a new market here, which was called 'Babuder Haat' by the wholesalers. In course of time, this market came to be known as the 'Babur Haat'. The traders of this market do not have to pay any taxes or tolls. Only the house-owners deposit holding-taxes to the government treasury. Besides, the textile products sold in around 5 thousands shops of the market are produced locally, and there is hardly any foreign-made fabric. This market is catering to around 70 percent of the country's requirement for essential clothing. The weekly transactions amount to over Taka 10 billion.
Phultala Haat: The Phultala Haat is a traditional market of Khulna district. As the place is linked by surface and water-ways, the traders get the opportunity to transport commodities via both the modes. As a consequence, the market is continually undergoing expansion with the passage of time. It is assumed that the market is over 120 years old. It sits on Sundays and Wednesdays. All kinds of textile commodities are available here, but the locally produced gamchhas are quite prominent. The area of the market is around 12 acres. The market has incorporated 22 mini-markets within its jurisdiction, which sell different categories of commodities.
Dr. Helal Uddin Ahmed is a retired Additional Secretary and former Editor of Bangladesh Quarterly. Email: [email protected]