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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chennai - Koyambedu Market

While going to or coming from deep South, I make it a point to make a prolonged halt at Chennai to corner some comforts at my younger brother’s place.  Apart from my rendezvous within and around the city with a chauffer driven vehicle, I enjoyed going to the market with my sister-in-law and my niece as well on few occasions. I am not talking about the Super Bazaars or Malls but the real Indian market selling vegetables, fruits and flowers. Did I mention that my brother stays in the SAF Games Village in Koyambedu (an upcoming suburb), perhaps I forgot in my anxiety to let you know the kind of treatment I had.  So there I was and very close to the largest Market in Asia.

Koyambedu is a wholesale vegetable/fruit/flowers market on which the whole Chennai city depends. The market itself is spread out in 295 acres (1.19 km2) and is named as "Koyambedu Wholesale Market Complex (KWMC)". The market has two blocks for vegetables and one each for flowers and fruits. In fact the activity begins here with the arrival of lorries/trucks with perishable goods around 3.00 in the morning and by 4 or 4.30, thousands of retailers from the city come and get the stuff for their own outlets within the city. There are more than 3000 shops within the complex and during the day time, it’s the retailers there who take over while wholesalers have a nap. On an an average some  1,00,000 people visit this market everyday.

Some kind of religious function was organized at home and a variety of vegetables, fruits and flowers were needed. This kind of shopping is generally in the domain of the 'Lady of the House' but she was kind to take me along. I was also too eager  lest the opportunity of taking some photographs gets lost.

To begin with, we entered the sprawling complex (not in terms of imposing structures but area wise), from its left side which was closer to the Vegetable blocks. I was just amazed. I could not believe that there could be such a large area only for vegetables. I got reconciled soon for they needed space for parking trucks in the morning and in fact some were still there. There were rows of shops outside as also within and you need to seek directions for a particular item because they seem to specialize and feel comfortable in dealing in a single item  as the photographs here would suggest. 
Pumpkins of various kinds
We needed pumpkins but not as large as those displayed. They were also reluctant to make a piece out of one to serve our limited purpose. We moved out and saw watermelons at one place but here again they were too big.
Then we sought directions and finally reached a place where we could get in smaller quantities.While finding our way we had to pass through a line of shops where the pathway was full of filth. They are the left overs after the morning sales. I felt too bad for this kind of littering but later on discovered some information which consoled me.
When I talked to the people sitting there, they apprised me that the collection van is yet to come who will collect the waste and clean the pathway.

A bio-methanation plant at the market complex set by Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority generates power from vegetable and fruit waste collected from the wholesale market. The plant has the capacity to convert 30 tonnes of waste per day into 2,500 units daily. About 150 tonnes of waste is collected daily and after meeting the requirement of power generation, the rest is converted into manure for which a separate area of about 1.75 acres is made available. Some of the waste like banana stems gets recycled.

After making our purchases we summoned our vehicle and drove to the other side where the fruit market was located. Since it was midday there were not many people around. Although many photographs were taken, I am placing them selectively. The fruits follow.
When we came out of the fruit market, there was a person selling the above stuff on the outer pathway. We could not understand what it was and the explanation given was too inadequate. On a reference being made to one of  my nieces working with All India Radio, Chennai,  she advised  “they are the roots of the  palm tree. People generally dig under the roots of the palm  or when the palm is cut they take out the tuberous roots. Palm roots are tuberous as tapioca etc. and they sell them. I my self have eaten them. It is said the palm roots are cheaper but richer dietary supplement, richer in in fibre. It is steam-boiled to  cook.The outer layer of the skin is peeled off and is taken. Not particularly delicious, but ok. In Tamil it is called 'panam kizangu' ”

Once again we move to a different wing which is square in structure with pathways as usual but you will only find flowers. Incidentally South Indian ladies are very fond of flowers which they use for dressing up. There is a lot of demand for worship in temples as well. This too is one of the largest flower markets in India.
The vendor is hiding his face
Now it was time for us to move out and stood outside waiting for the vehicle to come and fetch us. My niece trying to shield her from the scorching Sun with that piece of cloth known as Dupatta. Probably she did not relish being photographed in that attire.
We did not venture into visiting all the wings as it seemed to be formidable at that time. May be we were hungry.


  1. जब मैं चेन्नई जाता हूं तो समुद्र तट पर घंटों गुज़ारना मुझे बेहद अच्छा लगता है। किंतु पिछले हफ़्ते न जा सका।
    अगली बार जब जाऊंगा, तो इस सब्जी मंडी की भी सैर कर आऊंगा।

  2. Dear PNS Sir
    That's a fantastic write up along with superb pictures - Koyambedu market is such a huge sprawling market with a mind boggling array of vegetables & fruits. I have been in and out of Chennai so often & crossed the Koyambedu market on dozens of occasions but have never ventured inside.

  3. It was long ago that I visitied this unique place..your pctures have kindled me interest..Very well covered PNS..

  4. Brilliant post. This is one huge market. Loved the virtual trip.The pictures are very inviting ,wish I could be there right now .150 tonnes of waste daily ! Good that they have a bio-methanation plant to utilize this waste .
    Your niece is looking cute with that expression on her face :):)

  5. wow that was amazing and delightful!!

  6. I have gone there a couple of times, but its been years since I went inside. I went when the complex was quite new, and was stunned to see it being maintained so neatly. Of course, the timing when I went might have made a difference as well. When we look at this, we are forced to think how so many vendors were managing in kothawalchavadi earlier! The complex is definitely big, but not best for small purchases, I guess. And besides, all roads leading to koyambedu market are pathetic.

    Destination Infinity

  7. Woooow, Koyambedu market looks so exciting and huge! I really want to visit there some day.The various pumpkins are new for me. They are sweet??


  8. @Red Rose:
    Thanks Tomoko. The light brown and yellow ones are sweet but not all.

  9. @Destination Infinity:
    Dear Rajesh,
    Because of the Construction activity for Metro the road conditions have become very bad.

  10. am simply loving the colorful images of fruits and vegetables!!!


  11. What a wonderful documentary! very good snaps to tell the story of this amazingly busy market!

  12. Oooo, wonderful market!!!
    Many thanks for the interesting tour, with beautiful photos!!!
    Many greetings

  13. Namaste....
    The share volume of vegetation and fruits is formidable and made me think of the magnitude of work it would take those farmers to load, off load and reload, woo it makes me want to give them a ice cold drink of lemonade and tell them to sit down and rest. I miss going to the market such as this. In the Island of Trinidad where I am from we have a market much like this in San Juan, we would be there by 5 am to get the best choices of fruits, vegetables, sugar, rice etc, one of my favorite snack to get is called Kumar, some people call it Mathi. By 6:30 am we were home from the market, cooking, packing away purchase and gearing up for the days household chores.

    thanks for sharing, it brought back wonderful memories for me.
    stay blessed.


  14. This market has beautiful vegetables, etc...Really nice

  15. nice virtual tour to Koyambedu...

    beautifully narrated, with the help of photos...

    root of palm (panam kizhangu) is common in tamilnadu...

    power from waste is nice idea... if we implement in Kerala it will reduce the pollution....

    thanks for sharing...

  16. Wonderful pictures and the virtual tour. Reminds me of our very own Vashi Vegetable Market that we have in Mumbai. I myself love shopping in these markets with all the chit chatter and the diverse varieties that one gets here are nowhere to be seen in malls and hypermarkets. The experience of 'real' shopping is amazing and I could truly feel that while reading your post.

  17. Felt like reading wikipedia page. The details of the market are given in minute details. Felt like visiting the place myself.

    Nice to know that the vegetable waste is not wasted. The fruit market and flower market pictures are beautiful.

    Thank you, Sir!

  18. :) so much info.

    this reminded me of the grain market we have in changiarh it is so chaotic in the mornings , and whenever my Nana ji came from our village he would always make a point ot get up early morning and go to it .. ot buy all fresh vegetables

    I use to go with him ..

    lovely pictures ...


  19. Amazing market,very huge complex with plenty of fresh vegetables, mouth watering fruits and lovely flowers. I have tasted the palm root. It used to be cheap and poor people loved to eat it.

    Once again you have excelled yourself in writing such an exhaustive post accompanied by interesting photos.

    Every post of yours is packed with plenty of information and photos to enrich the mind.

    Wish you all the best,

  20. nice and interesting post....
    felt connected...


  21. Market places are such interesting places, lot of photo opportunities. The tuber of palms is new to me. I will try them some time. With any spicy chutney it should taste good. :)

  22. Wherever and whenever I visit a town or a region, I look for its markets. I like the smells, colors and shapes of the merchandise, and the people that sell, buy or just walk around for fun.

    Your post is a remarkable account of your visit to the market of Koyambedu. The pictures accompanying it are terrific.
    Thanks for the tour.

  23. I always find these fruit, vegetable markets and even grain mandis fascinating. The huge piles of fresh produce along with cows grazing on the discarded greens. I have visited a similar market in Hyderabad with my mil. It is very tiring to walk that much, but it is fun sometimes. The market here in Bangalore is very dirty and muddy. Enjoyed the lovely pictures too.

  24. Amazing pictures. Like the walls of stacked fruits. Even if the pick up truck was expected, the strewn garbage is not justified. You know when Indians migrate to other countries and run similar businesses there, you find they adhere to the rules and keep the place spic and span. Why not here?

  25. How wonderful, just look at all those colours, so fresh, I'd love to be able to buy my fruit and veg from such a market.

  26. Wonderful shots from markwt. They have stacked the item nicely.

  27. These photos are incredible, look at the perfect mountains of fruits!! I love this post and all your posts!! Your blog definitely rocks!!!

  28. बहुत ही बेहतरीन और प्रशंसनीय प्रस्तुति....

    इंडिया दर्पण
    की ओर से नव संवत्सर व नवरात्रि की शुभकामनाए।

  29. कमाल की प्रस्तुति है आपकी.
    पढकर और चित्रों को देखकर बहुत ही अच्छा लगा.
    अच्छी जानकारी भी हुई.
    बहुत बहुत शुक्रिया आपका.

  30. Nice documentary. I like fruity snaps!

  31. Koyambedu also has a big bus stand right? I loved the photographs of the oranges and grapes and read with interest about the bio-meathanisation plant. I would like to see this for renewable energy is my area of interest.

  32. Mundane day-to-day vegetables and fruits, when stacked neatly in bulk, indeed make beautiful compositions!!

    The scene of the market at the end of the day calls for some thought.

    Please convey to your niece that she is looking cute in the last snap. :)

  33. This is as good as it gets for someone to have a walkaround of the koyambedu market. I think the only thing missing here is the aroma/smell/stench (whatever you want to call it)whilst one walks through the narrow alleys of the Koyambedu market. The vivid photos however make up even for that and the eye tricks the brain to imagine those smells when one reads this post and looks at those pics. Great! And Gowri's nakhra is more of a pose than a displeasure I would say. She is good at that expression :P.



  34. nice to know what that 'root of palm' is. I'd seen it also

  35. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

    Flower Shop Chennai

  36. This market has beautiful vegetables, etc...Really nice

  37. Koyambedu market looks so exciting. Enjoyed the lovely pictures too. You can say more details about this market?

    From - Chennai flowers