A boy watches over his family’s banana
while his father takes a midday nap.
India is one of the world’s oldest living civilizations, and one
could spend years in India and never uncover all of its secrets.
But for the curious visitor who seeks to understand what it feels
like to live in India, there is Crawford Market.
Located in south Mumbai near the Victoria Terminus Railway
Station, Crawford Market is a fruit, vegetable and poultry market
for the residents of Mumbai. But to a visiting tourist, it’s an
overwhelming feast for the eyes (and nose and ears).
Officially “Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market,” this historic
property is more commonly referred to as Crawford Market, named
after Arthur Crawford, Bombay’s first municipal commissioner. The
building, completed in 1869, reflects the bygone era of Victorian
Bombay and is just one of many stamps left on the city by the
Though it has degenerated significantly, one can still
appreciate the ornamental features of its Gothic and Flemish
Visitors enter the building beneath a frieze depicting Indian
farmers that was designed by John Lockwood Kipling, son of
India-born novelist Rudyard Kipling. He was also the architect of
several intricately sculpted fountains inside, though none of them
are still operating.
The building was the first in India to be lit by electricity.
Judging by the tangled masses of dusty electrical wires in the
ceilings, it appears as though the original wiring is still in use
Crawford Market is perhaps the best spot to observe daily life
in India’s largest and most densely populated city. Look one way
and you’ll see a barber trimming a beard, look another and you’ll
see a butcher plucking a chicken. It is teeming with activity basic
to human life, only it’s all happening in one place.
The merchants who sell their wares at Crawford Market are the
ultimate multi-taskers. While they are open for business, they may
also get a haircut, weave a basket, catch up with a friend over
chai tea or just take a nap.
In particular, a stroll through this indoor/outdoor market is a
photographer’s dream; the mountains of colorful fruits and
vegetables are a backdrop to the frenzied activity of buying,
selling and trading. Though crumbling, the architecture still
manages to retain some of its Victorian glory and sets an evocative
A barber trims a moustache for a client
Visitors should be made aware of a few pointers before heading to
the market. Though the market is south Mumbai’s largest, it is for
the most part limited to fruits, vegetables and produce. There are
several shopping destinations in the area for Indian merchandise
such as silk, jewelry and pottery, but Crawford Market is not one
Upon entering, visitors will be approached by porters who will
offer to carry bags or give a personalized tour. Tour guides are
not necessary, but if one chooses to accept, he should be prepared
In a separate structure, but still within the market, a
slaughterhouse is where chickens and fowl meet their end and
restaurateurs purchase their night’s poultry. Though not for the
squeamish (or an animal-rights activist), it is an example of a
transaction that has been occurring in this market, mostly
unchanged, for almost 150 years.
There are some complaints that Crawford Market has fallen into
disrepair. That it is dirty, crumbling and not well-maintained. A
proposal to give the market a face lift has been bouncing around
the municipality and resident groups for years, but the
reservations felt by all parties are the same reasons why Crawford
Market is a must-see destination: It is a heritage site. It is one
of the most endearing structures from a departed era and a vital
center of commerce for much of Mumbai.
India is a country defined by its history, culture and people;
at Crawford Market, all three combine for the truest Indian
Crawford Market can be reached via rail or taxi
within Mumbai. Taxis should be directed to the Victoria Terminus
Station, which is also the exit for the train. The market is open
daily from 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. and two to three hours is ample time
to meander through the aisles.
India Ministry of Tourism
Mumbai City Info