Probably the largest market of its kind in the world, Ima Keithel is famous as an all-women’s market and attracts tourists and locals alike. It is an amazing sight to see local women dressed in traditional phaneks (long skirts tightly draped around the waist) and innaphis (shoulder drapes very similar to shawls) setting up their shops and stalls every morning as they get ready to welcome scores of customers. The market is truly a paradise for shopping-lovers. From fresh fruits, vegetables and spices to textiles, handicrafts and wicker products, the shops in the bustling market cater to all the needs of locals and tourists. The word ‘Ima’ means mother and there are around 5,000 imas running stalls on both sides of the road at the Ima Keithel. Located at the heart of Imphal, the 500-year-old market has been an important trading hub of the state and continues to draw a large number of buyers on a daily basis. According to historians and researchers, the market's all-women workforce originated after the Lallup-Kaba, an ancient forced labour system, was enforced in Manipur.

As a result, all the men were sent to cultivate agricultural lands in faraway areas and fight wars and it were the women who had to set up the market to meet the daily requirements of the locals. Strolling through the vibrant streets of the Ima Keithel or Khwairamband Bazar, as it is popularly known, makes for an amazing experience and tourists visiting Imphal should not miss on this.

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