The Tibetan Market comes to life in the city of lakes when it is winter. Yes! The Tibetan stallholders come to Rajasthan at the start of winter by setting up the Tibetan Market. Started in 1961, the Tibetans come to Udaipur for around 4 months and return with the end of the winter season.
The Tibetan market is set up on an open ground comprised of 56 stalls content by refugee Tibetan families and that is how the Samor Bagh look. This was not the scenario 15 years back as no one knew about the place. For every local, the first choice to shop woollen clothes is Samor Bagh as the market avail different varieties of winter apparel and accessories at the cheap price as compared to other shops and showrooms.
In conversation with Mr. Tee Jampa, (President of Tibetan Association, Udaipur) we were able to understand the struggles which he and his community faced. The fact swept our feet and interested us to know more and we are sure you want to know as well. The president narrated – in 1959 when china attacked Tibet, around 80-90 thousand people along with the Dalai Lama fled to India and settled down in five different states. Before 45 years 25-30 refugees (ancestors) came to the lake city in search of livelihood and started selling hand woven woollen clothes by going through door to door. The struggle and wait ended soon with people started accepting the products which featured sober colour and designs. One key reason for mass acceptance was the rate and quality of products.
Thereafter, the Tibetan group took permission from the municipality and started selling their manufactured goods at the footpaths of Surajpol near Ashoka Talkies. At the other part, they also established their market in Chetak and Townhall in the 80s. The good days did not last long with the municipality not allowing to sell the products further. But then Maharaja Mahendra Singh Pratap of Mewar sent a letter to nomads expressing that he was really disappointed knowing (followers of Dalai Lama) are facing such issue in his city. He’ll be grateful if they would use his piece of land named Samor Bagh near Gulab Chowk.
Finally, they shifted to Samor Bagh and for last 17 years, they are operating there and told us that the rent which the king charges is very less as compared to other landowners and government bodies. The rent is divided equally among all 56 stallholders. This was not just the problem, they then faced MRP issue of the materials which they sell. To curb this issue in 2006 they have made an alliance called “Tibetan Refugee Trader’s Association” where they discuss the rate and other concerns that cause hindrance to them in fostering their business. Besides this, the association also helps Tibetans in binding them socially from all over India.
At the stalls, you can find both handmade and machine-made products. Mr Palden (Gen. Secretary) told us that they started manufacturing the machine-made products before 30 years from Ludhiana as the demand for such goods were high. They order the products according to the penchant of the city’s populace. Every year these Tibetans came from different states mostly from Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, U.P., and Bihar for 3-4 months and sale the stuff. While the rest of the months these refugees subsist on agriculture and small shops.
Life is very tough for these Tibetans as they struggle for their country for more than 50 years. With winter there are many things to experience in this city and the Tibetan Market is among that. The Tibetans are very gentle people and with all the love and respect towards them, lets give them a little space in our hearts and help them mix up socially as well as financially.