Photo: Prabir Das
Islampur, the hub for wholesale fabric business was named after the Mughal subahdar in Bengal -- Islam Khan Chisti, who was appointed by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in 1608. Being near the river Buriganga, trade and commerce always flourished here. According to the book “Kingbadantir Dhaka (The Myths of Dhaka)” by Nazir Hossain, the British had set up agencies to conduct wholesale clothing business in Islampur in 1773, during the Company era. Since the British period, even today, Islampur is the largest wholesale clothing material market in Bangladesh.
Anything from bed-sheets to expensive garment materials are available in Islampur Market. A large collection of Saris like Jamdani, Rajshahi silk, hand paints, batik; girls' wear like shirts, three pieces, colourful laces; men's wear like shirt-pant-Punjabi pieces, lungi (a traditional garment worn around the waist) are of plenty here. Furthermore, cloth-pieces of all sizes, small equipment related to dress making, like needle, buttons, sewing threads and tapes can also be found.
Usually, the perpetual hustle and bustle of the narrow zigzag streets of Islampur symbolises the chaotic environment of the market. But the streets face so much more in Ramadan! Retailers rush to Islampur a month before Ramadan and start stocking up their shops with new fabric materials. Apart from these, vans and rickshaws loaded with various colourful materials is a universal scene here. Besides the local buyers, retailers from different districts of the country come here to buy Eid goods.
As Eid-ul-Fitr is just a couple of weeks away, the wholesalers of Islampur have no respite to talk to people. You would find that some of them are showing different clothes to the retailers, some are measuring whole clothes; some are busy taking notes of the sold goods while others are keeping records of prices. The retailers are seen loading bundles of fabric materials on rickshaws, cycle-vans or pick-up vans.
“The demand of ladies wear, especially three pieces is very high,” says 50-year-old Md Faruque Hossain, the owner of 'Faruque and Sons'. “We have a large collection of three pieces within a range of 350 takas to 2,000 takas. All the designs are unique as these are made in our own factory.” Faruque has been doing this business for the last 25 years. According to him, the amount of sales this Eid is quite satisfactory. Quite a lot of them, however, are reporting low sales compared to the previous years.
Moreover, the sales of men's wear and different home textiles like bed sheets, curtains, towels, cushions, have also increased for Eid. “The bed sheets are sold on an average rate of 100 to 165 takas,” says 40-year-old Idris Ali, a staff at 'Tisha Home Fashion'. The owner of 'Tisha Home Fashion' has been continuing this business as a part of family heritage for years.
“I have come here thrice for buying whole and gauge fabrics for Eid,” says 53-year-old- Hakima Begum, a buyer from Char Bhadrasan upazila of Faridpur district. “I have been coming here to buy my goods for the past 18 years, just because of the reasonable price and good quality of fabrics.”
The Islampur market may not be the best choice if you want to shop in a relaxed manner, as many like to do nowadays – air conditioned, proper facilities for customers etc. However, the market does carry generations of heritage and stories of legendary salespeople. It's a unique experience just walking down the streets of Islampur. The historic Islampur bazaar opens every morning at 9:30 am and closes at 8:00 pm, every day, except for Fridays and government holidays.