The Chor Bazaar Mumbai literally translates to “Thieves Market Mumbai”. Wandering into this bustling bazaar is like stepping into the page of Gregory David Robert’s Shantaram. Read on for a quick photo account of the Chor Bazaar which also includes a section on how to get here.
Legend has it that if you ever lose something in India’s most populous city, you can buy it back at the Chor Bazaar.
Located deep in the concrete labyrinth of Mumbai’s historic streets lies a fascinating flea market known as Mumbai’s Thieves Market. While it might sound like a secret, underground network, the Chor Bazaar is open to the Mumbai public and to tourists.
When I set out to find Mumbai's renowned Thieves Market, I wasn't looking for stolen trinkets or counterfeits. I had read much about its unique history and I was itching to explore and photograph this unique phenomenon. In this post, I'll be telling the story of Mumbai's Chor Bazaar through my lens, while also including some details to help you find it yourself.
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About the Chor Bazaar: Thieves Market in Mumbai
As with the majority of renowned local legends, there are a number of theories as to how the story of the Chor Bazaar began. One theory is that Queen Victoria's violin had dissappeared while being unloaded from her ship during her visit to Bombay. Of course, the violin, along with several other items turned up at the "Thieves Market".
Another intriguing origin story, albeit without the climatic theatrics, tells a familiar tale of mistaken identity. Apparently, the Chor Bazaar was initially known as the Shor Bazaar, revealing to the noisy nature of the area. The case of mistaken identity originated from the inability of the smug British colonialists to pronounce the name correctly, citing "chor" rather than the correct "shor". And from thereon, the name stuck. Opportunistic burglars accepted the new name and subsequently built a central hub to distribute their stolen goods under an official, British delegated bazaar for thieves.
Today, sources claim that the Thieves Market in Mumbai is now mainly just a vintage goods market. However, after personally witnessing some of the dubious wares on offer, I'm skeptical.
Whether you're looking to pick up a five-finger-discount bargain, or simply explore, the Chor Bazaar in Mumbai is a worthwhile attraction. It's also a great place for intrigued visitors and passionate photographers looking to snap some clicks of one of India's largest and most unique flea markets. Just watch your pockets.
How to Get to the Thieves Market
The Chor Bazaar is tucked within the Kamathipura neighborhood in south Mumbai.
If you're staying in the tourist district of Colaba, it's a fairly long 9-kilometer walk. Alternatively, you could use Uber or hail a rickshaw/taxi for around 100 rupees.
Otherwise, I've linked to what I believe to be one of the best Mumbai photography tours which also includes a walkthrough of Mumbai's Thieves Market.
Nearest Railway Station to the Chor Bazaar
Arguably, the fastest way to get to the Chor Bazaar using public transport is to take the well-connected Mumbai railway system. The closest railway station to the Chor Bazaar Thieves Market is Grant Road station.
- Google Maps Pin: "Chor Bazar - Old and new items"
From here, it's just a very quick dart to the bazaar.
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Photos of My Experience at the Chor Bazaar
Initially, I had some trouble finding the elusive Thieves Market in Mumbai. As I surveyed the narrow bitumen streets in search of any evidence of stolen wares, I received mixed signals, from piercing glances to familiar smirks.
Perhaps my shifting neck, elongated like a distressed mother hen, gave off the impression that I was the dubious character in town. Or, perhaps Mumbai knew where I was heading, providing no assistance under the assurance that I would eventually find myself within the infamous bazaar.
As I wandered, I unintentionally approached what seemed to be a shrine dedicated to an automobile deity of sorts. Engine belts from every era hung from makeshift structures piled on a tower of bonnets, rear-view mirrors, and car radio antenna systems with ripped-out cables still loosely joined.
"This must be it!" I thought to myself as I quickly snuck past the lofty cache of pilfered car parts.
I quickly realized that the honest, and the not-so-honest salesmen and marketeers of the Chor Bazaar were accustomed to strangers strolling through their little slice of underworld Mumbai.
With eager willingness, and sometimes, with apathetic assent I would receive a trained head wobble of approval as I photographed the men of the Chor Bazaar. It was an accustomed choreography, one that had played out thousands of times prior to my shutter.
It was as if the thieves of Bombay were playing a familiar role in a Bollywood film, posing with their wares in front of their scattered storefronts.
Wending my way deeper into the bazaar of thieves, I shifted my attention from the faces to their merchandise. I unearthed everything from dusty, vintage posters of Hindu muscle-men to Nokia-era cell phones - all of which I knew had a story of their own to have their way to Mumbai's Chor Bazaar.
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I hope that this quick photojournal/travel guide to the Chor Bazaar Mumbai has inspired you to visit one of Mumbai's most fascinating attractions. If you find your way to Mumbai's Thieves Market, let me know about your eperience.
Otherwise, for those traveling in India, make sure to check out some of my other travel guides and blog posts to inspire some more ideas and attractions to visit!
Thursday 25th of November 2021
Assumption that all goods are stolen is wrong. Many goods are bought by shop keeper and genuine. It is a mix of genuine, fake and stolen goods !