Chalai An audiovisual narrative by Nora Bibel

Chalai Bazaar in Thiruvananthapuram

This project was conceived by the Goethe-Zentrum Trivandrum and executed by Nora Bibel. It is a tribute to the hundreds of people and places inside a heritage called Chalai.

Contrasting the picturesque Kerala with mountains, backwaters and serene coastal belts, the Chalai market gives you a very different identity. Though the experience is equally magical, this historic market place offers a steady hive of activity in unrest. Chalai Market, the oldest and busiest street market place that lies at the heart of the Thiruvananthapuram city, personifies the cultural diversity of the state in a resplendently candid manner. The narrow, crowded road starts from the East gate and ends at Killipalam. The Diwan of Travancore “Raja” Kesava Das established this ever-vibrant market during the closing years of the 18th century. During the rule of Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma (1758-1798 AD), Padmanabhapuram was the capital of Travancore. The king, who wanted to spend his life near the renovated Padmanabha Swamy temple, shifted the capital from Padmanabhapuram to Thiruvananthapuram. Kesava Das realized the importance of developing a market for the supply of goods in the capital city, which led to the genesis of the Chalai market. Gradually, the ancient temple town of Thiruvananthapuram developed into a magnificent capital city and this prompted several families, trade and craft guilds to relocate to Thiruvananthapuram. Tamilians, Pilla Chettier communities, stonemasons and goldsmiths from Vishakapattanam, Muslim traders and Nadar vendors all started to settle here. The name ‘Chalai’ originated from the community of traders, the “chaliyas" as they started to influence the cultural and linguistic tradition of the city. A new unique and significant culture progressively took roots in the city. Chalai Market is a nostalgic emotion that has been passed from generations to generations and that passion confines the old flavors of the city unscathed.

Thanking all those who made it an indelible part of Thiruvananthapuram, we present this project as a tribute to our cultural heritage.