Dakshinapan is a shopping complex sans the opulence of the new age shopping malls. There is no glitz no glamour and it is not air-conditioned. It lacks the sophistication and obviousness of the typical mall. It has two floors of old style shops and an old style courtyard. There are no modern shops and international brands and showrooms. No glass and mirror and no fountains to make you relax with their calming effect of water.
But Dakshinapan is considered the ultimate shopping destination for the ones who are looking for totally indigenous and ethnic products made by Indian artisans and crafts people. This is one place where you get products from almost all States in India.
Dakshinapan Mall- The Desi Style Shopping Mall
(Since 1986) Growing up in Kolkata, we mostly frequented the New Market shopping area when we had to go shopping. Gariahat was considered too crowded for children. Soon, there were several Kolkata shopping malls coming up all over the City. The first real shopping mall came into existence in the year 2003 and it was called the Forum Mall. In fact, the newspapers were full of articles about the newly opened shopping malls in Kolkata and distinguishing them from a simple shopping complex that were in existence then. Both a shopping mall and a shopping complex are buildings with multiple shops they wrote, but the principal difference was a mall had to contain a large space for the shoppers to relax (open air or enclosed), food courts, car parking and preferably an entertainment center, which the malls have in form of multiplex cinemas.
The Shreeram Arcade Mall and the Metro Plaza Mall that followed the Forum Mall were soon opened to the public. All glass & glitter with an artificial water body & a fountain, it seemed that the Kolkata shopping experience had changed for good. One could shop in air-conditioned comfort and not be elbowed and jostled by crowds, have lunch break and several coffee breaks while shopping. In fact one could spend the entire day in a shopping mall, watch a film, have dinner & enjoy the day with friends & family. The shopping mall opened a whole new world for the simple and until then conservative Calcuttans.
But long before the birth of the modern day shopping Mall, Calcutta, as it was known earlier, had its own shopping mall sans the glitz & glamour. Gopal Krishna Gokhle had once remarked, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”. The very first Kolkata shopping mall at Dakshinapan in Kolkata , came about in the year 1986, way before the mall culture came to India . The Dakshinapan shopping market houses a number of State Emporiums that stock apparel, jewelry and handicrafts from several Indian States; Gurjari (Gujrat State Emporium ), Tantuja(Bengal State Emporium ), Phoolkari (Punjab State Emporium ), Mriganayani (Madhya Pradesh State Emporium ), Pragjyotika (Assam State emporium ) to name a few.
State Emporium Shops
You can shop for signature style sarees, dress materials, kurtis, skirts, salwar kameezes and pallazo pants.
Gurjari, Tantuja, Rajasthali and Pragjyotika are Emporiums well known for their colourful & ethnic sarees, ready made dresses and fabrics. The Bengal emporium which has been recently rechristened as Biswa Bangla has a stunning collection of textiles, jewelry & handicrafts form Bengal. The store stocks fabrics & Bengal cotton saris, jewelry, wooden masks and one honed rhino souveniers. Pragjyotika, the Assam Emporium is also very popular. Assam is well known for its silk & teas. Muga silk sarees and the Mekla Chaddar ( half sarees, typical of the ones worn by Assamese women) are very well known here.
Many of these Emporiums also carry household items and home furnishings such as bedcovers, cushion covers& dining sets. Dakshinapan has several Khadi stores, that sell Khadi shirts & dresses.
Jewellery and Handicraft Shops
There are jewellery shops which sell dokra, necklaces, terracotta and other handcrafted jewellery. Typcally ethnic stuff. There is a great range of handicrafts and gift items in Emporiums such as Lepakshi ( Andhra Pradesh Emporium) and Mriganayani ( Madhya Pradesh Emporium ), who stock outstanding brass handicrafts. The Kashmir Emporium has furniture in walnut wood, carpets, shawls and cute little papier machie plates & boxes. One can shop for presents, paintings, marble handicrafts and bangles from Rajasthali ( the Rajasthan emporium). Apart form sarees and fabrics, the Gujarat Emporium has wall hangings and floor coverings made of colourful threads and mirrors.
‘Silence’ is an interesting store which sells items made by differently abled people. There are also a number of shops for western wear dresses, partywear dresses, shoes, bags and cosmetics in the Dakshinapan shopping complex.
If you need alterations and fittings for the clothes you had purchased in Dakshinapan, there are three tailors sitting at the ground floor to serve you instantly for a minimum expense of 20-40 rupees depending on the amount of work and they deliver the altered garments on the same day.
Eating Joints in Dakshinapan
Dakshinapan has Dolly’s tea shop and two identical stalls (one selling fast food and another selling South Indian snacks). And there is Rajendra Phuchkawala whose mitha phuchkas are one of the most sought after delicacies in Kolkata. There is a huge open space inside the market where one can sit & relax and enjoy a hot sip of lemon tea.
Although there are no multiplexe cinemas in the Dakshinapan complex, they have the Madhusudan Mancha, which is one of the best auditoriums of the city. A variety of cultural programs (mainly theaters) are held on all the 365 days of the year. Before planning a trip to Dakshinapan it will be wise to look up for the shows at Madhusudan Mancha to enjoy the taste of the authentic Indian style of entertainment.
Dakshinapan is listed as a shopping complex. But if we look deeply into the concept, it is actually a desi style shopping mall running since 1986; much before the concept of shopping malls came to India.
The Dakshinapan shopping complex is located at the southern end of Dhakuria overbridge.