In pictures: Why Hyderabad loves the 80-year-old Numaish fair

Despite surging prices, the exhibition still pulls huge crowds owing to its popularity and the sweet nostalgia it evokes.
In pictures: Why Hyderabad loves the 80-year-old Numaish fair
In pictures: Why Hyderabad loves the 80-year-old Numaish fair
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For 46 days beginning from every New Year, the Nampally exhibition ground in Hyderabad teems with crowds, haggling, eager to take back home sovereigns from different Indian states, and try delicacies that give a refreshing spin to the Hyderabadi biryani and kebabs. The iconic All India Industrial Exhibition, better known as Numaish, boasts of an 80-year-old legacy in Hyderabad and is truly the mother of all exhibitions owing to its gigantic size, the huge crowd that it pulls and how the exhibition has evolved over years, keeping intact the people’s love for it.

Numaish began way back in 1938 in Hyderabad during the Nizam era, as an attempt to promote locally made goods. Initially called ‘Numaish Masnuaat-e-Mulki', the event, which went on for 10 days, was inaugurated by Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, at Public Gardens in the city. The following year, the fair was organised for 15 days with a little over 50 stalls. During 1947-48, Numaish was shelved owing to the turmoil followed by the Indian Independence movement.

Numaish was revived with greater vigour in 1949, and was rechristened as the All Indian Industrial Exhibition. As word of mouth spread, traders from around the country began flocking to the exhibition ground, and excited crowds thronged the fair to buy items that ranged from the much-famed Kashmiri Pashmina shawls to Mysuru sandalwood art. Today, with over 2,000 stalls selling items that range between hand-woven Iranian carpets to dry fruits from Afghanistan and a variety of goods from Pakistan, the chaotic crowd only seems to be more vibrant than ever.

Reviving memories

Numaish has something for everyone and hosts crowd belonging to all age groups. Two decades short of a century, the fair still manages to pull crowds in gigantic numbers, especially in a city overcrowded with malls.

“It’s the nostalgia,” says Rukmini, a customer visiting the fair for the third time this year. Yes, it’s definitely nostalgia for a generation that has transitioned from getting groceries from nearby kirana shops to buying them in bulk through mobile apps. The fair reminds the crowd of a time when Indian families went out for their annual shopping trips and how they all decided what each other would wear or eat.

Numaish still houses the traditional candy making machines, spinning out pink cotton candy for kids, and bhel vendors mixing vegetables and spices with the spin of a finger, filling them inside paper cones. You come across satisfied people, happy that they "outsmarted" the vendors with their expertise at haggling, and moving towards the next stall with shopping bags filled to the brim. The fair may also help you bump into a long lost friend or a relative who lives in the same city, but whom you haven't met in a while. Numaish is a reminder that though many things change in life, some remain constant.

From Kashmiri Pashminas to Iranian carpets

Numaish has over 2,000 stalls, all set up by traders, some visiting the exhibition for over three decades. The stalls are a shopaholic’s paradise, from items ranging from everyday upholstery to ridiculously expensive handicrafts and house décor. What makes the fair iconic is the mini-India experience that shoppers get to have in one place.

The major attractions of the fair every year are the innumerable garment shops that sell traditional Indian wear, mainly the Kashmiri embroidered salwar suits and the Lucknowi chikkan work kurtis. Shop owners say that while there used to be a huge demand for original Pashmina shawls when there was still a strong Nizam influence in the Deccan, the shawls now have lesser buyers, with plenty of counterfeit products available in the market.

Equally popular are Lucknowi kurtis, which are mainly hand-woven, and have a large number of buyers owing to fact that they come in different price ranges. The wooden works from Rajasthan, West Bengal and Mysuru are a delight to the eyes, and idols of gods and goddesses sell like hot cakes.

The Rajasthani jootis, handicrafts from Chennapattana, Kozhikode halwas from Kerala and dry fruits from Afghanistan have crowd swarming around like bees. The carpet stalls are exquisite in the truest sense, with products brought all the way from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. This writer spotted marvellous hand-woven Iranian carpets priced at around Rs 35,000 each!

The fair also has plenty of kiosks selling earrings, brightly coloured bangles and cosmetics, dazzling the shoppers under the yellow bulbs as dusk falls.

After one is exhausted with all the shopping, people rush towards Pista House, a franchise authentic to Hyderabad, that begins business in the evening, dishing out delicious haleem and kubbani-ka-meetha. There are also the Masqati ice-cream stalls selling home-made ice cream, chaat shops, and chole bhature stalls which have an audience simply to watch the flattened maida bread turn into huge oil-soaked batures.

Adding to the nostalgia of the fair are the merry-go-rounds, giant wheels and other carnival rides and trains that give you a tour of the entire fair.

Though the crowd is still vibrant even a month after the fair commenced, shop owners are slightly upset this year because of the rains that played spoilsport last week. They also claim that the GST has increased the prices of items manifold, and that the increase in prices is deterring buyers to shop more.

The tickets to Numaish in 1938 were priced at 10 paise and today its Rs 30 per ticket. But its legacy has endured, and Numaish continues to be celebrated as a Deccan tradition, with people embracing its cacophony joyfully.  

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