In the heart of Downtown, is a special alleyway popularly known as Gade Kocha. It’s like a maze, with twisting corridors resembling a jigsaw puzzle. This unique passageway winds its way like a puzzle on the banks of river Jhelum. Once a thriving marketplace for fish, Gade Kocha now stands as a testament to the rich history and heritage of Srinagar.

75-years ago, Gade Kocha earned its name as the largest fish market in Srinagar. However, the market has since transformed, and today, there is not a single fish shop in sight. Despite this, the name Gade Kocha continues to remind residents of its vibrant past. Gade Kocha gained fame due to its location by river Jhelum which was a major means of transportation. This accessibility via water transport in the past contributed to the market’s popularity and made it a hub of activity in Shaher-e-Khaas.

Although there are many old markets found within the interiors of Srinagar city, Gade Kocha captures attention like none other, particularly in wake of its idiosyncratic life and composition. The name Gade Kocha has a history that dates back to the olden days, when this lane was indeed known for its vibrant fish market. Walking through Gade Kocha today, you’ll find a different scene altogether. The narrow lane is lined with shops selling a variety of goods, from spices and fabrics to handicrafts and household items.

The narrow lanes of Gade Kocha are infused with pleasant aromas as shop owners showcase bags of spices and herbs like Hand, Wopal Haak, Turmeric Rhizomes, and Abuj leaves. This adds to the market’s appeal, creating a charming atmosphere for visitors to enjoy. One of the shopkeepers, Mehraj ul Din, who has been running a fabric shop in Gade Kocha for over three decades, recalls the days when fish was the main commodity here. “I vividly remember my father telling me stories about how this lane used to be filled with fish sellers,” he said, pointing towards the market outside his shop. “But now, it’s a different story. The fish market is long gone, but the name remains,” he added.

For the residents of Srinagar, Gade Kocha is more than just a name; it’s a cherished part of their heritage, serving as a reminder of the city’s vibrant history and enduring traditions. Shabir Ahmad, a local said, “preserving the historic name Gade Kocha honours our glorious past and ensures that our memories remain alive for future generations.” This sentiment is echoed by many in the community, who value the significance of maintaining Gade Kocha’s legacy amidst changing times.

Despite the absence of fish, Gade Kocha continues to thrive as a vibrant marketplace. The shopkeepers have embraced change and adapted to modern times by diversifying their businesses. Today, people find a variety of goods being sold at Gade Kocha, from traditional spices and fabrics to modern household items and cosmetics. This adaptability has allowed Gade Kocha to remain a relevant hub of activity in Downtown Srinagar.

Decades on, the lane has managed to preserve its nostalgic charm. The old buildings and traditional architecture stand as a testament to its rich history. While modernisation has brought changes to the area, the essence of Gade Kocha’s heritage remains intact, captivating visitors with its unique blend of old-world allure and contemporary vibrancy.

Nazir Ahmad Shah, president of the Shaher-e-Khass Traders Alliance, highlights a picture of Gade Kocha’s vibrant marketplace. He describes it as a hub filled with a wide array of shops, offering everything from spices to fabrics and copperware. With over 300 stores, the market is a one-stop destination for shoppers seeking a diverse range of products. “The narrow lanes of Gade Kocha are lined with Devri curbstones, arranged in a chessboard pattern. The walls of the old buildings appear worn, with patches of earthen plaster peeling off,” Shah said. Shah also points out the remarkable success of some of the larger stores, which achieve monthly sales exceeding crores. This highlights Gade Kocha’s significant role as a thriving commercial centre in Downtown Srinagar, attracting both locals and tourists alike.