Punjabi Market, Vancouver

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Punjabi Market
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਮਾਰਕਿਟ
پنجابی مارکیٹ
"Little India" or "Little Punjab"
Punjabi Market is located in Greater Vancouver Regional District
Punjabi Market
Punjabi Market
Location in Metro Vancouver
Coordinates: 49°13′33″N 123°06′06″W / 49.2257°N 123.1016°W / 49.2257; -123.1016
Country Canada
Province British Columbia
City Vancouver

The Punjabi Market (Punjabi: ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਮਾਰਕਿਟ/پنجابی مارکیٹ), also known as Little Punjab or Little India,[1] is a commercial district and ethnic enclave in Vancouver, British Columbia. Officially recognized by the city as being primarily a major South Asian, Indo-Canadian and Punjabi population business community and cultural area, the Punjabi District is roughly a six block section of Main Street around 49th Avenue in the Sunset neighbourhood, named after its historically large Punjabi Sikh population.[2]

The Market marked its 50th anniversary on May 31, 2020, virtually due to the COVID pandemic.[3]


Early immigration[edit]

The first Sikh immigrants from Punjab landed in Vancouver in the 1890s.[4] The first Punjabi Sikh settlement is said to have come by the name of Paldi after a village near Hoshiarpur in Punjab. They settled down in Kitsilano near First Avenue and Burrard Street, where many worked in lumber mills and at construction sites throughout the Lower Mainland.

Punjabis who later immigrated to Vancouver are believed to have suffered the same treatment given to the Chinese (Chinatown) and Japanese (Japantown). They were subject to the bias and animosities of the predominantly Anglo-Saxon majority and occupied distinct and discrete quarters of the city. Most of the new residents sought established homes and to earn reasonably secure incomes. They settled in the area near 49th Avenue and Main Street and many established restaurants and businesses there and throughout the city to make a living. The settlers brought with them distinctive habits and attitudes that influenced the choice of food, work and recreational activity.


Over time, the neighbourhood had become predominantly Indo-Canadian and on May 31, 1970, Sucha Singh and Harbans Kaur Claire opened the first shop on Main St, which would be joined by dozens more, between 48th and 50th avenues. The Claire's owned and ran Shan Sharees and Drapery.[5]

In the 1980s, the neighbourhood was also once recognized by both the RCMP and CSIS as the British Columbia support base for the Khalistan movement and the Insurgency in Punjab, which called for a separate nation for the minority Sikh religion carved out of the majority-Sikh Punjab state in India, during and following the Sikh Genocide perpetrated by the Hindu-majority Indian Government.[6] This continued support by the Sikh community is seen every year at the annual Vaisakhi Parade through the Punjabi Market and the Sunset neighbourhood.[7]

In recognition of the cultural and business importance of the market, the first bilingual street-signs in Punjabi and English were installed in 1993 at the corner of 49th avenue and Main Street.[8]

Present day[edit]

Presently, the Punjabi Market is in a period of transformation. Gradually beginning in the 1980s, the suburbanization of the South Asian community in Vancouver caused many to relocate from South Vancouver east towards Surrey and Delta due to high rents and housing prices on relatively small properties.[9] Enticed by cheaper housing for larger properties, new waves of South Asian immigrants in the 1990s and 2000s also preferred to settle in Surrey and Delta.[10] Coupled with high retail rents and the geographical shift in the consumer base, the decline of the Punjabi Market in South Vancouver as a prominent South Asian inner-city district has occurred over the past two decades, with reports in 2013 citing growing retail vacancies.[11][12][13][14][15][16] The market has evolved from the traditional food, clothing and jewellery stores to a more diverse offering, which now includes a licensed cannabis shop.[17] Small businesses have been a hallmark of the market throughout the years, but are facing headwinds. Recent development of commercial space has brought chain stores such as a Tim Hortons into the heart of the market.[18]

In 2016, the City of Vancouver first engaged a study and a community planning process to review neighbourhood policies impacting arts, culture, retail and public spaces.[19] In October 2019 six community engagement events were held taking feedback about priorities for residents and business owners. The City of Vancouver staff produced a summary, which included public priorities and 8 recommended actions for Council to consider for the near term.[20] The recommended actions included: Historic Context Statement, Cultural Grants, Vancouver Plan Activities, Near Term Public Realm Improvements, 50th Anniversary Proclamation, Community Art in Public Realm-Call for Artists, Commercial Area Capacity Building Work and Business to Business Support, and Long Term Community Stewardship Partnership.

Punjabi District[edit]

Vaisakhi Parade 2017, Punjabi Market, Vancouver

Over the years, the neighbourhood became increasingly popular among the nearly 300,000 South Asian residents in the city as a focal point for culture and commerce. There are a number of Punjabi cuisine restaurants, sweet shops, and grocers representing cuisine from varying parts of the subcontinent; as well as other businesses that cater to an Indo-Canadian community and tourists alike.

The market has become a shopping destination for many weddings because of the numerous Punjabi ethnic clothing and bridal goods that are available. There is also a significant number of jewelry stores lining the strip, said to be the highest concentration of jewellers in the nation.[21]


Beginning in 1979, the Khalsa Diwan society at the Ross Street Gurdwara has celebrated Vaisakhi each year in April with a public celebration. Festivities include Vancouver's largest annual one-day parade, where up to 300,000 people come together from to celebrate the birth of the Sikh religion.[22] Many restaurants and households near the strip offer local food tasting and other goods during the event.[citation needed].[23] The City of Vancouver has granted the Vaisakhi Parade Civic Parades Category in 2013, which is reserved for events with >100,000 attendees.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Vancouver's Little India: Inside the Punjabi Market District". Inside Vancouver. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  2. ^ Pang, Guek-Check. Culture Shock! Vancouver. Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Private Limited.
  3. ^ "Punjabi Market 50th anniversary". The City of Vancouver. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  4. ^ "Indians Abroad". The Times Of India. 2008-04-19.
  5. ^ "Young retailers fighting to keep culture alive as Vancouver's Punjabi Market turns 50". The Vancouver Sun. May 28, 2020. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  6. ^ Elizabeth, Kamala (2004). The Sikh Diaspora in Vancouver (1st ed.). Toronto [Ont.]: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0802086314.
  7. ^ Kashmeri, Zuhair (2005). Soft target : the real story behind the Air India disaster (2nd ed.). Toronto [Ont.]: J. Lorimer. ISBN 1550289047.
  8. ^ "South Asian Canadian Heritage-Connecting to the Past". University of the Fraser Valley, South Asian Studies Institute. 2018. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  9. ^ "Punjabi Market — Past, Present and Future". August 2, 2019. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  10. ^ "Punjabi Market — Past, Present and Future". August 2, 2019. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  11. ^ "Can Vancouver's Little India District Survive". News 1130. February 4, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  12. ^ "Change in the air at the Punjabi Market as businesses depart for Surrey". February 3, 2013. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  13. ^ "Vancouver's Punjabi Market falls on hard times". November 13, 2008. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  14. ^ "Another sign of Punjabi Market's decline? Vancouver produce store in Little India selling for $199,000". August 31, 2020. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  15. ^ "Vancouver's Punjabi Market is hoping for a return to its former glory". June 11, 2021. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  16. ^ "Why a New Generation Wants to Revitalize Vancouver's Historic Punjabi Market". July 23, 2020. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  17. ^ "Young retailers fighting to keep culture alive as Vancouver's Punjabi Market turns 50". The Vancouver Sun. May 28, 2020.
  18. ^ Fumano, Dan (June 28, 2019). "Dan Fumano: North America's oldest Punjabi Market is fading. Is revival possible?". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  19. ^ "City Of Vancouver- Punjabi Market". The City of Vancouver. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  20. ^ "Punjabi Market Open House Board" (PDF). The City of Vancouver. January 2020. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  21. ^ Vancouver.com
  22. ^ "Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival Celebrations". Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  23. ^ "5 things you need to know about Vaisakhi". CBC. April 12, 2019. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  24. ^ "Granting Civic Parade Status" (PDF). The City of Vancouver. April 17, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2020.

External links[edit]

  • Punjabi Market Association