What to buy in India

by Atula Gupta on December 20, 2009 · 14 comments

When you are in a country, that changes its ambience and culture every step of the way, it really becomes difficult to choose the one thing that you can take back home as a distinct memory of that place. The problem becomes more acute when you are in India where each state, even each city has a wide, dizzying array of handicraft, handloom, and other artistry to choose from.

Therefore, to make your job of souvenir hunting a little less complicated, here are a few things, that you can take home and that can remind you of this beautiful country even as the travel memories fade.


Kashmir is indubitably the carpet capital of India. This state has a history of carpet weaving that goes back centuries and the trade has been learnt from the original carpet makers-the Persians. With time the distinct, intricate weave of the Kashmir carpets has not only mesmerized royalties, but have become the focal point in many a commoners home.

Carpet from Kashmir. Courtesy Hewy via Flickr

Carpet from Kashmir. Courtesy Hewy via Flickr

If you cannot go all the way to Kashmir to get your prized carpet, the vast selection is available in most major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Darjeeling etc. Be sure to bargain and choose only the hand knitted original Kashmiri ones as there are many who sell carpets made of synthetic fibers nowadays.

The carpets are definitely a high end buy.


The Northern and the North Eastern states are known for creating some warm winter clothing that are comfortable, trendy and very very affordable. Do your bargaining right, and you can buy some quality cardigans, shawls, stoles, gloves even woolen woven shoes for the whole family back home.


If tulips mean Netherlands, Handicrafts means India. The whole country is buzzing with artistic talents that have been passed on from generations to generations. Be it the terracotta wares of Bengal, the sandalwood carvings of Mysore, the carved metal art of tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh or the blue gazed pottery of Jaipur. Just ask about the particular handcraft specialty of the area and keep a look out for one while sight seeing.

Handicraft Market. Courtesy Brajeshwar via Flickr

Handicraft Market. Courtesy Brajeshwar via Flickr


Indian jewelry designs are known for the intricate work involved and the use of precious stones. Rajasthan is a good place to find some nice collection in Silver and gold and also buy precious stone that can then be placed into a customized design of your choice.

Jewels of India. Courtesy jainshashikant via Flickr

Jewels of India. Courtesy jainshashikant via Flickr

If you are not the one splurging on precious metals, you will be amazed at the variety of jewelry that you can get here, made of other items like pearls in Hyderabad, lac work in Jodhpur or even terracotta jewelry worth few rupees but truly worth buying selling in Bengal.


Again, each area has its distinct specialty when it comes to the art of weaving. While Punjab is famous for phulkari embroidery work, Rajasthan and Gujarat are known for the colorful tie and dye work and also the mirror work. Tamil Nadu is where you can buy some intricately woven silk fabrics and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh for the chic chikan work. 

Try to scout for the unique handloom item of the area and you will be amazed at the variety of things made from that one style. From Sarees, stoles, bed sheets, cushion covers, evening dresses, kurtas, skirts, jackets to even caps, your entire wardrobe can get an instant Indian flavor if you so wish.


Spices grow in plenty in the Southern states of India and you can get them in bulk any time of the year to stock up your home for many days to come. The aroma and the pure quality you can get here, is hard to find anywhere else.

Chillies and peppers. Courtesy Sudhamshu via Flickr

Chillies and peppers. Courtesy Sudhamshu via Flickr

Tea and Coffee

While south is where you head for your pack of coffee, tea is a must buy from the north eastern states and especially if you are visiting Assam or Darjeeling. The taste and aroma is sure to make you reminiscence the days you spend touring India.

Foot wear

For some traditional Indian footwear, the best place to look for is Rajashthan for the ethical Mojris and Maharashtra for the famous leather work shoes and sandals of Kolhapur and other areas.


It is really impossible to contain the vast range of authentic Indian artistry in one post, so I hope you just visit the country and see for yourself the multitude of things it has in store for you.



1 Col. nair December 21, 2009 at 4:06 am

Nice article. You have missed out my state, Kerala, which produces most of the spices, kathakali heads, ivory work,etc . As you mentioned India is a very vast country with infinite variety. The population of India is twice that of the whole of Europe.

2 Anita December 21, 2009 at 5:56 am

Very good article. Particularly the first para is so true.Even we (Indians) ourselves keep wondering what NOT to buy, when visiting some handicraft fair. Our India is interesting in every way.

3 atula December 21, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Dear Col. Nair,
I do agree on missing out on the most beautiful of the states in India, but as I mentioned, India being so huge and diverse, it is just impossible to highlight the wonderful creations of each state. I would surely make amends in my future posts about God’s own country.
Thanks for your valued comment.

4 Chandana Roy December 23, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Most visitors to India, especially the ones from the western countries like shopping in Janpath and Fabindia – also Jaipur is a great shopping destination for those looking for semiprecious and precious stones. But as you say, it’s a vast topic and you cannot cover them all.

5 Harvinaa May 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Really cool post. I definitely sure that Many Indian even don’t know what to buy and what not to buy in their country India. This country will teach you about culture, color & other heritage sites

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