In India the shopping is fabulous. Every region has its specialized crafts and arts, from exotic silks, sparkling gems, and gleaming brassware to colourful cottons, leatherwork, rugs, furniture and pottery. Here’s what to buy and where to buy it.
Mumbai is a shopper’s paradise with an amazing diversity of goods like European antiques, local spices, electrical goods and silks. Highlights include the Central Cottage Industries Emporium, Shavaji Marg; and the bazaars – Chor Bazaar, Zaveri Bazaar, Dhaboo Street Bazaar and Crawford Market.
Savour the true Hyderabadi culture in the old city where you can buy the famous Hyderabadi bangles, Surma (natural Kajal) and gold lace. Hyderabad is the premier centre for buying, sorting and selling pearls. Charminar, is the place to buy bidri ware, jet alloy inlaid with silver, while Leepakshi, the state’s handicrafts emporium, showcases cottage crafts like hand-woven and hand-painted fabrics.
South Indian cottons and silks from Chennai and nearby Kanchipuram are some of the finest in India. Local crafts include cane mats, wood elephants, woodcarvings and bronze figurines. Chennai has become a flourishing centre for leather garments and footwear.
Bangalore features silk, handloom fabrics, garments, gold and silver jewelry.
Handicraft emporiums in Jodhpur stock textiles, silver, jewelry, instruments, pottery, boxes, carved ducks metalwork, marble figures, paintings copper, brass antique reproductions, ivory, bed covers, wall hangings, puppets, clothes, old doors and lots of furniture.
Varanasi is home to India’s famous musical instrument, the sitar. It is also renowned for beautiful silk brocades and Banaras saris, ornamental brass work, Bhadohi silk carpets and personal and religious items for pilgrims.
Agra offers a wide variety of marble items, inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones, such as table tops, coasters, plates, boxes, and elephants. Jewelry shops are famous for Mughal designs. Agra is especially noted for its carpets, durries, leather footwear, embroidery, stone-inlay work, textiles, sandalwood and bed covers.
Some of India’s best shopping is found in Delhi. Visitors find a wide choice of items such as carpets, silks, jewelry, leather and silver ware, handicrafts and hand-printed cottons. In the old city is Chandni Chowk where many of the shops are over 100 years old, like Dariba, the silver market and Khari Baoli, the spice market.
The real pleasure of shopping here is in the roadside shops, which have good quality products. The “Tant” saris are the specialty of West Bengal as are the famed Baluchari silks. Tantuja is the retail outlet for the West Bengal State Handloom Weavers Co-operative Society offering a variety of handwoven classics.
Jaipur is India’s major gem cutting and polishing centre and one of the world’s most important gem producers. Featured local crafts are brass figures, pottery, marble statues, metalware, woodcarvings, stone sculptures, tie-dye (bandhani) and hand-blocked cotton, silk fabrics and blue pottery.
• Check with your hotel about shopping hours and closing days
• Outside major centres India does not have a culture of large supermarkets and department stores
• Major cities have government emporiums with fixed prices and quality goods
• Every city has a local bazaar, where bargaining is routine.
• When bargaining: never insult the merchant; let the seller make the first offer; use odd numbered amounts (like 550 rupees); start with a 40% discount from the asking price, then offer 35% – the seller will probably counter with a 20% discount.