Think India and images of silk, spices, saris, brassware and jewels come to mind. But there is so much more to buy here. Satin embroidery, cotton, carpets, woodwork, pottery, enamel work, copper leather goods, even the roadside kitsch of grotesque masks, brass idols and ropes of beads and bells vie for attention.
The government-owned Cottage Industries Emporium in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kokata, Bangalore and Chennai are a good place to start. All display works from every state in India and offer fixed prices, for those not bold enough to bargain.
Look for representations of the ubiquitous Ganesh, God of Prosperity, in a wide range of materials, from leather, to clay to wood to precious metals. Jewels from Rajisthan, silver from Orissa and pearls from Hyderabad share display space with brasswork from Jaipur and Aranmula and cotton from West Bengal and carpets from Kashmir.
What To Buy & Where To Buy It
Silk: Varanasi, Mysore, Kanchipuram, Assam, Kashmir
Cotton: West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh
Carpets: Kashmir, Mirzapur, Bardoi, Warangal, Eluru
Metal Work: Moradabad, Mirzapur
Jewelry: Rajasthan, Varanasi, Hyderabad, Ferozabad
Woodcraft: Saharanpur, Mainpur, Kashmir, Rajasthan
Shawls & Scarves: Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, Uttaranchal
Textiles: Udaipur, Delhi, Varanasi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Chennai
Furniture: Mumbai, Jodhpur, Udaipur
Leathergoods: Chennai, Kolkata, Pondicherry
Papier Mache: Kashmir
Pottery & Stone Craft: Rajasthan, Bihar, Vrindavan, Hamirpur, Agra
Ikat & Patola Woven Goods: Orissa, Gugarat
Phulkari Embroidery: Punjab
Paintings: Delhi, Udaipur, Himachal
• 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