There's no doubt that India is a tempting place to shop! Each region in India is renowned for particular handicraft industries that have been passed down over generations. The unique items produced all have their own individual appeal. Here's a state by state guide as to what to buy in India. Don't worry if you're not able to visit each place. Handicrafts from all over India are conveniently available in Delhi. This guide to shopping in Delhi will point you in the right direction.
Want to learn more about Indian handicrafts? Take one (or more!) of these themed immersive handicraft tours.
Rajasthan, India's desert state, produces an eye-catching array of goods to delight the shopper. Block-printed textiles and painted wooden furniture are Rajasthani specialties. Puppets are ubiquitous. To buy precious and semi-precious gemstones, head to Jaipur, Rajashtan's pink city. Blue glazed pottery is also made in Jaipur. Miniature paintings, developed as an art form during the Mughal era, can be found for sale all over the state. Other items to shop for in Rajasthan include turbans, brass statues, and traditional men's shoes that curl up at the toes.
Gujarat's Kutch region is famed for its handicrafts, produced by the very talented artisans in its villages. Bandhani tie die and ajrakh block printing are two famous arts that originated in Pakistan and were brought to Kutch by migrants more than 350 years ago. Embroidery, weaving, pottery, lacquer work, leather work, mud and mirror work, and rogan art (a type of painting on fabric) are also prevalent in the region.
Marble items, obviously inspired by the Taj Mahal, abound in Agra. Some of them are made in exquisite detail, inlaid with semi-precious stones. For leather work, India's main production center is in the Kanpur area. Varanasi is a popular place to buy silk and sarees, but it's important to pay attention to the quality and purity. In Lucknow look for jewellery, enamel work, and attars (traditionally made perfumes). Uttar Pradesh also produces a great range of copper and brass items.
Silk sarees from Kanchipuram (Kanjeevaram), near Chennai, are among the finest sarees in India. You can save around 10% on the purchase price by shopping where they're made. However, as is to be expected, there are a lot of fakes out there. Sometimes, it's not easy to spot them either. These tips for buying authentic Kanchipuram sarees will help you avoid being scammed. The temple town of Tanjore (Thanjavur) is known for its intricate paintings with gold foil, usually of gods and goddesses. Bronze casting is also done around Thanjavur. Mahabalipuram, about an hour south of Chennai, has a thriving stone sculpture industry. Colorful clay tiles are handmade using local materials in the Chettinad village of Athangudi. Coimbatore is famous for its handloomed floor rugs, called dhurries. (They match beautifully with Athangudi tiles).
Learn about the top tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu. It's a really interesting and easy state to explore!
Karnataka is known for its fragrant sandalwood industry. Plenty of sandalwood carvings and incense can be found, especially around Mysore. Silk sarees are also handwoven in Mysore. On the road from Mysore to Bangalore, you'll pass the Channapatna toy village, famous for its bright wooden toys and rocking horses.
Find out more about the top places to visit in Karnataka.
Footwear is a good buy in Maharashtra. India's prevalent leather chappals (sandals) are made in the state, around Kolhapur and Pune. Shoes can be found all through the markets of Mumbai, but particularly on Linking Road in Bandra. Mumbai also has a market called Chor Bazaar that's popular for antique and vintage items. Aurangabad is known for its patterned Himroo weaving industry, which produces shawls, sheets, bedspreads, and sarees. Particularly stunning silk and gold thread sarees are made in Paithan, near Aurangabad. The workmanship is carried out in painstaking detail, with price tags to match. Maharashtra's Warli tribe produces eye-catching art too.
The production of feni (traditional locally made alcohol) is booming in Goa. It comes in two types - cashew and coconut - and can be bought in decorative bottles to take home. Beware that it packs a punch! Goa is also renowned for its markets overflowing with colorful hippie clothes. The Wednesday flea market at Anjuna is the most famous but you'll find clothing stalls along the roads behind most beaches.
Plan you trip with this comprehensive Goa travel guide.
Odisha is known for its intricate silver jewelry, as well as tribal jewelry. Cuttack is the main hub for filigree work, or Tarkasi as it's locally called. The handiwork is among the best in the world. Buy it cheaply from the many silver emporiums next to Bhubaneshwar Railway Station (ask to see boxes of unusual silver toe rings kept behind the counters). Also check out the diverse handicraft shops at Ekamra Haat urban market in Bhubaneshwar. There are two popular handicraft villages, Raghurajpur and Pipli, between Bhubaneshwar and Puri. Raghurajpur is a great source of handicrafts including pattachitra paintings, stone carvings, wood carvings, and wooden toys. Pipli is known for its applique work. In addition, Odisha's handloom industry produces elaborate weaves including ikat. Look out for distinctive sarees and shawls.
Here are best things to do in Odisha (including shopping).
Bankura and Bishnupur specialize in the production of terracotta wares, including bowls, figurines, and wall hangings. Jute weaving is also popular in West Bengal, with products such as baskets, bags and dolls. Traditional chhau masks are made in Charida village of Purulia district. Attend the annual West Bengal State Handicrafts Expo, held in Kolkata every winter, for an outstanding array of items. Being the cultural capital of India, Kolkata also offers a fine range of traditional Indian musical instruments. Further north, around Darjeeling and Kalimpong, is the territory of India's tea plantations. This is where to head for delicious, aromatic tea. Hill crafts, such as bamboo and wood carving, are also practised there.
Kashmir is best known for its Pashmina shawls and carpets, with production techniques imported long ago from Persia. Other items originating from Kashmir include colorful papier-mache products, leather boots and shoes, and intricately carved wooden furniture including screens and tables. Head to the Boulevard in Srinagar to find shops and vendors selling a wide variety of items. The Kashmir Government Arts Emporium on Residency Road near the Tourist Reception Center is a popular fixed-price place. Don't expect to get a bargain there though!
This Srinagar travel guide will help you plan your trip.
A wide range of traditional woolen shawls and caps are produced in the Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh. These are very warm due to the cold winter climate so close to the Himalaya mountains. The influence of the Tibetan community can be widely felt in places such as McLeod Ganj and Dharamsala. Traditional Tibetan rugs, silver jewelry, prayer wheels and flags, meditation bowls and beads, and music are all readily available there.
Bihar has a thriving wood carving industry, with wood inlay work being one of the state's oldest crafts. Bihar is also known for its unique folk art paintings. Many Madhubani ceremonial folk paintings are produced around the Patna area, by artists that have settled there. In north Bihar, a grass called sikki is dyed in bright colours and woven to make baskets, boxes and figures.
Here's the pick of things to do in Bihar.
Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh
Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh both have a significant tribal population, skilled in indigenous tribal arts. These include metal work (such as dhokra metal casting to make figurines) and paintings (such as Gond art). Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh also has a hand-loom weaving industry, known for its Maheshwari sarees. Wood carving is popular in Madhya Pradesh as well.