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Shoptastic India!

Updated on February 5, 2019
High Street Ken it ain't
High Street Ken it ain't

There are many good reasons to visit India: the temples, the culture, the palaces, the sights and sounds, the experience – I could go on. But one of the really fun things to do is of course the shopping – a pastime adored by most women, and misunderstood by men. I call it redistribution of wealth and try to put a philanthropic spin on it. But if you need to buy gifts for those back home, there is no better place than India, where there are so many fantastic things that are lightweight, easily packed and transportable. Admittedly most gift ideas are for women and things for men are a bit thin on the ground, but you can’t go wrong with a cashmere scarf or two, can you?

A tricky choice...
A tricky choice...

Silks

You’ll find silk items all over India, from scarves to cushion covers, bed spreads to table cloths, inevitably made up in glorious, outrageous colours. The silk from the city of Varanasi is renowned for being especially fine, and along the Ganges you’ll see boat-loads of women pouring in to visit their favourite shops and buy new saris. You’ll find silk shops all along the river front, and they make wonderful, calm retreats after the chaos of everything happening outside.

Shawls and Pashminas

These can be found all over India, with a variety of qualities, from the dirt cheap to the hugely upmarket. If you’re suddenly feeling cold, there are shawls with printed patterns you can pick up for almost nothing, but you can also go to specialist places and find genuine, fine items, both patterned and plain, for more credit-busting prices.

Colourful outside, too
Colourful outside, too

Wallhangings

In Rajasthan, especially Jodhpur, you’ll find fantastic embroidered and mirrored wall hangings, said to be made up of old desert wedding dresses. Each one is unique, and guaranteed to make a statement in any room.

A beautiful lady in Jaisalmer
A beautiful lady in Jaisalmer

Jewellery

There are jewellery shops all over India, selling silver and a wide variety of precious and semi-precious gems. One of the most fun afternoons I had was in Delhi, in a shop in the arcade leading up to the Red Fort, where we were allowed to pour through boxes of rings, bracelets and pendants, pretty much for all going for the price of costume jewellery in Europe.

Star anise and nutmeg - lovely gifts and so easy to bring home
Star anise and nutmeg - lovely gifts and so easy to bring home

Spices

It was in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, that there were a great many specialist spice shops, though you’ll find stalls all over India. Here you can buy huge bags of black mustard seeds, nutmeg, star anise, saffron and all the spices that are either hard to come by or expensive in European or western stockists.

Tea

The Indians are hooked on Chai, which is sweetened tea boiled with milk – the first sip you take tastes pretty filthy but it quickly grows on you – especially on long train rides. In Jodhpur again it’s possible to find a variety of teas for sale: mint, ginger, rose and a wonderful concoction called Himalayan Kava (not to be confused with the alcoholic Spanish Cava!), which is made up of saffron, cardamom pods and cinnamon, boiled for five minutes.

Not quite what the doctor ordered?
Not quite what the doctor ordered?

Smellies

India is full of smells, from musky incense sticks to the rosewater sprinkled to calm dusty streets on a hot day, and it’s possible to stock up all kinds of products, including essential oils, such as jasmine, lavender, rose or amber, as well as incense sticks, perfumes, solid perfumes, soaps, shower gels, shampoos and massage oils, like this wonderfully-named Heart Erection.

Brassware

Ganesh, Shiva and Buddha, there are replicas of religious icons to be found all over India. They needn’t cost much, but might be a tad on the heavy side – buy at your last destination!

Paintings

All over India you’ll find traditional Indo-Persian style paintings, many of which depict Gods, Goddesses and Mughal Shahs, as well as decorated elephants. In Varanasi I stumbled upon a watercolour artist who painted Varanasi’s architecture and lively ghats – easy to roll up and slip into the side of your suitcase.

Colourful kilims
Colourful kilims

Rugs & Kilims

Less easy to transport back, perhaps, but in plentiful supply nonetheless, many of the rugs are taken from the Mughal style which is, of course, influenced by the Persians. True ruggies may disapprove, but they still make an elegant addition to any room.

Colourful Bits & Bobs

India is perfect if you’re shopping for girls, with colourful handbags, notebooks, sparkly pens, bangles, hanging mobiles – all sorts of gift ideas. Sadly for boys it’s trickier. My kitchen cupboards are adorned with cheery Indian porcelain door knobs, and you'll find lovely hooks for kitchen or even bathroom towels, too.

A Word on Haggling

Everyone does it and everyone accepts it, but I have to admit (and maybe I’m soft), that there seems something vaguely obscene about a relatively wealthy westerner haggling over what is essentially pocket money with someone for whom that amount could quite possibly buy their family’s supper. Does it make any real sense? So in the past I’ve gone through the motions but accepted the second price offered (if it seems fair, of course – no-one wants to get ripped off) and left it at that. I’d love to know what anyone else thinks!

Comments

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    • Riviera Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Riviera Rose 

      7 years ago from South of France

      Thank you Cheeluary, your comment and vote much appreciated!

    • cheeluarv profile image

      cheeluarv 

      7 years ago from INDIA

      Excellent hub on India and its best things.Voted up.

    • Riviera Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Riviera Rose 

      8 years ago from South of France

      Hi Kalmiya, thanks for commenting, and lucky you for having an Indian shopping area in town - I wish I did! Happy shopping!

    • Kalmiya profile image

      Kalmiya 

      8 years ago from North America

      This is a wonderful idea. Since I can't travel there just now, it makes me think of heading out the India shopping area in town. I love the bright colours and interesting items. Thanks!

    • Riviera Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Riviera Rose 

      8 years ago from South of France

      Hi Mary, thank you so much for your comment. Hope you make it to India one day!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      8 years ago from Florida

      I enjoyed reading about India. It seems like such a fasinating place. I enjoy read other Hubs from fellow Hubbers for India (like rajan jolly) who write beautifully about their country and their customs, etc.

      Voted UP, etc.

    • Riviera Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Riviera Rose 

      8 years ago from South of France

      Hi Rajan Jolly, thanks for your comment, and I agree, there's such a HUGE choice I've barely scratched the surface! I can't wait to go back!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      8 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      There are an amazing variety of things to shop for in India and you have covered quite a few of them.

    • Riviera Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Riviera Rose 

      9 years ago from South of France

      Thanks, gmwilliams, I appreciate your comment!

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      9 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Excellent hub.

    • Riviera Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Riviera Rose 

      10 years ago from South of France

      Hi Tebo, Thanks for commenting! India's such a fabulous place to visit, and the shopping really is fantastic! Hope you get there one day.

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      I loved this hub and would love to visit this part of the world. The many things you mentioned from scents to scarfs etc are amazing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Riviera Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Riviera Rose 

      10 years ago from South of France

      Hi Venki Indiain, Thanks for your comment, and you're right, there's so much in the south. I haven't been for years, which is something I'd love to correct! One of these days...

    • venki_indiain profile image

      Venkat 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Hi, well explained hub, will be very happy if you cover South India also. Since south India also famous for shopping, eventhough you mentioned Bangalore, still more places in South India are to be covered in your hub. So expecting this in your next hub.

    • Riviera Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Riviera Rose 

      10 years ago from South of France

      Hi Tamarindcandy, thanks for the nice comment, I'm glad you liked the hub!

    • tamarindcandy profile image

      tamarindcandy 

      10 years ago

      A beautiful hub complemented by beautiful pictures.

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