The Indian craftsman has been perfecting his art for centuries, passing down traditions and techniques from generation to generation. Each region has its own specialities, each town its own local craftsmen, its own particular skills. The results is a consummate blend of ancient skills and modern aesthetics. Silks, spices, jewellery and many other Indian products have long been famous and widely desired, and merchants would travel thousands of miles, willingly enduring the hardships and privations of the long journey in other to make their purchases. Nowadays, the marketplaces of the subcontinent are only 9 hours away, and for fabrics, silverware, carpets, leatherwork, antiques the list is endless India is a shopping paradise. Goods are exotic, attractive, beautiful hand-crafted and excellent value for money. Half the fun when buying goods in the bazaars is the bargaining, and you can always check for reasonable prices at state-run emporiums. Below are some of the best buys, either for the souvenir hunter or the connoisseur.
FABRICS: One of India’s main industries, silks, cottons, and wools rank amongst the best in the world. Of the silks the brocades from Varanasi are among the most famous variety; other major centres include Patna, Murshidabad,Surat and Kanchipuram. Rajasthan cotton with its famous "tie and die" design is usually brillantly colourful, while Madras cotton is known for its attractive "bleeding" effect after a few washes. Throughout the country may be found the "himroo" cloth, a mixture of silk and cotton, often decorated with patterns. Kashmir sells beautiful woollens particularly shawls.
CARPETS: India has one of the world’s largest carpet industries, and many examples of her ancient and beautiful craft can be seen in museums throughout the world. Kashmir has a long history of carpet making, influenced by the Persians. Pure wool and woven and silk carpets are exquisitely made, and can be bought for a fraction of the cost that one would pay in the west. Each region will have its own specialty; such as the distinctive, bright coloured Tibetan rugs, available mainly in Darjeeling.
CLOTHES: Clothes are very cheap to buy, and can be tailor made in some shops, usually very quickly. Choose from an unmatchable range; silks, cottons, himroos, brocades, chiffons, chignons, touched with streaks of silver and gold thread, set with sequins or semi-precious gems ...
JEWELLERY: Particularly of Rajasthan (Kundan), is traditionally heavy and stunningly elaborate. Indian silverwork is world-famous. Gems can be bought and mounted. Apart from diamonds, other stones include lapis lazuli, Indian star rubies, star sapphires, moonstones and aquamarine. Hyderabad is one of the world’s leading centres for pearls.
HANDICRAFTS AND LEATHERWORK: Once again, each area will have its own specialty; the vast range includes fine bronzes, brasswork (often inlaid with silver), canework and pottery. Papier Mache is a characteristic Kashmir product, some decorated with gold leaf. Marble and alabaster inlay work, such as chess sets and ornamental plates, are a specialty of Agra. Good leatherwork buys includes open India sandals and slippers.
WOODWORK: Sandalwood carvings from Karnataka, rosewood from Kerala and Madras, Indian walnut from Kashmir. These are often exquisite and make excellent presents.
OTHER BUYS: Foods such as pickles, spices and Indian tea, perfumes, soap, handmade paper, Orissan playing cards, musical instruments- anything that takes your fancy.
NOTE: It is forbidden to export antiques and art objects over 100 years old, animal skins or objects made from skins.
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