India is diverse in culture and art, there is always something interesting to buy as a souvenir or for use. It is a shoppers paradise and every state in India has something special. There are so many different things to buy in every part of India. For me choosing a souvenir is fun as well as tough because I want to buy so many things. I am Indian and whenever I travel to a new place in India I make a list in advance of things to buy for myself or for gifting. Even though I know a lot about what to buy in which part of India it gets difficult at times and get confused what to buy in India. I am sure it must be more difficult for foreign travelers when buying an Indian souvenir.
After traveling for years across length and breadth of India, I can say there are some things which one must buy when traveling across India. Though everything now available everywhere in India still buying from the place of origin has its own logic & fun. Many things in India are handmade and easy to personalize if you have time.
Here is the complete list of Indian souvenirs and What to buy in India from where.
If you are not “only buy brand” kind of person than clothes shopping in India will be fun and adventure. Ready-made clothes are available across India. Most of the big and small shops across India have the fitting facility. In India, you will get beautiful cotton printed fabric garments at cheap prices. If you are a foreign traveler and planning to travel long in India for the longer than don’t carry too many garments. Buy in India at a great price.
The most popular places for fashion shopping are Janpath & Sarojini Nagar in Delhi, Colaba Causeway in Mumbai, Babu Bazar & Zaveri bazar in Jaipur and Arpora & Anjuna market in Goa.
Fab India, Westside, Shopper Stop, and Biba are most popular Indian brands to buy Indian and Indo western styles at fixed prices.
In India, you can buy good quality plain or printed cotton and silk fabrics. Every region in India has some special fabric or prints. These fabrics you can get stitched in India where you bought if you are staying for a few days or get them stitched at home.
Most the popular fabrics to buy in India are hand printed fabrics with ethnic motifs, Ikat, jute and silk fabrics. Rajasthan’s block printed cotton fabric and tye & dye prints or garments are very popular.
Indians are fond of Gold jewelry but the younger generation prefers fashion jewelry. The funky fashion jewelry is available all across India at very cheap prices. A small pair of earring can be bought for 20 INR.
The silver jewelry is very popular and its available in beautiful funky designs which can be worn with Indian as well as western clothing. Earring, necklace, choker necklace, Bengals, bracelets, rings, and anklets are most popular items.
Other than silver jewelry you can also buy beads, Lac, metal, and oxidized items at very reasonable prices. The glass and metal Bengals are available everywhere and very cheap in price.
The handicraft items made of Wood, Stone, Metal like brass and leather are crafted in small-scale industries. These items are good for decoration and are perfect gifts for friends or family. The best part about these products is that you can buy them in small or big sizes according to the budget. I so many times bough souvenirs which were only 3 to 4 Inches in size.
Pottery is another good item to buy but carrying back home is difficult.
These kind of things are available in Dilli Haat, Janpath, State emporiums at Baba Kharak Singh Marg and Central Cottage Industries Emporium in Delhi. You can easily buy these in local markets also in most of the tourist cities but a bargain for a good price.
Indian tea is one of the best in the world and buying a packet of tea from a tea growing region has it’s own charm. It is a must buy if you are a tea drinker.
Assam, Darjeeling, Munnar, Otty/Coonoor are the main tea producing regions in India. If you are traveling to any of these places then buy the tea from a factory outlet in these cities. There are different varieties of teas available from light silver tea to dark tea and green tea.
I always recommend don’t buy different flavored teas like choco flavor tea or rose flavor teas, which are sold in many places. Instead, buy a basic variety of tea because different flavored teas at times taste very strange.
Always buy the leaf tea instead of CTC tea because it tastes better. CTC is cheaper than leaf tea.
I personally advise that buy a pack of tea instead of tea bags. The tea bags have inferior quality of tea as compared to the pack of tea.
If missed buying tea in tea producing areas then State emporiums at Baba Kharak Singh Marg are the best place to buy good quality leaf tea.
India is a heaven for people who like to wear ethnic and traditional footwear. The contemporary footwear is available in big and small cities markets as most people wear those for office. But at the same time, the ethnic design of footwear is also available everywhere, which goes very well with Indian clothing.
Sometimes ethnic footwear is cheaper as compared to modern footwear.
Rajasthan is the best to buy colorful slippers, sandals, and Juttis (shoes) made of Camel leather. This footwear comes in its natural colors or with multicolored and beautiful embroideries.
Maharastra is the best place to buy Kohlapuri Chappals, these are best for Indian summers.
For people who miss buying these while traveling can buy these from Janpath Market in Connaught Place, Dilli Haat or from State emporiums at Baba Kharak Singh Marg. The emporiums sometimes have discounts during the festive or offseason.
Most of the spices grow in South of India and Kerala is the spice bowl of India. If you are traveling to Kerala from any other part of India or from outside of India buy some spices in Kochi or any other part of Kerala.
The must-buy spices are Black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, cloves and star anise. Other than this if you are a foreign traveler and like Indian food then you must buy garam masala and different curry powders available in India.
In Delhi go to “Khari Baowli” spice market for spice shopping and a different experience.
The Pashmina wool comes from the special breed of goats reared in Himalayan ranges of Kashmir in Ladakh area. The shawl and stoles of pashmina wool are very much in demand due to its soft texture. Most of the pashmina shawls available come in 70% Pashmina and 30% other fibers if someone claims to offer a 100% pashmina than there are very high chances that he/she is faking about quality.
I am not saying this from a shoppers point of view, I am saying this as a professional who worked in the Indian garment & fashion industry for many years.
The main problem is that most of the shopkeepers sell Rayon shawls as pashmina because it is also soft in hand feel. If you go to any tourist area or market and the shopkeeper will show you a shawl claiming Pashmina. Don’t get carries away there are high chances of it being fake. If you just wanted to buy a shawl which looks like Pashmina shawl then bargain and buy.
If you wanted to buy a real Pashmina then go to Kashmir emporium in Delhi at Baba Kharak Singh Marg or any of the renounced shop or store which give you a bill of Pashmina purity.
Traditional hand Paintings
Buying a handmade painting has its own charm and every region of India has a unique style of painting. These paintings are available on paper or cloth and very easy to carry back home after packing in a round cardboard box.
Most of the makers of these traditional paintings come from rural India and that’s why the prices of the paintings are not very high.
Some of the traditional and folk paintings to buy are Madhubani (From Bihar), Warli (From Maharastra), Kalamkari (From Andra Pradesh), Tanjore Paintings (From Tanjore in Tamilnadu, these are expensive due to gold & embellishments used in these), Kalighat (From Kolkata in West Bengal), Patachitra (From Orissa).
It is better to buy these paintings from their state of origin but you can also buy these at State Emporiums or Central Cottage Industries Emporium in Delhi. Other than these places, the traditional art is available in cooperatives working with artists.
The handmade items are the specialty of India and in every part, you will get different types of boxes. I have many small and big boxes from across India. These boxes are best as the souvenir and also good for gifting as such.
These boxes vary in sizes and workmanship depending upon area. In the south, you will get boxes embellished with seashells. In Rajasthan, you will get metal boxes with glass and beads decorative. There are many more kinds of boxes and these are very good to keep jewelry or other small items.
There are many types of puppets in India but for decoration purpose, the Rajasthani puppets are best. For anyone who likes a puppet hanging on the wall or any other place in their home, this is a must buy.
The most colorful and decorative puppets are available in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Jaisalmer. The puppets are available in local markets and also easy to carry in a suitcase.
The Khadi got prominence when Mahatma Gandhi started his protest against colonial rule. He encouraged people to use Khadi and with the change of time, this becomes a modern commodity.
The Khadi is handmade and hand dyed fabric. Now Khadi clothes come in different designs and colors. This is a new fashion trend among the younger generation.
The most appropriate place to buy Khadi clothes and other handmade product like incense sticks, soaps, and candles is Kadhi Bhandar.
The biggest Khadi Bhandar is in CP Delhi, while all other cities have small outlets.
Traditional Music instruments
The traditional Indian music instruments are mostly big in size but there are some small size instruments. These instruments are easy to play and fun to have.
The small and easy to carry traditional music instruments are flute, gong, bongos, tambourine, maraca, ektara, banjo, and mandolin.
These instruments are beautifully handmade and apart from giving good music, they work as a piece of art for decoration.
The hand embroidered fabrics are available in all parts of India. The workmanship and design of these are different in different parts of India. It is a good idea to buy some embroider fabric while traveling to a place. These fabrics can be used for garments as well as can be framed as a showpiece.
The most sought-after embodied fabrics and garments are Chikankari (From Lucknow), Phulkari (From Punjab), Patchwork (From Rajasthan), Kantha (From West Bengal or Orissa), Zardozi (It’s a golden or silver embossed embroidery), Kashidakari (From Kashmir), Mirrorwork (Gujarat or Rajasthan) and Kuchi embroidery (From Kutch region of Gujarat).
If you travel to a Buddhist place in India then buy a singing bowl. It’s a unique bowl with a wooden striker. There is a metal rim at the edge and when striker rubbed on it a very musical sound come. These are used for meditation, music therapy, and by yoga practitioners.
The sound/music emerge from these bowls is very relaxing and soothing.
These bowls come in different sizes and designs.
Best places to buy these are in Mclodeganj, Ladakh but these are also available in other tourist places. Always use the bowl and check if it is making proper sound.
There are some very colorful handmade masks available across India. These masks are used in traditional dances and also available in markets of these regions.
The masks selling in markets are made mostly for decoration purpose and come with a loop for hanging.
The most popular masks can be bought in Ladakh (Cham mask), West Bengal (Chauu mask), and Kerala (Kathakali mask).
There are many essential oils are available in India but it is best to buy those which are produced from Indian products. Some of the essential oils are cheaper in India because that particular plant or flower grow in abundance here.
The Lavander oil is the most popular oil in India but it is not a produced here, so it is better not to buy this in India.
Only buy those essential oils which are produced from Indian plants. The major essential oils produced in India are Mentha or Mint oil, Peppermint oil, sweet basil oil, Lemone grass oil, Citronella oil, Eucalyptus oil, Betel leaf oil, and Rose oil.
If you don’t like to use an essential oil on the body but like the smell then use essential oil diffuser. Put a few drops in the diffuser with water and burn the small lamp under it. It is another way to enjoy the aroma of essential oils.
Most of the Indians use incense sticks every day while praying. These incense sticks also work as an air freshener because of the sweet smell while burning. There are many varieties and fragrances available in different parts of India.
An incense stick is made of bamboo sticks, charcoal dust or sawdust mixed with a glue or adhesive and fragrance. These are many flowery and fruity scents available.
Sandalwood is one of the most popular fragrances in India.
Incense sticks are known as “Aggarbatti” in India and available very easily in all local markets across India.
The “Khadi Bhandar” in Connaught place is a good place to buy natural incense sticks in India.
Fabric Umbrella and Fabric Chandelier
The umbrellas made of fabric with patchwork and mirror work are also a specialty of India. These are very good to decorate gardens and open space.
In similar design fabric made chandeliers are also available in multicolor.
These things are very good for decoration and easy to fold & pack.
Bamboo and Cane Items
In the northeast of India bamboo grows in abundance and the local people make many beautiful decorative items from these. Buy a bamboo hat or basket or pen stand or any other decorative item to carry back home. These are lightweight though some of them are bigger in size. But these products are Eco-friendly and best gift items.
Sculptures of Ganesh
There are many Hindu gods but Lord Ganesha is considered to remove the obstacle from life. He is the God of beginning.
It is the best souvenir for any foreign traveler who likes the Indian sculptures. It’s better to buy the one made of clay as it is available in multi colors.
Pouches for Gift Packing
Sometimes while packing a gift we struggle to pack it in a unique way. Buy different design of pouches of various sizes. The designs can vary from region to region.
These pouches come with embroidery, beadwork, mirror work, brocade fabric or some hand painting. These are lightweight so easy to carry and good for gifting.
Miniature of Taj Mahal or Other Monuments
Taj Mahal’s miniature is a good souvenir for any Indian or foreign traveler. Buy a small replica of Taj Mahal and remember how you felt when you visited this marvelous monument.
Also read about Taj Mahal and other places in Agra
Name on Rice Grain
At many tourist places, you will come across artists, who will write your name on a grain of rice. If you like a personalized gift then get your name written on rice grain but keep in mind that you need a magnifying glass to see it.
There are different snacks and food items available in different parts of India. I always carry back some candied fruit, jams/marmalade, pickles, honey or food products which remains fresh for a couple of months.
Some of my favorites are banana chips & murukku from south of India, pickles from Hyderabad, apricot & apple jam from hills in India and mango pickle.
In India, we don’t use the preservative in pickles but still, these can be stored for more than a year.
Some important things to remember when shopping Indian souvenirs
* If you are not sure about the originality of an expensive product then buy from a state emporium or a store who will give you computerized bill with GST. Mostly these emporiums and stores procure from the local craftsman.
* If you visit artists in their village or workshop then buy directly from them. You may not get a cheaper price but it will be an authentic product and you help the artist.
* Try to buy the products where they made because there you will get a bigger collection and better price.
* If buying an expensive product then it’s advisable to buy from a renowned brand shop or store.
* Ask the locals. The auto rickshaw or hotel guy may push you to buy from a certain shop because they have a commission set with them. If you don’t like the shop then don’t buy because there are many more in the area. Check with the people and shoppers you meet in marketplaces.
* If you buy from the street market than be prepared for the bargain.