Home

SHOPPING IN INDIA

 
 
Shopping is an adventure of a vibrant kind in India. India's potpourri of shopping choices includes vivacious garments, textiles, metalwork, Jewellery, furniture, brass, silver, copper, gold, silks and brocades, leather goods, carpets and an unending list of buys.The excellent value for money products, are sure to have visitors looking for an extra suitcase to carry home. Although the best bargains are available in regions producing the specific handicraft, most products are available in major metros of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

 
   
 

  CARPETS

 
Carpets of silk and cotton have been popular exports dating back centuries. Even today, plush silk carpets, perfected under Mughal design sensibilities, are great take-aways. Fine knotted cotton durries as well as sturdy rugs and Islamic prayer rugs or kilims from Rajasthan are good value for money. Lightweight durries (floor coverings) are available in numerous styles. The states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan (woollen durries), Uttar Pradesh (geometrical patterns) and Tamil Nadu (stylized patterns) are important weaving centers. Pile carpets were introduced from Iran to Kashmir in the 15th century. Here carpet making follows the shawl-weaving tradition, its designs are based on Persian and central Asian styles. Kashmir is also known for other types of floor coverings, known as the Namdas, Hook rugs and Gabbas. Namdas are made of felted wool and cotton and are embroidered with woollen chain stitches. The hook rug is made with chain stitch embroidery worked with a hook called ahri. A thick jute cloth is embroidered fully so that the base material is not visible. The Gabba is an appliqué done on worn-out woollen blankets.Carpets produced in Agra and Amritsar have fine quality patterns on a red, ivory, green and black background. Jaipur in Rajasthan produces quality carpets, which vary from 80 knots to 120 knots per square inch. Most of them have geometrical patterns. Mirzapur and Bhadoi also make quality carpet varieties. Andhra Pradesh produces geometrical patterned carpets of quality of around 30 to 60 knots per square inch.
 
   

   SILK

 
Despite rapid industrialization, most of the age-old centres of handloom textiles continue to produce beautifully woven fabrics. Today silk is not just restricted to saris. It is also sold by the yard.Indian silks are in great demand with foreign designers who use them extensively in fashion garments.Government and private outlets stock silks all over India. The heavier variety can be used for drapes and upholstery. A wide range of ladies' and men's wear like dupattas, garments, fabrics, caps, handkerchiefs, scarves, dhotis, turbans, shawls, ghagras or lehengas, and even quilts, bedcovers, cushions, table-cloths, curtains are made of silk. Brocade borders can be used imaginatively to design clothes, cushions and scarves. Handlooms form the warp and weft of a region. Just as Patola or Ikat is distinctive to Andhra Pradesh , In contrast to the ikats of Gujarat, theses saris are sober in colour and decorated with curved forms. Murshidabad, West Bengal is home of the famous Baluchari sari. The Baluchar technique of weaving uses untwisted silk thread for weaving brocades. The 'pallu' (sari part that goes across the shoulder) of this sari has patterns that resemble miniature paintings. Heavy silk saris from Tanjore, Kumbakonam and Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu are known for their broad decorative borders and contrasting colours. Saris from Kolegal and Molkalmoru in Karnataka have a simple ikat weave with parrot motif on the borders, the ikat always being white. Sangareddy and Dharmaswaram in Andhra Pradesh too, specialize in ikat silk weave.
 
   

  COTTON

 
Jamdanis are amongst the most exclusive of muslins. These muslins have lyrical names like Shabnam (evening dew), Malmal Khas (muslin reserved for kings) and Abrawan (flowing water). The base fabric for Jamdanis is unbleached cotton yarn and the design is woven using bleached cotton yarns so that a shadow effect is created.Venkatagiris are saris of the Jamdani technique with stylized motifs woven in half cotton and half gold threads. Ikat saris from Karnataka and the Narayanpet textiles from Andhra Pradesh are sought-after cotton textiles. Gadwal and Wanaparti produce materials of thick cotton, mostly in checks with a contrasting silk border and pallu worked in gold. Nander is famous for its fine quality cotton saris richly worked in gold thread with silk border.Bandhani materials are made using resist- dyeing techniques popularly known as 'Tie and Dye'. These patterns are commonly seen on long scarves (chunnis), saris and turbans. The state of Gujarat and the princely land of Rajasthan have long been famous for practising this style. Kalamkari - The Coromandel Coast of India has been the source of some of the most beautiful floral-designed cotton fabrics using brushes or pens. This painted cloth of Southeast India had been known as "Pintado" by the Portuguese and "Chintz" by the English.
 
   

  JEWELLERY

 
Different regions of India have jewellery traditions and styles unique to them. Popular styles that have passed on for centuries include fine filigree work in silver from Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, the art of enamelling or Meenakari from Jaipur, temple jewellery from Nagercoil and Kundan or the setting of semi-precious or precious stones in gold from Delhi. Every metro has a gold bazaar. A walk across Zaveri bazaar in Mumbai, for instance, will give an idea of India's contemporary and classic jewellery-traditions. Chaste silver and gold, as well as precious stones, are great value for money in India. The emphasis is on heavy detailing. There are many jewellery centres specializing in local styles. In northern India, the best work can be found in Jaipur, Kutch, Bikaner and Murshidabad.For a more contemporary look, try a Kutchikaam bangle or anklet - the chunky embossed silver of Gujarat. You can also do the rounds of flea markets and walk away with 'duplicate' Meenakari enamelled necklaces, ornate gem studded armbands and genuine glass bangles in eye-catching colours and designs.
 
   

  JEWELLERY STYLE

 
Meenakari and Kundan are styles from Jaipur and Delhi influenced by the Mughals. The jewellery can be worn on both sides. The temple jewellery of Nagercoil has traditional gold ornaments studded with red and green semi-precious stones.In Assam, soft 24 carat gold is fashioned into earrings and necklaces modelled on local flora and fauna for instance, earrings resembling the orchid. In Nagaland, gold is used to craft imitations of the human head and long funnel shaped beads are used in combination with shells, animal claws and teeth and precious and semi-precious stones.The designs in solid gold jewellery of Tamil Nadu and Kerala are inspired by nature. Silversmiths of Himachal Pradesh craft large delicate and intricate ornaments. Head-dresses called chak, long earnngs and large nose-rings with peepal leaf or bird motifs are the specialties of the region. In Ladakh, silver charm boxes and head-dresses called perak with rows of turquoise, cornelian, coral and agate stitched onto it, are a common sight.
 
   

  KNOW YOUR JEWELLERY

 
Colour varies with the stone. Generally a stone with a uniform and deep colour is of greater value. Carat is a measure of the purity of gold, whereas carat indicates the weight of a gemstone.  Natural stones are formed by nature and are scarce. If a stone is flawless, it might be synthetic. Simulated stones are the cheapest of all. In these, the optical properties closely resemble the real gem, but the chemical properties are different. A jeweller would easily know the difference. An example is a spinal or zircon versus a diamond.Imitation stones may be made of glass or plastic, or may be composite stones consisting of a thin slice of the gem material beneath (doublet) or between (triplet) other material of no value. Natural pearls are rare. Cultured pearls are formed in exactly the same way as natural pearls, with the difference being that man has deliberately inserted an "irritant" (small bead) into oysters. Simulated pearls look like the real thing, many of them are plastic! A gemstone should have visual beauty, durability, and rarity. Some of India's designers now rub shoulders with the best names of Paris catwalks. Names like Ritu Kumar, Rohit Bal, Ravi Bajaj, Suneet Verma, Jatin Kochar, and Tarun Tehliani are the ones to look for.
 
   

  HEALING GEMS

 

The Navaratna or the necklace of nine gems is an exquisite piece of jewellery. The Navaratna consists of diamond, ruby, emerald, coral, pearl, sapphire, garnet, topaz and the cat's eye. This combination of gems is considered highly auspicious and protection against disease for the wearer. According to astrology, the planets watch over each gem to give it their potency. Ruby gives energy. Emerald is an antidote for all stomach complaints. Coral helps the memory, pearls are good for the heart, sapphire for enlightenment. Topaz is said to bring wealth and the cat's eye, strength.

 
   

  FURNITURE

 
Indian furniture is regarded as prized because of its ethnic flavour. Traditional Indian woodcarvers continue to follow the style of their ancestors keeping traditional crafts alive. Venkatagiris are saris of the Jamdani technique with stylized motifs woven in half cotton and half gold threads.Among the regional specialties, nothing can outdo Rajdsthani and Gujarati woodcraft. The antique look and intricate craftsmanship have kept the furniture in demand both in India and abroad. Carved and decorated chests, chairs, cradles, low- tables and stools are hard to resist. Each object is pleasing, whether inlaid with brass sheet work, painted with dancing figures, or embellished with hunting scenes. From Kishangarh, comes painted furniture of screens, doors, caskets and chairs. The regions of Ramgarh and Shekhawati specialize in ornamental wooden furniture with floral designs that adorn projected niches and balconies of houses. Barmer and Jodhpur produce the finest carved furniture in the state, which includes windows, tables, beds, dining tables and chairs, sofa sets with centre tables, couches, cabinets, dressing tables, screens, bars, trolleys and other items of domestic use.One can also find white metal furniture in the desert state. Metal furniture has come from royal families in India that clad some wooden furniture pieces with gold or silver sheets, especially for ceremonial purposes. The concept became popular and gradually the gold and silver was replaced by the white metal to make it economically viable. Papier-mache, popular in some parts of the country, has been put to skilful use by artisans in Rajasthan to manufacture unique and attractive-looking pieces of furniture including chairs, couches, benches and seats, cabinets and container shelves. Sankheda from Gujarat is known for its colourful toys and wooden furniture. Other Gujarati wood-crafted products include candle holders, decorative tableware, wooden fruit, nut and salad bowls, tray-cum-side table, dinner set, soup bowls and a range of cutlery.
 
   

  CANE AND BAMBOO

 
In India, cane and bamboo have since ancient times been an expression of tribal art, providing them livelihood. Today the simple forms adorn the homesof the rich in various forms including elaborate cane furniture.Utilitarian and decorative items are made from cane in different styles and motifs, of which baskets and mats are the most popular. Tripura and Bengal are famous for elegant screens and bamboo mats, made from split bamboo. Assam, a state with abundant raw material, has a large variety of beautiful products like baskets, mugs for rice beer, hukkas, musical instruments and floor mats. Neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh excels in cane and bamboo work too, producing items such as cane belts. From Tamil Nadu, come the famed kora grass mats. The most delicate mats are made in Kerala, where black and white square bamboo boxes are also made in the same tradition, making excellent gifts.
 
   

  LEATHER

 
Leather products are a popular buy amongst foreign visitors to India. The most popular leather products are footwear and hand bags. In major cities, there are shops specialising in leather wear from jackets and gloves to luggage and office accessories. Contemporary designs are available in Auroville, in the French-influenced state of Pondicherry.Footwear comes in a variety of traditional embroidery, brocade and textile designs. Bright colours are used in the all time favourite, the utilitarian Kolhapuri chappals of Maharashtra. Jaipur has the longest tradition in classical footwear with the thickish shoes, called Mojadis, decorated with silk, metal embroidery and beads. Handbags in batik style with bold curves, and traditional motifs come from Bengal. 'Kopi', a rather unusual water bottle from Bikaner, is made from camel hide. Bikaner and Jaisalmer also have decorative saddles for horses and camels, often used as decorations in living rooms.High raised leather seats with geometrical patterns, called pidis, are made in Gujarat. Red leather embroidered with gold and silk is unique to Madhya Pradesh and make great cushion covers. In Hoshiarpur, Punjab, applique work is done with coloured leather pieces. While leather with metallic gold or silvery finish is available in Karnataka, articles such as wallets, pouches, handbags and a wide range of belts are found aplenty in Chennai.
 
   

  HANDICRAFTS

 
Every State of India showcases its products at fixed rates at the Cottage Industries Emporium in major cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai. Available are artefacts in bronze, brass, ivory, marble or wood. You'll find statues, lamp shades, chairs, delicate filigree work on ivory and silver, marble inlaid with precious coloured stones, enamel work 'Kundan' or 'Meenakari' jewellery of Rajasthan, silver from Orissa and pearls from Hyderabad. Brasswork from Jaipur, black stylized vases and urns from Pembarthi and the polished brass mirrors of Aranmula have today evolved into design statements. Everywhere in India one finds idols and statues in temples and on the streets. It was natural that sculpting skills be developed. The granite and bronze sculptures of South India have continued an unbroken lineage from the Chola period dating back a thousand years. The ever-popular Lord Ganesh, God of prosperity, assumes various forms in each statue with innumerable materials from humble clay, stone to metal. Marble sculptures are found mostly in the north and one can pick up a cornucopia of typical inlaid hand-moulded jars, plates, and latticed panels. Boxes, plaques, bowls in sandstone and soapstone can be picked up as you stroll along the colourful bazaars of south India's towns. Blue-black phyllite is used by carvers in Santhal-Parganas in Bengal. Art is eternal. From the primitive cave paintings of Bhimbetka, to the cubist influenced M.F. Hussain, all hues of India show up in galleries and shops. An interesting buy are folk paintings from Madhubani, in which women paint symbolic fertility pictures with natural pigments.
 
   

  POTTERY STYLE IN USE

 
The popularity of ceramics can be seen from the numerous categories and types one finds all over India. Functional, unsophisticated, simple but attractive pottery shapes lay an emphasis on the dignity of form. The most common clay object is the all-purpose kullar (cup-like container) used for serving water or tea, sometimes decorated with geometrical and floral designs. There are a variety of objects specially produced for festive occasions, such as lamps for Diwali, toys for Dusshera, pots (or seedlings at Sankranti and colourful kalash (pots) for marriages. Many products are also used for decoration and make great gifts. Some of which are Karigari (design) pottery, ashtrays, flower-vases, tea sets, paperweights and decorative animal figures. Delhi is famous for its 'Blue' pottery that uses an eye-catching Persian blue dye to colour the clay. Blue pottery is glazed and high-fired which makes it tougher than the others. Another version, the Jaipur blue pottery is unique. No cracks develop in it, making it impervious and more hygienic for daily use. Some of this pottery is semi-transparent and generally decorated with animal and bird motifs. Decorative items such as ashtrays, vases, coasters, small bowls and boxes for trinkets, are made using paste and fired at very low temperature.
 
   

   NEW INDIA SHOPPING EXPERIENCE

 
Indian metros are fast turning into havens for products symbolising a Western lifestyle. Its generation X kids thrive on a staple diet of Coke, Pepsi, Wimpy's and Macdonald's burgers and plenty of Baskin Robbins ice creams. Frozen foods (fish, meats and vegetables), tinned fruits and juices, ready to eat/cook packed stuff, jostle for space on the shelves of food stores. Exotic fresh products like broccoli, avocados, lettuce, celery and leeks vie for attention along with their indigenous counterparts.Nearly all international reputed wristwatches are available in India now. They include Omega, Cartier, Citizen, Rado, Baume & Mercier, Piaget, and Longines. Lingerie, swimwear and other accessories once sourced from abroad, are freely available in major departmental stores. Worth buying are high quality Nike, Reebok Adidas - leading names in shoes and sportswear. Even the world famous baggage maker Samsonite is available in Indian stores. RayBan and Killer Loop occupy the top rung of the market for fashionable eyewear. This is not restricted to any specific product. Mobile phones, pagers, handy video games, cameras, VCP/Rs, electronic toys (besides stuffed, soft ones), dish antennas, hi-fi music systems, CDs, home theatre systems, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners have all made inroads into homes at a fanatical pace.With further liberalisation of India's free import policy implemented recently, there is expected to be a greater influx of internationally acclaimed brand names in the near future.