India is not only breathtaking but offers a vast variety of experiences and places and you will definitely want some mementos of your trip. Choosing which souvenirs from India to take home is a hard choice as baggage space is always a limitation for travellers. Here are our suggestions of some essential and some original souvenirs from the length and breadth of the country, depending on where your meandering feet might land. The suggestions are given based on the weight, size, authentic representation of the destination and some amount of cultural context. Shower your loved ones back home with a taste of India!
Starting from the very North of the country, Jammu & Kashmir harbours a hidden pride in its valleys – Ladakh. The spirit of Ladakh is embodied in the fluttering prayer flags which hang in every nook and corner to spread the blessings with the wind. Grab a small roll of these to remember the gentle and non overwhelming demeanour of Tibetans in this region. If you have some space, pashmina shawls and stoles would also be a good choice. You are sure to land in Delhi if visiting the North. There will be a plethora of choices here, kitsch bric-a- bracs from the Hauz Khas market are something you could look at. For those who want to visit only one place, Dilli Haat in south-central Delhi will give an opportunity to pick a souvenir from states around the country.
Veering towards the western region, Rajasthan is a marvellous destination for shopping. Silver jewellery, funky slippers, and tie & dye fabric is the best in the country. Goa and Mumbai have their own set of curios, the most famous of which is a nice pack of cashews from Goa. In Mumbai, look out for some Bollywood inspired memorabilia. The street markets of Mumbai in turn are great for ethnic artificial jewellery which befits dresses for an evening out. The women are likely to spend a lot of time here – spending, and more importantly sprucing up their bargaining skills.
South of India is a treasure where knick-knacks are concerned. If in Bangalore, don’t forget to pick up the unique Channapatna toys from Cauvery Shopping Emporium in the heart of the city. Mysore Silk is extremely famous, so picking up some light stoles will be a good idea. If you have taken fancy to the sari, then both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are great to pick up unique designs in both cotton and silk. Infact the whole of South India has regional delights where weaving skills are concerned. If heading towards Kerala, objects made of coconut husk, small replicas of the Snake Boats, Kerala Saris and Aranmula metal mirrors do not take up much space.
Ethnic hunting spears & knives and prayer wheels lie ironically together in the Eastern Markets of the country. Bright red and black coloured Naga Shawls work really well as wall hangings too. Handier to carry back, are the small prayer wheels that a lot of locals use while chanting. The eastern states like West Bengal, Nagaland, Sikkim and Assam are famous for their own special weaving designs. Small bags, exclusive tribal jewellery and Hornbill pins are available everywhere.
It is difficult to assess the cost of an item if travelling alone. It’s best to get some local advice on this matter. Bargaining is rampant in India, so start with bringing down the cost by at least 40%. Based on your awe and desire for the souvenir, relent when needed. For small bric-a-bracs like key-chains and artificial jewellery you will not find too much scope to bargain.
The list of things to carry back home may exceed your baggage space, so limit that urge to pick up bright and beautiful bread spreads, heavy antiques and shawls. Although if finances allow you might like to ship some back home as you are bound to get great deals in India.
If not for the souvenirs, just enjoy the thrill of shopping in the bustling streets of an Indian market. The colours, smell and noise add to the charm of jostling your way around and getting a good bargain! Moreover if you are able to transport yourself back to this fabulous country after your trip through your souvenirs, it will be a job well done.
Planning a trip to India? Check out our selection of homestays for an authentic Indian experience.
Find out about the homestay experience and don't forget to check out our ideas on things to do in India or browse our India homestays.