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Attempt to resist shopping in India and you will soon realise that it is a vain attempt.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. 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 have travelled thousands of miles, willingly enduring the hardships and privations of long journey in order to make their purchases.
FABRICS: Indian 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. Still Each region has its own specialty; such as the distinctive, bright coloured Tibetan rugs, available mainly in Darjeeling.
JEWELLERY: Meenakari, or studded Kundan is traditionally heavy and stunningly elaborate based on the Mughal or Rajput designs. Heavy silver jewellery from Gujarat 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.Many gems famous for their healing poers can be purchased in India.
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 leather work buys includes open India sandals and slippers.Sandalwood carvings from Karnataka, rosewood from Kerala and Madras, Indian walnut from Kashmir. These are often exquisite and make excellent presents.
FURNITURE: Indian Furniture is made by woodcarvers who follow the Rajastahni and Gujarati woodcraft with its intricate work and antique look. Painted Kishangarh furniture is an art itself and woodwork from Sharanpur, Ramgarh and Shekavati adorn living rooms of India lovers worldwide.
NOTE: It is forbidden to export antiques and art objects over 100 years old, animal skins or objects made from skins.