In such a big country, with only so much baggage allowance, how, you might wonder, is it possible to bring home souvenirs that reflect all the rich and varied colors, sights, sounds, peace, and madness of India? It’s a tough task. Although fridge magnets can’t ever do any country complete justice, I think it’s particularly difficult for this one.
Luckily, India’s beautiful history of arts and crafts (every state in India has its own signature craftsmanship style, which is still practiced today) make finding souvenirs here a little less difficult. As well as traditional crafts, like textiles from northern India or carvings from the southern states, you can also pick up teas and spices, or browse among modern boutiques for examples of India’s new, fresh design aesthetic. New Delhi is a shopping playground for trinkets to remember your trip by, or to take back as presents; from traditional markets to upscale air-conditioned malls, here are some of the best places to souvenir shop in the city.
Connaught Place Emporiums
Or is it Emporia? I’ve never been sure about this. Regardless, craft artisans from states across India show off their wares in this row of emporiums at Connaught Place. You’ll find specialty shawls, sarees, home wares, paintings, and jewelry that you would otherwise have had to travel miles for. It’s a beautiful showcase of labors of love.
This open-air market is rather like Connaught Place, but on a smaller scale; instead of shops, flea-market style stalls here are crammed with artwork and crafts. If you’re looking for playful, less expensive handicrafts like kaleidoscopes made from broken glass bangles or wooden puzzles for kids, you’re likely to find them here. Some haggling is expected; just try to be fair and pay what you think your souvenir is worth.
Also knows as Monastery Market or Little Tibet, this kingdom of Tibetan crafts is accessed by a misleadingly nondescript little door. This place is famous, though, for jewelry made with semi-precious stones, as well as silver and metalwork trinkets and statues. The smells of incense and sounds of soft chanting music make for a blissfully therapeutic shopping session.
If anyone has ever brought you a little gift that’s quintessentially Indian, it probably came from Fabindia. Indians love it because it was the first company to empower rural craftsmen through sustained employment, by bringing their skills and products to big cities. The original store is in Greater Kailash, although the brand’s footprint around the city and country is massive. The product line includes not just textiles (which it began with,) but also handmade soaps, organic kitchen produce and contemporary home wares. It’s sort of an Indian bed, bath and far, far beyond.
New Design Stores
These days, a new generation of Indian design brands are making fun, quirky merchandise using Indian symbols like turbans and moustaches, black-and-yellow taxis and decorated trucks, and the ubiquitous nimbu-mirch (green chilies and limes strung together, to ward off evil.) Watch out in malls and airports for goods from brands like Play Clan, Happily Unmarried, Letternote and Chumbak.