Last Updated: May 9, 2019 Nidhi Singh
Shopping is an art and it is best developed in countries as diverse as India. Indeed a paradise for shoppers, India boasts being one of the most dynamic retail industries in the world. Ideal gifts to take home from India would be something that comes from its unique handicraft and handloom traditions. The handicraft and handloom reflect the best of India; the fine craftsmanship, intense labour, appropriate usage of local resources and the creative bend can clearly be witnessed from variety of Indian-made products. In other words, one can be spoilt for choices as each state and province in India specializes in making range of items. Taking one of these items is like taking slice of India home. Yes, there could be constraint over the size and weight of the product allowed in the luggage, therefore one has to be careful while choosing a gift from India. In order to help you choose the right gift for your loved ones from a country that equally adores its art and craft, we have created a list of 32 gift items that you must carry home from India.
Despite the fact that Pashmina is expensive, it is one of the most preferred gift items from India. Prepared in Kashmir region of Jammu & Kashmir state, Pashmina is called ‘Soft Cold’ in the local language. Made from the wool of three kinds of Pashmina goats, the items are made of fine handspun fiber. Also known as Cashmere, Pashmina get softer with use. It is the Pashmina Shawl that makes an ideal present from India; these lovely wraps can be a perfect way to tell a loved one that you are always around and embracing them.
Himachali Caps, Himachal Pradesh
This is just what you need to take home from India to remember a culturally rich country. Traditionally worn by the people of Himachal, the cap with colourful bands on its front fold is a signature of the state. Made of wool, this cap does not even cover ears but still manages to keep the cold away. If you ask a Himachali citizen, they would tell you that it is never too hot to wear this cap and that kind of says it. Giving this cap as a gift to one of your family members would mean that you are forwarding an essential part of Indian culture to them.
Aipan Folders and File, Uttarakhand
If you have ever visited Uttarakhand, you would know how deeply attached are the people of the state with their traditional art of Aipan. Primarily done on the threshold or courtyard of one’s house on the occasion of Diwali, Aipan remains an important part of the festivity of Uttarakhand. This art can also be spotted at worship places, wedding venues, and ceremony of a newborn and outside of soop (a wooden vessel used for winnowing). To promote this traditional art, the people of Uttarakhand have started to create Aipan on canvas as well as on materials like folders and files. An Aipan-painted file folder can be an ideal gift to take back home, these folders will not only be helpful in maintaining your documents well but will also constantly remind you of a place in India that is culturally rich and seek prosperity in everything.
Phulkari Work Garment or Bolster, Punjab
Like its rich and vivid culture, Punjab has a rich heritage in the form of Phulkari embroidery. Literally meaning ‘Flower Work’, this embroidery art has lived up to be reminiscence for both Punjab and Pakistan. A ubiquitous in the women of both the places before independence, Phulkari is one of those things that constantly remind that the two countries have one heart. Introduced probably by Jat people, Phulkari was a significant part of major events of a woman’s life (wedding, birth, ceremonies, and religious functions). It is believed that technique and patterns were passed on from one generation to another with a word of mouth only. A cloth that is fully embroidered would be called Bagh and half or sparsely embroidered cloth would be called Adha Bagh. An ideal Phukari gift would be a dress material but bolsters, pillow covers and even bedsheets can be bought of the same art. When you gift a Phulkari work to someone, do not forget to tell them the fact that it is one of the strings that unites Pakistan with India.
Range of Jewellery, Delhi
They say all roads lead to Delhi in India, because whatever you can get in any of the city and state of the country, you can get it in Delhi. No, it doesn’t mean that you should only shop in Delhi but it means that if you could not manage enough time in the city you visited, you can always drop by Delhi and pick some fine souvenirs to take back home. One thing that can be easily available in Delhi is jewellery. Traditional, contemporary or designer everything has a big market here. Right from the labyrinthine lanes of Chandani Chowk to the uptight and classy Janpath Street, from the welcoming Dilli Haat to Karol Bagh, one can find pieces of jewellery from all over the country. But beware, the big city and its easy access has its adversities, you need to be little careful and be sure that you are buying the authentic item.
Puppetry is an ancient art in India for storytelling. The art of making puppets in Rajasthan is maintained by Bhats of the Nat community of bardic traditions. This community not only makes puppets but also perform folklores with them. It is believed that King Vikramaditya of Ujjain, who ruled in 1 century BC had 32 talking dolls in his court, thus it can be estimated that the art of making puppets is quite old in India. The special Rajasthani puppets are made of soft wood, which is carved and then decorated with fabrics that have Rajasthan’s origin. The Puppeteers live in Nagaur, Bikaner, Ajmer, Udaipur and Jaipur, but wander all through Rajasthan performing and selling their dolls. Unfortunately this unique art of both puppetry and puppet making is seeing a downfall in the state, although efforts are made to keep it alive as far as it possible. Gifting a puppet sure is a nice way to tell a loved one about this lively art of India. It will infact be a contribution of keeping alive a tradition that is about to lose its identity.
Jaipuri Razai/Quilts, Rajasthan
This is one of the best gifts from India to carry home. Jaipuri Razai is the signature gift with all the love and warmth from Jaipur in it. It is believed that the art of making light weight quilts is 280 years old in Jaipur. The secret of it being as light as feather lies in its process of carding of the cotton. Jaipuri Razai is available in three variants i.e Cotton, Velvet and Silk and the velvet one being the most expensive one. It is an ideal thing to buy from India as whoever it is gifted to, would make them remember you each time they use this light weight masterpiece from Rajasthan. Also, it may delight their heart to know that the first Jaipuri Razai was also a gift from a quilt maker named Kadar Bux to Rajasthan’s Maharaja Madho Singh. Impressed and amazed by its light weight, the Maharaja awarded the quilt maker two shops in Jaipur city and today there are several shops of quilt making run by the predecessors of Kadar Bux.
Blue Pottery, Rajasthan
Another prominent art from Rajasthan is that of Blue Pottery. Differing from the usual technique of pottery, this art requires the mix of quartz stone powder, fuller’s earth and powdered glass; the blue colour is extracted from cobalt oxide and green colour from copper oxide. Blue pottery is ideal for home decoration; every big and small item is a masterpiece in itself that adds a fine taste to your home’s decor. You can buy pieces of surahis, pots and cylindrical jars, decorative items like ash-trays, tiles, flower pots, lamp stands, beads, ear rings, soap dishes, jugs, mugs and door knobs.
Brass Ware, Uttar Pradesh
In Moradabad of Uttar Pradesh, Brass Ware is being created so that you can take it back home to add to fine decor of your house. Dubbed as the Brass City, Moradabad alone is the biggest exporter of brass utensils and decorative items to USA, Britain, Canada, Germany and Middle East Asia. Big retail corporations like Walmart also prefer to pick their brass ware stock from Moradabad. So, you being a traveller, should not miss out on this exclusive gift idea. Depending upon the budget and preference, you can choose the right present to take home for your family. The brass ware will be a memoir of a consistent art that has helped a whole city to develop as the world leader.
Chikan Work Bed Sheet and Table Cloth, Uttar Pradesh
Said to be introduced by Nur Jahan, the wife of Mughal Emperor Jehangir, Chikan work started to flourish in 16th and 17th century in India. Lucknow, the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh became the prosperous centre for this art and till today it remains invincible. Chikan work is embroidery that was basically done with a white thread on pastel colour clothes. Kurta is the most famous product of the work but since the market is blooming, one can now find Chikankari bed sheets and table cloth. It is one of the finest handworks that you can purchase in India as it has the fragrance and taste of royalty. Gift this piece of art to someone, who has a superior taste for fine decor.
Madhubani Painting, Bihar
Asserted to be one of the oldest painting traditions in India, Madhubani flourished in the Mithala region of Bihar. This art is a riot of colours as not even a small gap is left without pattern or design. The designs and patterns are mostly inspired by Hindu deities like Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. Natural objects like the sun, the moon, and the sacred considered plants like tulsi (basil). Scenes from the royal courts and social events like weddings are also depicted in the paintings. Earlier the painting was done on the mud walls of a hut but now canvas and hand-made paper is used for the purpose. You can decide to gift this painting to one of those relative or friend who has special thing for creativity; it can be a gift of motivation to the person.
Tribal Jewellery, Jharkhand
Tribal jewellery from Jharkhand is special as it is one of the prime interests of the tribes and secondly the art is rare and less known about. As much as the tribal people like making jewellery they enjoy beautifying themselves with it too. The major jewellery would be neck pieces, earrings and ornaments worn on the wrists and other parts of the arm. Brass, bell-metal, silver and gold are chiefly used to make jewellery by the tribes. A piece of tribal jewellery is definitely a keep and it can also be a great gift for someone who admires the cultural differences. The tribal jewellery is a gift that may constantly remind them to take a stand for things that they like.
Chanderi Saree, Madhya Pradesh
Chanderi sarees are amongst the best examples of the handloom in India. The transparency and the luster of the material make it stand apart from other handloom products in India. Originating in the Chanderi town in Madhya Pradesh, this art has come a long way. It is believed that it has its origin dating back to Vedic Period and was introduced by Lord Krishna’s cousin Shishupal. However, it were the Scindias who patronized Chanderi. The fabric of silk and cotton are mixed to make the base for Chanderi sarees then the motifs of flowers, net patterns, coin and other traditional shapes are inserted in the saree. Majority of the motifs are inspired by earth, sky, birds, flowers, man and woman. Sometimes zari work can also be seen on the saree. With all that hard work going into it, the outcome is naturally predicted to be excellent. You can take home one of the Chanderi Sarees as a gift for a loved one. And you should surely tell them about the amount of hard work that goes in making this piece of art.
Terracotta Pottery, Chhattisgarh
Chhattisgarh is one of the less frequented destinations in India but those who have been there know what a priceless possession it is. Enriched with nature’s beauty and bounty; vivid culture and traditions, Chhattisgarh is a home to a large sect of tribes in India. Along with the lifestyle of the tribes, their handicraft and handloom is quite a matter of interest. The Terracotta Pottery made by tribes of Chhattisgarh is one of such arts that deserve global promotions. Mostly inspired by the nature i.e sun, moon and wildlife, these pottery items make great decorative items. It is said that the rituals, traditions and emotions of the tribes in Chhattisgarh are represented by Terracotta pottery. So, these make one of the best things to buy from India as it helps in promoting the culture of these lesser known tribes that abide by their tradition for ages now.
Mekhla Chadar and Gamcha, Assam
Assamese attires, Mekhla Chadar and Gamcha are those precious gifts that will always have the fragrance of India. These two special items from Assam are mostly made of silk; however synthetic ones are also available now. The silk is grown and woven in Sualkuchi, which is situated about 30kms from commercial town of Guwahati. Mekhla Chadar is women attire with patterns that are mostly inspired by nature; the sarees come in all colours; however a white chadar with golden or red work is recognized as traditional. Gamcha or Gamusa is mostly seen in white colour with red border and is made of Pat Silk is a symbol of welcoming someone. The two make as ideal gifts to take home for family as they denote warmth and welcoming attitude.
Coiled Cane Work, Assam
Here is another gift from the land of Assam. Demanding high degree skills, Coiled Cane Work is a heritage of Assam that has been passing from generation to generation. The distant Cachar district boasts skilled artisans. Coiled Cane Work is done with the help cane that is soaked in water for some time to give it a flexible character. Then binding and weaving is done to preserves the shape of the item. Finally, the edge of the basket is stitched with a thin and flexible cane slip. One can choose to buy different kind of baskets like plucking baskets, ration baskets, baskets used for carrying soil, stone-chips, coal etc.
Kauna Work, Manipur
The crafts of Manipur are the reflection of the creativity and wisdom of its people. One of the ideal things to buy from Manipur would be Kauna Mats and Cushions. Basically Kauna is a reed that grows in the marshes and wetlands of Manipur. The people of the state using their knowledge and creativity utilized Kauna and started making mats and cushions. It is believed more than one thousand people are engaged in the skill of making utilities from Kauna. The Kauna reed is basically hand-woven to make various items like chairs, stools, bags, mats and cushions out of it.
Warli Painting, Maharashtra
Having similarity with Madhubani Paintings of Bihar, Warli Paintings are the specialty of Maharashtra. For the records, Warli is a tribe in Maharashtra that indulges in this beautiful art form. The roots of Warli art can be traced to the 10th century AD. It is believed that art is the way of expressing events of social life. A Warli painting would comprise of images of human, animal and scenes from the daily routines of people, the drawings are usually done with white colour, whereas the background remains red. One has the choice to buy Warli Paintings done on cloth and paper. It is infact a must buy from Maharashtra as it explicitly speak about the rich tradition of the state.
Patola Work, Gujarat
Patola is often dubbed as the Pride of Gujarat. Guess, that gives you enough reason to buy Patola work as a gift to take back home from India. The most famous Patola product is a saree, which is manufactured in Patan, Gujarat. Reckoned to be one of the best hand woven sarees in India, the art of Patola is about 700 years old. The technique of creating the Patola weave is a double ikkat one, which involves the use of resist dyeing method, quite like the tie-dye method on warp and weft silk fibres. An assortment of materials are used to make the natural dyes which include indigo, turmeric, katha, pomegranate skin, henna, marigold flower. All these bring out the vibrant colours in the silk and give Patola sarees their unique finesse and visual charm. You may be interested to know that a Patola cloth bears identical patterns on either side and can be worn both ways.
Here is one thing that is a must buy from Odisha, Pattachitra. An essential part of the culture of Odisha, Pattachitra art is mostly inspired by Lord Jagannath and the Vaishnava cult. It is a cloth-based scroll painting. These paintings resemble the old murals in Odisha especially those found in the religious centres of Puri, Konark and Bhubaneshwar region dating back to the 5th century BC. Traditionally, the canvas is prepared by coating the cloth with a mixture of chalk and gum made from tamarind seeds then it is rubbed with the help of two different stones. The cloth is then put out for drying. Also, the female member prepares the glue, the canvas, fill in the colours and give the final lacquer coating. The master hand, which is usually of a male member, draws the initial line and gives the final finishing. Patta paintings are done on small pieces of cloth and also on palm leaf, thus it is also easier to carry this painting despite of the distance.
Pearl Jewellery, Telangana
It is believed that the Nizams were partial to pearls and their love for this precious stone was to an extent that they turned Hyderabad the hotspot for the same. It is to be kept in mind that Hyderabad is not a coastal town but since Nizams loved pearls so much their capital was converted into the hub of pearl dealings. At Hyderabad, one can find variety of pearls from all around the world in hundred of shops across the city. Fine quality pearls are guaranteed in Hyderabad, which can be fitted in to rings, pendants, necklaces, bracelets, bangles, earrings etc. Loose pearls can also be bought as a gift for family. You must tell them about the love of Nizams for these beautiful stones.
Bidri Items, Karnataka
Bidri metal inlay work is said to have been introduced by Bahamani rulers that ruled in 14th and 15th century in Bidar, Karnataka. Bidri work is said to be one of the finest examples of craftsmanship in India. The process of creating this unique and beautiful metal work involves creating a master pattern with wood or acrylic, which is then used for moulding or casting (Mixture of soil, Castor oil and resin is used for preparing the mould); the engraving or etching with a metal chisel; inlaying the sheet work or wire work and application of soil from the Bidar Fort mixed with ammonium chloride and boiling water to the surface turning the zinc-copper alloy black, leaving the silver unaffected. The result is always phenomenal and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be as the workers take special care at each step and lay emphasis on quality. When you gift Bidri items to the family make sure to tell them about its 500 years old origin and the amount of labour that goes into manufacturing them.
Mysore Silk, Karnataka
Another elegant variety of saree in India comes from Karnataka. Known for its simple yet graceful design, Mysore Silk sarees are a must buy in India. These light weight elegant sarees are said to be promoted by Wodeyars in the 20th century. The difference between Mysore Silk and other famous silks is that in Mysore Silk the yarn is processed in grey, woven and then de-gummed and dyed, whereas in other fabrics it is other way round. Another difference is that in Mysore Silk always pure zari (65% silver and 0.65% of gold) is used in making the sarees, whereas 90 percent Benaras or Kancheevaram sarees are manufactured using tested zari. The unique grainy effect which is seen in the Mysore Silk fabric is a result of using different twists in the weft yarn. Also, except Mysore Silk, other manufacturers use Chinese yarn and polyester, which is not the case in Mysore silk. The sarees made of Mysore Silk make ideal gift idea as these sarees have design and colours that can be liked by anyone.
Kathakali Masks, Kerala
The fame of dance style of Kerala, Kathakali owes a large part of its popularity to its costume and face mask. The process of crafting the mask of Kathakali is a hectic one; a lot of labour goes into making it look perfect. The headgear part of the mask is called Kiritam and is made of cane, whereas the body is made of the local wood known as Kumizhu. Stones, gold and silver foil, velvet beads, paper, pieces of glass and sometimes peacock feathers are used as embellishments in the mask. The outside frame is made by Papier Mache, onto which paint is applied to make it look more lifelike. The vibrant colours on the mask are made from natural ingredients. The Kathakali mask is truly a gift to cherish and therefore should be presented to someone who has interest in different cultures of the world.
Sandalwood Carvings, Kerala
One of the interesting wood arts comes from Kerala. We all have home decoration items and furniture that has lovely wood carvings, however, in Kerala the intricate art comes with fragrant wood i.e sandalwood. It is a fragrant wood with which many beautiful products are carved. Boxes, small models of animals, ashtrays, Kathakali dance postures, candle stands etc are the fine products that are made of sandalwood and has carvings. The major sandalwood carving industries are located in the districts Cochin, Trichur, Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam.
Tanjore Paintings, Tamil Nadu
Tanjore Paintings add to the cultural heritage of the state. The paintings were patronized by Maratha princes, Nayaks of Vijaynagar dynasty, Rajus communities of Tanjore and Trichi and Naidus of Madurai in the 16th and 18th century. The paintings are mostly of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and the figures in these paintings are large with round faces. Mostly in the paintings Lord Krishna is depicted in his childhood appearance and is seen playing pranks. The embellishment over the paintings makes Tanjore Paintings different from other paintings in India. The relief work, done with the help of precious and semi-precious stones gives it a three-dimensional effect. The vibrant colors, dashes of gold, semi-precious stones and fine artistic work are characteristics of these paintings. Tanjore paintings make ideal gifts as these can be used to enhance the beauty of the walls of any house.
Solapith Craft Item, West Bengal
Bengal is famed for its Solapith items which is a traditional craft that has its origin in the rituals and religious requirement of bygone era. The craftsmen of Solapith are known as Malakars, they enjoy a respectable position in the society and are held responsible for supplying wreaths (Daker-Saaj) and flowers for the village deities and for religions and social functions. With the change of change, Sola Crafts has also changed. The craftsmen now produce varieties products like Topor (ornamental bridal headgear), ornament boxes, decorated hangings, wall panels, ‘Mayur-Pankhi’, decorated mounted elephants, images of different gods and goddesses, flowers etc to attract the handicraft lovers. These craft items make great home décor gifts.
Anybody who has visited India knows the love of Chai (Tea) amongst Indians. Well, if we see India’s long history of cultivating and brewing tea can be the reason of the addiction. There are different varieties of tea found in the country; atleast 10 regions are popular for tea plantation in India. Each tea plantation grows a distinct variety that varies in taste, colour and method of processing. The most popular tea varieties in India are Assam Tea (Assam), Darjeeling Tea (West Bengal), Terai Tea (Dooars), Kangra Tea (Himachal Pradesh), Nilgiri Tea and Annamalai Tea (Tamil Nadu), Wayanad, Travancore and Munnar Tea (Kerala) and Karnataka Tea. If one is visiting of these regions in India then he must buy the locally made tea to take back home.
India specializes in preparing perfume known as Ittar/Attar. This ancient art is well preserved in the city of Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh. The city is famed for making perfumes of different natural ingredients, which are later transferred in to fancy bottles. The distinct feature of these fragrances is them being alcohol free. Also, in India it has various other uses apart from used as body fragrance; it used in pharmaceutical industry and perfumes of Rose & Kewra are used in traditional Indian sweets, for imparting flavour. Another ideal place to buy ittar in India would be Bhopal. Here also a large industry is settled that deals in ittar making and selling.
Ayurveda is synonym to India; there are multiple ways through which this ancient therapy has helped human kind in recovering from different ailments. Today, In India a large number of ayurvedic spa centres have also opened that offer a small reflection of the benefits of this deep and meaningful ancient therapy. Also, due to our ancient roots, ayurvedic products and medicines are up for purchases. These products claim to cure and prevent health issues in course of time with no side effects. They play a major role as beauty products as well. Thus, for a person seeking an ideal gift to take from India for his family, ayurvedic products is the right answer.
Spices are the secret of Indian aromatic food and there is no doubt about it. Whether one likes the Indian cuisine or not, the fact that should be noted is that the spices grown in India are of finest quality. The aroma is such that no one can ignore it. The good thing is these spices can be used in all kinds of food and there is a great demand for the same across the world. Therefore one must grab the opportunity when visiting India to buy spices of one’s choice. Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Kashmir, Karnataka and Rajasthan are ideal places to buy spices in India.
Yes, India is a great destination for book lovers. There are simply so many books on Indian subjects like culture, history, mythology, politics and everything else a bookworm would like to read. One can also get a great collection of foreign authors. However, ideal books to buy in India would be the one focusing on Indian issues and subjects especially that of religion and history. Picking up religious books like Ramcharitmanas and Mahabharata in English language is a good idea.
We hope that our list was of some help to you. If you think that we missed out on some ideal gift items from India, you can share your ideas in the comment box below. We would be happy to include your idea in our list.
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Published: 04 Dec, 2015