India’s best souvenirs aren’t found in gift shops and craft markets, but in places where the locals do their everyday shopping. From household items to kitchen utensils, we selected some of our favorite finds.
1 PVC deity masks. A flimsy rip-off from the real deal, but they make for some quirky wall art. Around INR 100. 2 Masala dabba. A stainless steel box used to store essential spices. You’ll find one in every Indian household. Around INR 800. 3 Vintage tin box. Used to pack saffron and tea back in the day, these beauties are now sold at every antique market. Around INR 400. 4 Khadi towel. Handwoven cotton towels that get softer with every use. Around INR 200. 5 Aluminium box. An inherently Indian storage facility. Found at every market, these aluminum boxes come in a wide range of sizes, some as big as a suitcase. Starting from INR 200. 6 Meerut scissor. Top-level quality scissors made from recycled scrap metal in Meerut, Northern India. Around INR 400.
7 Deity stickers. Found at streetside stands and corner shops all over the country, these stickers come in hundreds of different shapes and sizes – gotta collect ’em all! Around INR 40. 8 Mysore sandal soap. Manufactured since 1916, many swear by the benefits of this iconic sandalwood soap. Around INR 50. 9 Indian market bag. These exact bags are sold in hip European stores for $20 a pop – you’ll only have to pay a fraction of that. Around INR 100. 10 Pure copper cup. Not only do these look cool in the kitchen, copper cups are also believed to have antimicrobial qualities. Around INR 500. 11 Chai glasses and holder. Used by chaiwallas to serve steaming hot tea, but who said you can’t use them to serve drinks at a cocktail party? Around INR 400.
Where to find it
Most of these items are some common, you’re bound to find them before you even start looking. Keep your eyes open for department stores, corner shops and metalworker areas, or make your way to one of the following markets:
Chandni Chowk (Delhi) — What can’t you find at Delhi’s biggest market area? A visit to Chandni Chowk should be a point on every Delhi itinerary, but be prepared to be overwhelmed by the utter chaos you’ll encounter. Thousands upon thousands of vendors are spread around the area’s narrow alleyways, so if you’re looking for anything specific, bringing a guide will save you a lot of hassle.
Chor Bazaar (Mumbai) — Literally translated ‘thieves market’, this enormous Mumbai market consists of hundreds of shops selling everything from car parts to used electronics. While you can skip most of that, do make your way to Mutton Street for some of the best curio and antique stores in town. Browse around vintage Bollywood posters, old tea tins (3) and trinkets in all shapes and sizes – you’re guaranteed to find something interesting. Prices are surprisingly reasonable if you manage to bargain a little.
Crawford Market (Mumbai) — Name anything, and you’ll find it at the bustling Crawford Market. Spread over multiple streets and a large indoor space in South Mumbai, this iconic market sells wares ranging from dried spices to party supplies and everything in between. Its historical landmark building (where you’ll find fresh produce and imported goods) is worth the visit alone.
Tripolia Bazaar (Jaipur) — Located in the heart of the Pink City, Jaipur’s Tripolia Bazaar is a mix of everything: carpets, jewellry and Indian delicacies are all sold alongside eachother on a sidewalk for which ‘crowded’ is an understatement. Albeit touristy, you’ll find some amazing stuff in its old, family-run shops.
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