Souvenir shopping is serious business. One can be a light traveller with just a backpack or someone who travels with an additional empty suitcase, but no matter, local souvenirs will catch your eye and you’d want to take a small token of your travels back home with you. They act as reminders on a day when you really wished you were on the road. At least, that’s what I feel. For a vast, diverse country like India, it is so tough to decide what to take back home when visiting. Obviously travelling through the length and breadth of the country on just one holiday isn’t possible but no matter which part you choose, you will always come across different local souvenirs to take back. Among the 29 states, India has a host of GI-tagged souvenirs which one can take back.
I bring you a list of must-buy souvenirs from around the country which will remind you of your time in India.
Jammu and Kashmir
We’ve all heard of the Pashmina shawl. Why not purchase an original when visiting the gorgeous northern state? Don’t also forget to buy wooden boxes created from walnut trees which are exquisite for storage or just to keep as a knick knack. And for the chef in you, don’t forget to buy saffron, considered the best in the world!
If you are a fan of wooden goods, this is the state to visit. From wooden toys to frames, this state has a history of supporting small scale manufacturers. And if you’re a cricket fan, don’t forget to buy a bat from the many local manufacturers who supply them worldwide.
I can’t stress enough how beautiful Phulkari is. The traditional embroidery is colourful and the flower patterns can be found on different clothes, be it a dupatta, shawl or salwar kameez. Invest in pretty, handmade jutis for special dress up occasions and also, why not buy those magnum lassi glasses to drink tea in back home?
One of my favourite states to visit to escape a horrid summer in the flatlands, buy a traditional topi (hat) from Kullu which is one of the favourite souvenirs to take back. If a topi isn’t to your liking, have some fruit wine or try the delicious local jams and jellies.
The Land of the Gods, this state has stunning hill stations and local handicrafts. Why not stock up on copper kitchen products or fragrant wax candles? How about Rambaans (traditional handicraft using jute and hemp to create bags, wall hangings etc.)? But I wouldn’t leave the state without meeting Ruskin Bond in Landour or Mussourie (not exactly a souvenir you can take back) and getting a book autographed (that you definitely can take back)!
You can’t leave without buying traditional chikan or chinkari clothes from Lucknow or marble bric-a-bracs. The most famous marble souvenir you can take back is of the Taj Mahal from Agra to remind you of your holiday in India!
Buy a warm rezai in paisley prints, or blue pottery from Jaipur or flaunt beautiful meenakari jewellery back home but possibly the most unique souvenir you can take back from the desert state is the sand in itself! And if offbeat is your game, then camel products are your go-to souvenirs.
The most-famous souvenir one can take back is a Madhubani painting from the state. Hand drawn and exquisite, a Madhubani painting will liven up any home!
Applique work from the Kutch region is extremely famous—on umbrellas, wall hangings, clothes and what not. The mirror work makes them great gifting items to friends while an ornate throw will surely make your room pop with colour back home.
A duree (almost like a light weight mat) is synonymous with Madhya Pradesh. They have beautiful designs and are extremely reasonable on the pockets. Also, do take back some Bagh prints to stitch into dresses back home. Or, there are always Chanderi sarees!
Jharkhand is famous for its dokhra work. The brass metal figurines can make for wonderful souvenirs and sit pretty on desks and tables to keep a reminder of India.
Pottery, terracotta and wrought iron is famous in this state. The artworks made of these reflect the tribal culture of the state and make for great gifts.
Pick out a patachitra scroll to hang on your walls or buy Ganjifa playing cards which reflect the rich tradition of the state. (Read about Odisha's unique souvenirs here)
Bengal is famous for a host of things but if you can, pick up a tin of rosogollas or rasgullas to take back. Its unique taste and syrupy texture makes dessert-lovers swoon! If it is sarees you’re after—tant is the way to go or if you’re into culture and history, then definitely a Baluchar.
Kohlapuri chhapals usually always top the list just because the flat leather sandals are extremely popular and diverse to wear with any outfit. Also, don’t forget to pick up Warli paintings for your walls as they are extremely beautiful.
I can say King’s Beer and delicious sausages (so, so good) but the most-bought souvenir will surely be feni. It is a cashew drink, rather like Indian-style vodka, which is GI-tagged and has a unique taste.
Apart from delicious biyani and culture, Andhra Pradesh is famous for Budithi brassware. The alloy based souvenirs are made in Srikakulum district and has a distinct look and feel. Also, pick up a few needle-work pieces. Banjara needle art can be found in local shops and emporiums.
Pearls, itr, biryani—you can’t leave Hyderabad without trying these three! Pick up the finest pearls and aromatic perfumes near the old city while eat and pack boxes of Hyderabadi biryani with saalan to enjoy back home!
Mysore silk sarees and sandalwood soup should be on the top of the list to buy when in this state. Actually, let’s just say anything sandalwood—soaps, figurines, flowers etc. If you are a coffee-lover then you can’t not visit Coorg to pick up fresh coffee and artisanal chocolates.
Famed for its ayurvedic treatments and houseboats, don’t forget to buy some local spa products when in Kerala as it’s the original deal. Coir souvenirs are also extremely popular but if you like masks, buy a Kathakali one to hang on your walls.
How can one not pick up those gorgeous Kanjeevaram sarees when in TN, right? The bright colours and gold borders are eye-poppingly beautiful. If it’s jewellery you like, then maybe some gold ornaments. Actually, both TN and Kerala are famed for gold jewellery so when you’re in one state, hop over to the neighbouring one for some golden variety!
Sikkim is synonymous with natural beauty and Tibetan culture. Pick up Tibetan prayer flags, prayer wheels and if you have an empty wall, a thangka would look gorgeous.
If you have to pick one, then pick the silk shawl made by Khasi women which stay pretty forever. They are called Ryndiah shawls and are completely organic and handmade.
Tea is the name of the game in Assam. While neighbouring Darjeeling is extremely popular, Assam tea is sold around the world as the perfect cuppa. Mix some tea and sugar with the CTC to get the perfect aroma of chai when not in India. PS: a steaming hot cup is perfect for winter mornings!
Bamboo products and woolens are extremely popular. Pick up shawls, blouses, skirts just like the ones locals wear. If woolens aren’t your calling, try bamboo stools, vessels and bags as they are beautiful.
I’ve always wanted an Angami Naga shawl because of its patterns and rich colour combinations. Not to mention the warmth it gives. Definitely pick up raja mircha, the hottest in the world, and other delicious pickles to eat with your meals.
Pick up woven products from this Northeast state. Be it woolens, bamboo artifacts or cane products, Mizoram artisans excel in woven souvenirs like baskets, tables, hats, and shawls among a host of others.
Black stone pottery is extremely famous. Pick up kitchenware like pans, teapots and cups among other items made with black stone. Another item that makes for a unique souvenir is a paper doll!
Weaving is extremely popular in this state and you must get Risa and riha handloom fabrics. They are handmade and colourful which standout among machine-made fabrics.