What to Buy at an Indian Market

Market stall in India

By Audrey Bergner

Whether you find yourself in the bustling streets of Delhi, or in a remote town along the shores of Kerala, you are bound to stumble upon a market. With its bright colours, rich fabrics, and sweet aroma of incense and spices, India is a shopper’s paradise.

Some of my personal favourites include Crawford Market in Mumbai, where you can browse through stalls packed with fresh produce, nuts and spices; and Goa’s scattered roadside and beach stands. Goa’s bohemian beach vibe certainly shows in its selection of products. You can expect to find harem pants, tie-dye shirts, colourful beaded necklaces, as well as some questionable paraphernalia.

Having shopped my way through several cities on my way south along the Arabian Sea, I have found that every Indian market boasts certain must have items. Here are my picks:

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1. Traditional clothes

Saris, kurtas and lenghas, oh my! When it comes to traditional clothes, India’s markets provide a kaleidoscope of bright coloured fabrics beautifully decorated with beads and embroidery. Whether you are looking for a simple kurta to blend in, or an extravagant sari to attend a lavish Indian wedding, there will be plenty of options to choose from.

If the rich colours and dazzling beadwork don’t catch your eye, the feel of the silk certainly will.

Chosing a fabric at an Indian market

2. Jewellery

The jewellery displays in India are sure to make your jaw drop. Jewellery is not just reserved for your neck and ears. Envision gold nose rings with ornate chains that run gracefully across your face, or intricate headpieces encrusted with rubies fit for a girl on her wedding day. If you have the rupees, this would be the place to splurge, but if like me you find yourself on a budget, why not settle for some colourful bangles and perhaps some henna to decorate the palms of your hands.

3. Slippers

Pointed leather slippers conjure up images of days of old when Indian princes strolled the palaces of Rajasthan. Also known as khussa, these handmade slippers can be found in most markets in a myriad of shades and royal designs. The only problem you may have is finding a shoe that fits, as sizes can be quite small by Western standards!

4. Spices

India’s cuisine is one of the best in the world. The thought of curries, biryani rice, naan bread and mango lassis makes we want to hop on the next flight bound for Mumbai. A fun way to remember your time in India is by attempting to recreate some of your favourite Indian meals back at home. Stock up on some authentic spices while you are there; let the vibrant colours and enticing aromas do the guiding. You are now ready to cook your favourite Tandoori, Vindaloo, or Tikka Masala.

5. Tea

Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri. India produces the largest amount of tea in the world! With so many varieties grown across the country, you are bound to find one you like! However, if you are all shopped out and there is no room left in your suitcase, then why not enjoy one last cup of chai from one of the many street stalls?

Chai in India

Chai is unique to India and is prepared by mixing black tea, milk, sugar and spices. There is a sweetness and strong-bodied flavour to it unlike any other cup of tea I have ever tasted.

6. Home decor

Wall hangings and tapestries, pillow covers in royal shades of plum and burgundy, hand woven rugs, and statues of Hindu gods. If you are looking to take a little piece of India back to your home country, loading up on some home accessories is a must. Whether you’re after chic and trendy, or bright and bohemian, you will find something that fits your style. Don’t be afraid to bargain and ask for bundle deals.

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Author bio: Audrey is the writer behind That Backpacker. She has eaten her fill of curry and biryani, drank far too many mango lassis, and is now anxiously awaiting the day she can return to India. Follow her on Twitter @thatbackpacker

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Thanks to Brian Snelson, Michal Svec, j.r.trauben and MizzD for the images off Flickr. Please note, all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.

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