With their wealth of dazzling traditional handicrafts, Rajasthan’s cities and markets are a paradise for shopaholics. Goods from all across India are on sale in the markets and emporia of Jaipur and Udaipur – the two main shopping hubs – and it’s worth setting aside time in each for a spot of souvenir hunting.
Textiles are of course the big local speciality. Embroidered patchwork and mirror-inlaid quilts are among the most popular buys, and if you’re lucky you can still find a few antique skirts, veils or sari tops.
Jaipur is renowned above all for its jewellery bazaars. The bulk of the world’s semi-precious stones are cut and polished in the labyrinthine backstreets of the ‘Pink City’ – a fascinating spectacle. You guide will know the best emporia to shop for high-quality jewellery: you can choose from a dazzling array of lapis lazuli, amber, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and aquamarine, and have them set in silver or platinum, for collection the next day!
Beautiful, hand-decorated calicos are another Jaipuri speciality. Start your textile shopping with a visit to Anokhi, a chain that made its name transforming traditional, block-printed Rajasthani textiles into stylish but eminently wearable designs. Their flagship store on Prithviraj Rd is a veritable Alladin’s Cave! In a similar vein is Soma, who make clothes and home goods from bright, typically Rajasthani prints.
Udaipur is the other Rajasthani city with an exceptional array of shopping possibilities, thanks to the number of richly stocked souvenir emporia ranged around the northwest shore of Pichola Lake. Hand-made silk carpets and fine miniature paintings are the standout buys here, but your guide will also be able to introduce you to ‘minakari’, a rare form of metal art in which the surfaces are embellished with intricate, vibrant enamel colours. Udaipur is among the few centres in India where this technique, which is thought to have originated in the Persian city of Isfahan, is still practised.
Other typically Rajasthani items worth looking out for include puppets, or ‘katpooli’, which come in various sizes and characters, and make great presents for children. Ceramic lovers will enjoy pieces of Persian-influenced Blue Pottery, made in factories around Jaipur. Leather goods, notably slippers made from camel hide, are also ubiquitous.
Last but by no means least, Rajasthan is one of the best places in the world to shop for carpets, ranging from rustic dhurries made from sheep and camel’s wool to fine, Mughal-style silk rugs woven in Kashmir. Shipment is organized by the vendors and is swift and inexpensive.