Each region in India tends to specialize in a particular industry that's been handed down over generations. The unique items that are produced all have their own individual appeal.
Here's a state by state guide as to what to shop for in India.
Rajashtan, India's desert state, produces an eye-catching array of goods to delight the shopper. Colorful textiles embroidered with mirror work are a Rajasthani specialty. To buy precious and semi-precious gemstones, head to Jaipur, Rajashtan's pink city. Blue glazed pottery is also made in Jaipur. Other items to shop for in Rajasthan include paper mache puppets, paintings, brass items, and traditional men's shoes that curl up at the toes.
Karnataka is known for its fragrant sandalwood industry. Plenty of sandalwood carvings and incense can be found, especially around Mysore.
Uttar Pradesh also produces a great range of copper and brass items. Marble items, obviously inspired by the Taj Mahal, abound in Agra. Some of them are made in exquisite detail, inlaid with semi-precious stones. For leather work, India's main production center is in the Kanpur area. Varanasi is a popular place to buy silk and saris, but it's important to check the quality and purity.
The production of fenni (traditional locally made alcohol) is booming in Goa. It comes in two types - cashew and coconut - and can be bought in decorative bottles to take home. Beware that it packs a punch! Goa is also renowned for its markets overflowing with colorful hippie clothes.
Kolkata specializes in the production of terracotta wares, including bowls, figurines, and wall hangings. Being the cultural capital of India, this city also offers a fine range of traditional Indian instruments. Further north, around Darjeeling and Kalimpong, is the territory of India's tea plantations. This is where to head for delicious, aromatic tea.
Himachal PradeshA wide range of traditional woolen shawls and caps are produced in the Kullu Valley. These are very warm due to the cold winter climate so close to the Himalaya mountains. The influence of the Tibetan community can be widely felt in places such as McLeod Ganj and Dharamsala. Traditional Tibetan rugs, silver jewelery, prayer wheels and flags, meditation bowls and beads, and music are all readily available there.
PunjabThe traditional industry of Punjab is phulkari (meaning growing flowers). It involves the embroidery of brightly colored flower designs onto clothing, bed spreads, and wall hangings. Unfortunately, this art has significantly declined in popularity over the years and is at risk of dying out.
Orissa is known for its intricate silver jewelry, as well as tribal jewelry. Cuttack is the main hub for filigree work, or Tarkasi as it's locally called. The handiwork is amongst the best in the world. For other handicrafts, such as cloth paintings, stone carvings, wood carvings, and wooden toys make sure you head to Raghurajpur Handicraft Village on a day trip from Puri.
Silk saris from Kanchipuram (Kanjeevaram), near Chennai, are amongst the finest saris in India. You can save around 10% on the purchase price by shopping where they're made. As is to be expected, there are a lot of fakes out there though. Sometimes, it's not easy to spot them either. Do check out this tip for buying Kanchipuram saris in India.