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Must buy in South India

Must buy in South India, A definitive list for those looking to fill their bags. Southern India is a vast cultural deposit. You can find many variations only in this region, in a small region in India. Each state is different and each region within that state will show a different influence of the culture. Even southern India has European cultural sites. Such diversity gives rise to unique cuisine, distinctive art forms, and sumptuous souvenirs.

Jewellery, Port Blair

Discover the beauty of non-metallic jewelry in Andaman. Islands excel at making trinkets such as earrings, bracelets, and necklaces from shells, beads, and even reeds; And are surprisingly easy on your wallet. The most sought-after item is the pink pearl necklace, which can be yours for as low as Rs. 500. Available at Stalls & Handicraft Showrooms at Aberdeen Bazaar, Port Blair.

Lampshades, Port Blair

When in Andaman, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for lampshades made from coconut shells. Unique to the state, these are available in a variety of sizes to fit your suitcase. Handle them carefully as they have a tendency to crack. Available at handicraft shops in Port Blair’s Aberdeen market. Must buy in South India

Pearls, Hyderabad

Hyderabad and Secunderabad are dotted with pearl merchants who sell loose pearls as well as readymade and custom-made jewellery. If you can tell the real from the fake, bargain at the stalls at Laad Bazaar or Pathargatti. Otherwise, Mangatrai Pearls (opposite Hotel Nagarjuna in Basheerbagh, and 22-6-191, Pathargatti) and Jagdamba Pearls (Gupta Estate, Basheerbagh Circle) are two big names that offer the best, well, at reasonable prices.

Laad Bazaar, Hyderabad

Right next to Charminar, Laad Bazaar is a 400-year-old market that sells everything from kitchen tools to diamond jewellery. Once here, head to the first colorful Churi market – shimmering with lacquered bangles studded with colored glass, metal, and stone. Heavy embroidered zardozi sarees and dresses will grab the attention of people even though most of them are very attractive. This market is also the heart of Hyderabad’s pearl trade, but use your discretion and don’t forget to bargain.

Ikat, Pochampally

Pochampally is home to weavers who use the ikat (tie and dye) method to make saris and fabrics in bright colors and bold geometric patterns. So, pack your lunch (highway motels are not recommended) and head to Pochampally Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society. Bargain when you see weavers working magic on their looms. The weavers have also started the homestay program. Some have a tendency to run bright red, green, and black. Check the silk by rubbing it with a tissue or white cloth. Pochampally is about 50 km from Hyderabad. Must buy in South India

Kalamkari, Srikalahasti

About 35 km from Tirupati, the temple town of Srikalahasti is the best place to buy Kalamkari clothes. Kalamkari takes its name from kalam (pen) and Kari (work) for the busy patterns on a cloth painted with colors made from seeds, flowers, and even cow dung! The subject can be anything from Ramayana, Mahabharata to everything around – people, trees, birds, and animals.

To catch the painters at work, walk to Vijayalakshmi Kalamkari Art on Agraharam Street or call G Krishna Reddy (tel: 08578-230 576) who runs a workshop in her home. In Hyderabad, Kalam Creations (302, Imperial Manor, Greenlands, Begumpet) has a very impressive collection of Kalamkari clothes, bags, and purses.

Sculptures, Hyderabad

Kalanjali Arts & Crafts is a one-stop-shop for all things Andhra – silk and cotton fabrics, linens, stone and wood carvings, floor coverings, furniture. This three-storey shop (beware of other shops of the same name) houses one of the finest collections of sculptures in Hyderabad. It is also one of the best places to buy lacework crochet made by artisans from the West and East Godavari districts.

The prices are steep, but not high enough to burn a hole in your pocket. The store also has a home delivery service, which saves you the hassle of transporting large purchases. 5-10-194 Hill Fort Road, Saifabad, Opp. Public Garden, Hyderabad. Tel: (040) 2323 1147

Honey, Coorg

Karnataka’s best honey comes from Bhagamandala near Madikeri in the Kodagu district, where some of the best bees are located. Stock up on lots of sweets before checking out nearby spice markets for cardamom and black pepper. If you are familiar with the history behind the beekeeping tradition, the city also houses a rare beekeeping museum. Buy some honey at the market in Madikeri or on the way from Kodagu to Talakaveri.

Rosewood carvings, Mysore

Sheesham trees are native to the forests of Mysore, and local craftsmen have long been using the wood to carve beautiful intricate sculptures, deities, birds, and animals. Rosewood inlay work, also popular, is an art specific to Mysore, unlike the sandalwood carvings known to the rest of the state. The shops around Krishnaraja Circle in Mysore are your best bet.

Others include the Karnataka State Arts and Crafts Emporium, (Sayyaji Road, Mysore) and the All India Handicrafts Emporium (806/1 Thippasandra Main Road, Bangalore, Karnataka). Must buy in South India

Silk saris, Mysore

The story of Mysore silk began in 1912 when the Wodeyar royal family imported 32 looms from Switzerland to promote the local art of weaving. Since then, Mysore silk has grown from a local craft to a global brand, known for its distinctive luster and fine texture. Made in a kaleidoscope of colors, and often woven with delicate gold threads, these saris have become an integral part of Karnataka’s heritage. A bride must have at least one Mysore silk saree in her wardrobe.

In Mysore, visit Devraj Urs, Ashoka Road, and Sayyaji Road for several options. In Bangalore, Deepam Silk International (MG Road; Tel: {080} 2558 8760) and Mysore Saree Industries (294, 1st Floor, K Kamaraj Road; Tel: {080} 2558 3255) are good choices. Buy sarees with a silk mark tag for purity.

Sandalwood products, Bangalore and Mysore

The delicately scented pieces of sandalwood are used to make a variety of souvenirs that you must take home from your trip to Karnataka. Choose from items such as beads or pendants, furniture, screens, figurines, toys, stationery items, and even bookmarks made from sandalwood. Inlaid furniture and carvings are also available in abundance, especially in the districts of Shimoga, Uttara Kannada, and Mysore.

Government Sandalwood Oil Factory ({0821} 248 3651), and Krishnaraja Circle, in the heart of the city, are two of the best places to find sandalwood products in Mysore. Another place to visit is Cottage Arts Emporium (133, Farah Winsford, Infantry Road) in Bangalore.

Spices, Kochi

The picture-perfect Jewish town in Kochi, Kerala has the world’s only spice exchange – the India Paper and Spice Trade Association (IPSTA). The streets are dotted with shops of all sizes oozing a mild fragrance, alluring the shoppers with their amazing spread. Cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, fenugreek… the list is endless; And you’ll get them at wholesale prices! Don’t forget the interesting containers in wood or stone, with compartments to hold several spices. Some are also in the form of coffins. They make a nice decoration for your center table. Must buy in South India

Red gold, Thrissur

Gold with red hues—Traditional Kerala jewelery comes in a range of intricate designs; And Thrissur is the best place to shop. Wear Odiyanam (belt) and Kashumala (long chain with coins) for a traditional look. Chiriyakandath at MO Road has an impressive range of traditional designs. Alukka in the same area is also a good bet for chic and contemporary designs. Bhima is in the same league. Both the showrooms are across the state. You will find at least 50 more shops within a radius of two kilometers around MO Road and Town Hall Road.

Kasavu, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram

Shopping in Kerala is incomplete without boundaries of nine yards of gold (kasavu). For the best buy, head to Balaramapuram, 13 km from Thiruvananthapuram on NH-47. Your other option might be Kasavukada (www.kasavukada.com), a popular chain. For a unique shopping experience, walk into the Karlakada Outlet. It is a household name in Kerala for the finest Kasavu sarees. For an extensive collection of traditional sarees in silk, visit Jayalakshmi Silks on MG Road, Kochi. Also a good option for wedding sarees.

Uru, Beypore

Just 10 km from Kozhikode, Beypore once held great importance as a port and shipbuilding center. Today, however, you can find miniatures of the large ships that made Beypore famous. Get your own miniature Uru, the big wooden ship that once sailed the high seas. Only three families make these models in Beypore and their outlets are in smaller markets. Uru is also available in bottles in Kozhikode. Here are the best shopping options for you at Kairali and Surabhi, Aradhana Tourist Home Building on Jail Road, Kallai Road. The tiniest Uru costs Rs. 500. Must buy in South India

Coir craft, Thiruvananthapuram

The Srimoolam Sashtithapoorthy Memorial (SMSM) Institute in Thiruvananthapuram brings Kerala under one roof. History has it that the SMSM Institute was a gift from the King of Srimoolam to the Government of Kerala. It is a great place for ‘tourist’ Kerala crafts. Kathakali masks, coir crafts, elephant and boat race miniatures, sandalwood oil – you name it, they have them. If they don’t have it, you probably won’t find it anywhere. This treasure is hard to miss—it’s right behind the State Secretariat.

Tuna Pickle, Minicoy

No trip to Lakshadweep is complete without hoarding on tuna pickles. These little bottles of pure bliss are rich and delicious. Tuna fish pieces in oil and spices can also make a meal interesting. The best place to buy these pickles is at the popular Tuna Canning Factory on Minicoy Island. You can also pick up tuna chunks, white tuna meat, and smoked tuna cans from factory outlets. Must buy in South India

Handmade paper, Pondicherry

The collection of stationery in Pondicherry can challenge your imagination. If you thought that paper is only made of wood, then the handmade paper factory of Aurobindo Ashram will prove you wrong. It stocks paper made from straw, algae, and even tea leaves. Pick up the bond paper, letter pads, photo albums, cards, and gift-wrapping in 40 colors at low prices here. 44 SV Patel Salai. Timings: 8.30 am to 12 noon and 1.30 pm to 5 pm.

Antique furniture, Pondicherry

If you are weak for Colonial or Chettinad style furniture, Art Antica in Pondicherry will spoil you with their creations in rose, ebony, and teak. Go ahead and place an order – they deliver across India. You’ll also find great souvenirs like coin boxes, oil lamps, and glass paintings. 25, Mission Street, Pondicherry. Tel: (0413) 420 0312; www.artantiqua.com

Glazed pottery, Pondicherry

What La Boutique Auroville lacks in space, it makes up for in the products it stocks. Everything here is real blue Auroville, except for the price. But be warned, it’s hard to choose from Pondicherry’s jaw-dropping collection of dazzling pottery and leather products. If you need help, ask Manager Bhuminathan. And if you want to see glazed pottery creations then the studio is the mantra. 38, Jawaharlal Nehru Street, Pondicherry. Tel: (0413) 233 7264.

Aromatherapy products, Pondicherry

Pondicherry is home to aromatherapy products. From scented candles, incense, oils, and fragrances, you will find everything here. The best bet is Aurobindo Ashram’s Cottage Industries showroom. Take home semi-precious jewelery and decorative pieces in stone and wood as gifts. 3, Ranga Pillai Street; Pondicherry. Tel: (0413) 233 3324, Must buy in South India

Leather accessories, Pondicherry

Owned by Hidesign, Casablanca has a section of labeled bags sold here at warehouse prices. If you’re lucky, you might even find designs that have been phased out in the markets and new ones are being tested here. Make sure you visit the women’s apparel section which has some great creations by local designers. In Jawaharlal Nehru Street, Pondicherry. Tel: (0413) 222 6495

Woodcraft, Madurai, and Coimbatore

From wooden temple cars to intricately carved panels, erotic sculptures, and flower motifs, wooden crafts have been a part of Tamil Nadu’s heritage since ancient times. The finest examples of wood carving are found in Tiruchirappalli, Coimbatore, Salem, and Dharmapuri, and are associated with temples – elaborately carved arches, doors, and panels.

Today, small temples carved out of teak are popular, as are the traditional Devakottai and Karaikudi panels, which are often used as wall decorations. If you are interested in buying rosewood carvings with elaborate carvings of flowers or animals, then it is best to visit Madurai. Cottage Industries Exhibition, 142-144, Netaji Road, Madurai; Chettinad Handicrafts Development Corporation of India, 333, 1st Floor, Singapore Plaza Cross Cut Road, Coimbatore. Must buy in South India

Kanjeevaram saris, Chennai

Gorgeous and ever-popular silk sarees from Kancheepuram usually top every woman’s shopping list when she is in Tamil Nadu. With designs inspired by nature, myth, and religion are woven into silk, which is embellished with gold thread and a contrasting border, they are both sensual and dramatic.

The pallu of the saree is often woven separately. The weavers of these breath-taking and intricate sarees claim to be descendants of the famous sage Markanda – the ‘weaver of the gods’ who is believed to have woven the first-ever cloth from lotus fibre. Nalli Silks, 100, Usman Road, T Nagar, Chennai; BM Silks, 5, North Mada, Mylapore, Chennai; Tulsi Silks, 96/1 Loose Church Road, Mylapore, Chennai; Kumaran Silks, No. 12 Nageswaran Road, Opp. Panagal Park, T Nagar, Chennai; Pothis, Osman Road, Panagal Park, Chennai.

Paintings, Thanjavur

The Tanjore painting, a true classic, is inlaid with gold leaf, glass, and precious stones. These paintings have remained traditional for centuries, featuring deities and religious subjects. However, over the past century, artists have experimented a bit, choosing to add figures of different proportions, birds, flowers, and animals. Buy from R Govindarajan, Karantha, Thanjavur; Poompuhar, Anna Salai, Chennai; Central Cottage Emporium, Nandanam, Chennai. Must buy in South India

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