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Shopping in Jammu and Kashmir


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Shopping in Jammu and Kashmir

Carpets on Dispaly at Gulmarg

A trip to Jammu and Kashmir is not complete without a visit to its many markets and shopping malls. The state has always been famous for various types of handicrafts. Therefore, we will start our journey with a peek into the array of beautiful handicrafts made by the local artisans and then we will see what other products we can buy from here.

What to Buy from Jammu and Kashmir

Over the ages, Kashmiri artisans have used available resources to create beautiful objects of art. Among them, Kashmiri carpets made in Persian style of weaving are famous all over the world. Although they are rather expensive, they make a life time investment. At the same time, it is important to be aware of a few points about Kashmiri carpets before investing on it. Let's get to know them one by one.

Shopping for Carpets in Jammu and Kashmir

A Carpet Shop in Srinagar

Points to Remember while Shopping for Carpets in Jammu and Kashmir

1. A true Kashmiri carpet is always hand woven and knotted. Therefore, if you want to a genuine Kashmiri carpet, it is not enough to look for right design or coloring; you must turn it over and examine its rear. If you find tufts of yarns at the backside, you will know that the carpet is not made in Kashmir.

2. Higher is the number of knots, more durable is the carpet.

3. Single knotted carpets are fluffier and more resistance to touch. Piles in the double knotted carpets may bend as you brush it. Therefore, it is one more point to check.

4. Kashmiri carpets are generally made out wool or silk. Some weavers may use a mixture of woolen and silk yarn to create specific designs. All these carpets generally have cotton base although some silk carpets may also have silk base.

5. These days carpets made out of mercerized cotton are also being manufactured in Jammu and Kashmir. These are generally known as Staple carpets. They look like silk, but are far cheaper.

6. While specifying percentage of each yarn used, manufacturers generally take into account yarns used in the base. Therefore, if a carpet is 80% wool or silk, it means it has 20% cotton as its base.

7. Also make sure that the motifs have clear cut outlines and the edges of the carpet are straight and equal in size.

Shopping for Namda Rugs in Jammu and Kashmir

Namda Rug on Display

However, if you find carpets to be too expensive for your pocket or too cumbersome to be carried home, you may look for your Namda Rugs instead. These are made by felting rather than weaving the yarn. The wool is of lower quality and is often mixed with cotton. Hence these rugs are far cheaper, but are equally beautiful. The exact price depends on percentage and quality of wool used, workmanship etc.  Some of these rugs are plain while some are embroidered. These days the embroidery is mostly done by acrylic yarn.

Today, the namda rugs are mostly made in Anantnag, Baramula and Rainawari. However, they are sold all over Jammu and Kashmir.

Shopping for Chain Stitch Rugs in Jammu and Kashmir

Chain Stitch Rug on Display

While looking for a perfect rug you must also try chain stitch rugs available in most shops. These rugs are made mostly on hessian base, which is a woven fabric made out of vegetable fibers such as jute and sisal. Sometimes they are also manufactured on hand woven cloth base. However, the actual work is done on pre-shrunk white cotton fabric. Moreover, these rugs always come with a cloth lining. This increases the lifespan of the rug.

Tiny stitches cover the entire surface of these rugs. However, the actual embroidery is done with a hook in long flowing pattern. The hook is known as aari. The designs may include flowers, leaves, animals, human forms etc. They are mostly done in two or three ply wool. Sometimes silk yarn is also used. The rugs mostly come in 2x3, 3x5, 6x4, 8x12, and 9x12 feet size.

Shopping for Shawls in Jammu and Kashmir

Shawls made in Kashmir are unique in many respects. The art have developed over the years under Mughal patronage. Today these shawls are made from three varieties of yarns and they are wool, pashmina and shahtoosh.

Kashmiri Woolen Shawl

Shawl Made out of Wool

Although woolen shawls are made in many other parts of the country, the ones made in Kashmir are unique in their design and coloring. Therefore while shopping for woolen shawls in Kashmir it is important to make sure that you are actually buying a Kashmiri shawl, not one made in Ludhiana. In general, these woolen shawls are moderately priced and within the reach of most buyers.

How to Identify a True Kashmiri Shawl

1. The embroidery along the side of the shawl is known as sozni. Motifs are worked in panels’ using up to three different colors. The motifs can be abstract, stylized paisleys or flowery. In general, the stitch looks like stem stitches; but only the outline of the design is worked on.

2. 'Papièr mâchè' is another type of embroideries done on shawls. In this style, flowers and leaves are worked in chain stitch in bright colors and each motif is then outlined in black. These embroideries are done either in broad panels on both sides of the shawl or on the entire surface.

Pashmina Shawl

Pashmina Shawls on Display

Pashmina shawls on the other hand are far more expensive. These shawls are valued for their softness. The yarns for these shawls are made from the hair of ibex, an animal found at an elevation of 14,000 ft above the sea level in Ladakh area.  However, to cut cost, weavers often blend high quality wool or even rabbit fur with ibex yarn. 

It is to be noted that best Kashmiri embroideries are done on pashmina shawls. When such embroideries cover the entire surface it is known as Jamawar.

Did You Know? A Jamawar shawl is three times more expensive than an ordinary pashmina shawl!!!
'Chashm-e-bulbul,' or "Eye of the Bulbul" is another popular style of pashmina shawl. However, in this style, the motives are created not by embroidery, but by weaving. Small lozenges shaped squares are woven all over the shawl giving it a rich look. A traditional chashm-e-bulbul is never embroidered.

Shahtoosh Shawl

Shahtoosh Shawl through a Ring

A species of antelope, known as Pantholops Hodgsoni, is found in eastern Ladakh and parts of Tibet. While grazing, they sometimes shed their hair, especially from the region of their throat. Shahtoosh shawls are made from fur that automatically falls from the throat of these animals. The nomads living in these areas painstakingly collect the hair and sell them to the shawl makers of Kashmir. The shawl so made is very soft, very warm and very expensive.

How to Identify True Shahtoosh Shawl

1. Pure Shahtoosh shawls are very expensive. To cut cost, weavers often blend pashmina yarn with shahtoosh yarn.

2. A true Shahtoosh shawl is never dyed; their natural mousy brown color is left untouched.

3. Thirdly, a shawl made from pure Shahtoosh yarn is very delicate and so they cannot be embroidered.

Shopping for Upholstery and Draperies in Jammu and Kashmir

Upholstery Fabric with Crewel Work

While on a trip to Jammu and Kashmir, you may look for upholsteries and draperies adorned with crewel work.  This art is typical of Kashmir and is famous all over the world. The embroidery, which looks like chain stitch, is done with a pointed hook using either wool or silk thread. In crewel work, the embroidery does not cover the background; the motifs are generally stylized flowers.  Today, crewel work is also done on bedspreads, cushion covers, throws and gabbas. 

Traditionally gabbas were made out of old and torn blankets by the village folks. The artisans collected such blankets and had them washed and dyed. They then stitched them together to form the base of the gabba. To increase the lifespan and make it sturdier cotton lining was added to the rear side. Finally crewel embroideries featuring different motifs were done on that base turning it into a piece of art. Today, however, new blankets are used and so you need not have any qualms about using them.

Shopping for Clothing in Jammu and Kashmir

Jacket with Crewel Work

In Kashmir, both men and women wear phiran, also spelled pheran. It is almost a national dress for the people here and so if you are in Kashmir, you must get one. While the phiran for men are rather plain, those for women come with beautiful embroidery. Besides, you can also look for kurtas with Kashmiri needlework. Sarees made with Kashmir silk can also be looked into. Also try for different types of woolen garments. However, many such woolens are actually made outside the state.

Shopping for Carved Walnut Woodwork in Jammu and Kashmir

Walnut Wood Work on Display

Walnut trees grow in abundance in the Kashmir region at an altitude of 5500 to 7500 ft above the sea level. The wood from this tree is hard and durable; moreover, it has close grains and even texture. Such proprieties enable intricate designs to be carved out on the wood. Today, furniture and other objects made out of walnut wood has become another unique buy from Kashmir.

Some of the items made out of walnut wood are purely decorative while most are utilitarian. Visitors to Kashmir often buy small items like bowls, trays and boxes as memento. Wall plaques, table lamps, room divider, bedsteads, wardrobes, tables, chairs, kitchen furniture etc are also popular items made with walnut wood in Kashmir.

How to Recognize True Walnut Woodwork in Kashmir

1. Furniture or other art object made from walnut wood is easily recognizable by its color and tone. They have a more pronounced sheen than the Chinese variety.

2. Another unique point to remember is that that the color of the walnut wood is different in different parts. Wood from the root is almost black and the grain here is very prominent; consequently items made out of such wood are most expensive. Wood from the trunk is far lighter while the branches are lightest. Besides, one must also examine the craftsmanship.

3. It is to be noted that artisans here practice four main types of carving; they are plain, raised, engraved and undercut.

4. In Kashmir, these carvings are always done with small home-grown tools. Motifs include chinar leaves, rose, iris, lotus, bunches of grapes, dragons etc. Sometimes designs are borrowed from shawl makers and skillfully depicted on wood.

Papier Machie in Jammu and Kashmir

Hand Painted Papier Machie Bells on Display

Papier Machie is a French term, which literally means mashed paper. Boxes of different shapes and sizes, bowls, ashtrays, flower vases, wall plaques, screens etc. made by Kashmiri artisans are appreciated all over the world. They make these objects by molding mashed papers and decorating them with different motifs. Their lines and coloring make them truly outstanding. However, before spend your hard earned money on them it is important that you are aware of certain facts.

All that is sold in the name of papier machie may not actually be made out of mashed paper. To cut cost and make them more sturdy artisans are also using other materials such as cardboard and even wood pulp. Even if the object is made out of actual paper pulp, it is important to see if the finish is smooth. To have a smooth finish, the pulp has to be pounded thoroughly. Sometimes that is not done.

Shopping for Copper and Silver Work in Jammu and Kashmir

Silver Tea Pot on Display

Copper work from Jammu and Kashmir offers a great diversity. The artisans still work with traditional tools and create beautiful objects of arts out of it. Some of these are mainly decorative while others are very much functional. However, all of them are engraved with intricate work. Therefore, if you are looking for some mementoes do walk the street searching for different types of copperwares such as samovars, bowls, plates and trays. Incidentally, samovars are typical Kashmiri kettles meant for brewing teas. They generally have motifs of chinar leaves embossed on them. Some may even be embossed with calligraphy.

Other than copperware, Jammu and Kashmir is equally famous for its brass and silverware.  Tea-sets, tumblers, flower vases, cigarette-cases, scent chests, toilet sets, picture-frames etc made from silver are very popular both in local and export market. Different motifs such as china leaves, lilac and lotus flower are usually found engraved on them; but if you want yours custom made, they will happily oblige. Indeed, they will faithfully copy any design you may supply with their chisel. Incidentally, the art of engraving motifs on silverware is known as naqash and the price of the object depends heavily on that.

Other Things to Shop in Jammu and Kashmir

1. Jammu and Kashmir is famous for its horticulture and apiculture. You cannot really leave the state without picking up a handful of almonds.

2. Saffron is another product that is grown nowhere else in India. Therefore, if you want to shop for something typical, you may pick up some.

3. Besides, honey produced in Jammu Kashmir is famous all over the state for its delicate coloring as well as taste. You may also buy a bottle or two. They will keep for ages.

4. Basketry is another lost art that is still surviving in Kashmir. Baskets of different sizes are made here with willow rushes. They also come in different shapes such as circular, cylindrical, spherical. Try for snake charmers’ baskets. Today these colorful baskets are used for keeping rotis and storing vegetables. Some also use them for storing small items such as threads, trinkets, clothing etc. Some also use that for carrying loads.

5. Lampshade, shopping baskets, praying mats, and chics for doors made out of willow rushes are also popular items. One can look for them as well.

Where To Go for Shopping in Jammu and Kashmir

The best places to shop in Jammu and Kashmir are Srinagar, Jammu, Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Leh. While bigger cities such as Srinagar and Jammu have a few shopping malls it is the local markets which give you the feel of the place and therefore, many buyers prefers to go to these small markets to make their purchases. Let us start with a few shopping destinations in Srinagar

Shopping Destinations in Srinagar

Government Art Emporium in Srinagar

If you hate bargaining J K Government Emporium is the place to go. It is a fixed price shop located in the vicinity of Dal Lake. For exact direction you may call them at 0194-247-2065.  The shop offers all kinds of handicrafts made in Jammu and Kashmir. Although many believe that the prices are on the higher side, you can be sure of getting genuine products at this shop. Therefore, if you are buying high-end products such as knotted carpets, Pashmina and Shahtoosh shawls, walnut wood products you may visit this emporium. It remains open seven days a week.

Government Emporia near Ghanta Ghar at Lal Chowk is another government run establishment in Srinagar. If you are looking for namdah rugs, this is the place to go.

Kashmiri Emporium in Lal Chowk is the place to go if you are looking for Jamawar shawls made with pashmina yarn.  The shop also sells different types of clothing items such as stoles, jackets and kaftans.  Exquisitely woven carpets, mats and wall hangings Namaz prayer rugs etc are also available here.

Kashmiri Shawal Museums is another place where exquisite Kashmiri shawls and authentic Kashmiri carpets. The shop is located near Dal Lake

If you are interested in walnut furniture, you must visit Fancy Art Emporium located at Amira kadal ain Lal Chowk. The shop also offers Kashmiri carpets and rugs, home furnishings, embroidered tapestries and cushion covers, Papier Machie ornaments, trinket boxes, tailored clothing made from the finest cotton, leather bags and belts etc. Gold and silver jewelry studded with precious or semi precious stones are also another of their specialty.

Malls and Departmental Stores in Srinagar

However, if you prefer to have everything under one roof, do not be disappointed. Srinagar has a number of shopping malls and department stores within its limits. Let us look into them one by one:

Sarah City Centre, located at Jahangir Chowk, is one of the few shopping destinations in the town. It is actually a part of Hotel Mumtaz Towers and offers all national and international brands as well as ethnic Kashmiri products under one roof. The rates too are quite reasonable.

You can also try Sangarmaal Shopping Centre built by Shrinagar Development Authority. It is located on Munawarabad Link Road near Polo Ground.

RCC Plaza located in the Nowgam area on National Highway is another new shopping destination in the city.  It offers traditional Kashmiri handicrafts and clothing at a very reasonable price. 

Then again, you can go to Polo Plaza Shopping Centre on Polo View Road. The shops here offer every kind of products; but specialize on accessories.

Town Square Mall is located in Gogji Bagh area opposite to Amar Singh Collage. If you are looking for fashionable clothing items you must visit this mall. All famous brands such as Reebok and Cantabil are available here.

Then there is the V Mart located on Airport (IG) Road. It is another popular destination for city dwellers. The shop has something for everybody at a very reasonable price.

Markets in Srinagar

However, the best way to shop in Srinagar is to visit the local markets. You may go to Polo View Market to look for mementos; the shops there are laden with different kinds of souvenirs. Besides, there are many shops at Lal Chowk, Badshah Chowk and Residency Road, which sells different types of products. You may visit our page on Shopping in Srinagar for more information on those markets.

Also try to visit the Boulevard in the evening. You will find many shopkeepers with their merchandise spread precariously close to the water. If you can bargain hard, this is the place where you will get the commodities at the cheapest rate.

Also Read: Shopping in Srinagar | Book Stores in Srinagar | Departmental Stores in Srinagar | Garment Shops in Srinagar | Jewellery Showrooms in Srinagar | Optical Stores in Srinagar | Shoe Stores in Srinagar

Shopping Destinations in Jammu

Shopping in Jammu

If you are in Jammu, do not forget to visit Raghunath Bazaar. It is located close to the famous Raghunath Temple and has all kinds of shops. For further details you may visit our page on Raghunath Bazaar in Jammu.

Besides, there is the Hari Market, which has been named after the erstwhile king of Jammu and Kashmir. Hari Singh. For further details on this market you may visit our page named Hari Market in Jammu.

Gole Market is another place to be. However, the shops here mostly keep electronic gadgets, footwear, clothing items etc. Vir Marg is the fourth major shopping destination in Jammu. The street houses many popular shops selling different types of Kashmiri Handicrafts, Traditional Dongra Jewellery, Dry Fruits etc.

Also Read: City Square Plaza | Bahu Plaza | Shopping in Jammu

Other Places to Shop in Jammu and Kashmir

Shops in Ladakh

Those visiting Leh and Ladakh must visit Tibetan Market and Moti Market In Leh and Main Bazaar Road in Ladakh. There you will find exquisite Thankga paintings, hand-woven rugs and carpets, handicrafts, Tibetan silver jewelry, woolen garments etc.

While in Pahalgam, one must visit the Main Market. The shops there offer different verities of Kashmiri handicrafts and woolen garments. Kashmiri carpets, gabba rugs, namda rugs, pashmina shawls, beautiful phirans etc are some of the things to look for in those shops. Wickerwork made from willow rushes and woodwork crafted out of apple wood is a specialty of this place. Also do not forget to bite into the golden apples that grow in abundance in this region.

In fact, every town in Kashmir has a market of its own. Along with the essential commodities these markets sells different types of souvenirs. Therefore, wherever you are, you can always pick up one or two keepsakes.

Also Read: Shopping in Leh | Markets in Leh | Shopping in Anantnag

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