Where to Shop and What to Buy in Kerala
The name Kerala is synonymous with silk. The area has ideal conditions for the growing and manufacturing of this commodity and with a local tradition of silk production stretching back for generation after generation you can be sure that the quality of Kerala silk is second to none.
Cotton is another textile that is in abundance in this part of India and many of the hip T-shirts, jeans, jackets and sweatshirts bound for Western boutiques and shops end up on market stalls here at prices a fraction of what they would command in the west. Other good buys are spices and so-called antiques along with the real articles. Gold is very popular among Kerala's womenfolk so do check the golden jewelry option, too.Read More
Not only is Kerala a great place for picking up furniture, it has many antiques to offer as well. There are beautifully carved boxes, temples, miniature snake boats on offer as well. These are usually replicas of antiques and will not cost as much. If you are going in for antique artifacts remember that you can not legally take out of India any object that is older than a 100 years.
Also if a person is selling what he calls an antique very cheap, you should suppose it to be a fake. There are a few shops that have a good reputation, and it is best to deal with them. If you are a novice and just want something interesting, go in for any of the replicas that are available. They will not cost as much and still give you a unique souvenir of your visit to Kerala.
The typical Kerala home is adorned with a lot of bronze artifacts. These will include the statues of animals, birds, Gods and Goddesses, Diya stands, Agarbatti stands and a whole lot more. Most of these items are available in shops and government-run emporiums in all the major cities in the state.
Some of these can be quite heavy, so when you are buying your souvenirs lift them up and check the weight, especially if you intend to fly back home. You might end up paying more for extra baggage otherwise. A few of the more well-established shops will offer to ship out the goods to your home address, at an added cost. It is an option that you can look into if you are making a bulk purchase.
Since the black soil of the Deccan Plateau is ideal for cotton growing there is a good cotton and hosiery clothes market here. While most of the great stuff gets exported you can have a slice of the pie by heading to the export surplus market. Here, you can get the best brands with their labels cut off in the street markets. You need to be a bit careful that the pieces are export surplus and not export rejects.
In the export rejects there might be buttons missing, threads ripped out or even small holes in the garment. In these cases you need to really examine the clothes with a fine toothed comb to see that they are worth picking up. Still if it's just a couple of buttons missing, you can always tack them on and get a real bargain.
Gold and Jewelry
The Keralite women are very fond of gold and jewelry. Unlike the semi precious stones from Rajasthan which are popular in the northern parts of India, here the yellow metal is favored. The designs are made by hand and can be quite intricate. While the locals do prefer heavy and large sets, you can pick up a smaller bracelet or a pair of gold earrings. The jewelry is sold by weight and prices fluctuate based on the rate of gold at the time.
If you are going in for a piece of jewelry get a bill and have the person endorse it with his signature. This is a way of making sure that he sells you pure gold and not some mixed alloy. If possible get a local to go shopping with you. Most ladies would love to help you on this mission and will even offer to take you to their trusted family goldsmith.
Kerala silk is very famous. The traditional bridal sari is made from raw material and has a border which is made of gold thread. The gold thread is hand woven into the silk at the looms. The thickness of the gold border decides the price of the sari; the more gold thread that is used in the sari the more expensive it will be.
Even if you are not looking for saris, you can pick up silk and have it tailored. If you have some time, a local tailor will be able to finish the work and present you the finished product in anything between two to six days depending on the season. The shop that sells you the material will also be able to get a tailor organized for you as well.
The country’s only Pepper Exchange is located in Jew Town on Fort Cochin in Kochi city. The trading hours witness frenzied activity that rivals any major stock exchange in the world. It is an interesting experience in case you are interested. The spices that Kerala offers are what had Europeans hunting for shorter trading routes to India in the 16th and 17th century.
While you do not have to sail across half the world today to pick up exotic spices, you might still like to pick up some as gifts and souvenirs. The spices can be picked up from any number of shops all over the main markets in any city of Kerala. If you really want to be shown a wide variety of spices, head for a general grocery and provision store. You will be able to touch and smell all the goods before you choose to buy them.