THE COLOURFUL MARKETS of the region carry a vast and exciting range of handicrafts. The government-run state emporia are well stocked with merchandise at fixed and reasonable rates. Shopping arcades of larger hotels cater to travellers who are hard-pressed for time, though their more sophisticated boutiques are usually pricier. For the more adventurous, there are the street stalls and bazaars that offer glimpses of local color and where bargaining is a way of life. Delhi has some of the region’s most elegant shops, but the charming bazaars of Jaipur and Agra offer visitors a chance to actually observe skilful craftsmen at work. In the smaller towns beyond the main cities, local crafts are often sold in quaint village stores or on the roadside.
MUST SHOPS usually open at 10am and shut down by 7:30pm, though the smaller markets keep longer hours. The government-run emporia close an hour earlier. Markets for fresh produce open at dawn and stay open until late evening, while the temporary bazaars that spring up at different localities on festivals or particular week days gather the crowds until late at night. In Jaipur and Agra, the closing day is Sunday, but in Delhi, each locality has its own weekly holiday. Shopping centres in the New Delhi area are closed on Sundays, but in South Delhi and Karol Bagh, the closing clays are Monday or Tuesday. By law I shops are required to remain closed on the three main national holidays, that is, Republic Day (26 Jan), Independence Day (15 Aug) and Mahatma Gandhi’s birthclay (Martyr’s Day, 2 Oct).
HOW TO PAY
THEM RUPEE is accepted 1 everywhere. The bigger stores accept international credit cards such as VISA, MasterCard, American Express and Diners, and usually display signs prominently inside the shops. But they are still not very Common in the smaller shops and towns, and it is always sensible to keep some cash handy when travelling. Traveller’s cheques can be encashed at local branches of the State Bank of India, but again, this facility may not be available in the smaller towns.
BARGAINING is an essential part of the shopping experience in India, and at the smaller markets, prices are quoted with the expectation that customers will haggle. Some of the most familiar scenes at all bazaars are those of local shoppers indulging in long and often acrimonious discussions with shopkeepers about price and quality. Most shopkeepers are tourist savvy today and will usually quote a higher price to foreigners. The best way to check out prices is to browse through a fixed-price shop like a government emporium. This will also give you an idea of quality. However, the price you offer to pay should be realistic and not so low that you miss out on a good purchase altogether.If this price is still unacceptable to the shopkeeper, an old and usually very effective bargaining tactic is to walk away feigning indifference.
All the bigger and fancier shops and boutiques, retail outlets of manufacturers and the government emporia have fixed prices with no scope for bargaining. Increasingly, in fact, more shops are tagging their goods with labels that clearly indicate item prices.
RIGHTS AND REFUNDS
BY LAW ALL. SHOPS are obliged to give you a receipt or cash memo for all purchases. When buying insist on getting one to which sales tax, generally seven or ten per cent of the total cost, has been added. Often the shopkeeper will say that you can save on the tax if you do not take a receipt, but do insist on one nevertheless. Refund: or the exchange of damaged goods are impossible without one and it is absolutely essential for the more expensive purchases. Bigger shops can he fussy about taking back goods, but you can talk to the manager if absolutely necessary. If the shop is going to ship your purchases, make sure that you know all the. costs involved, including taxes. Also, insist that all the paperwork is done correctly and you have copies of it all. If you wish you can also ship. the larger purchases yourself through the international courier services. Bing all the erectly of it all. also ship yourself.
You should also get a certificate from the shop stating the age of the artifact.
IN THE LARGER MARKETS that are frequented by tourists, persistent touts can be a problem. Ignore the offers of fantastic bargains because the prices you pay are often suspect. Also beware of polite young men inviting you home for a cup of tea because “home” will he a shop down the lane. Tourist buses will of course stop at their selected shops but you don’t have to buy anything from them. Tidy to shop for expensive things at big shops with price tags on their goods and beware of of shops with “government approved” boards as these are usually private enterprises.
A VISIT to a traditional Indian bazaar is worth the experience much more than the actual shopping. These lively places offer fantastic bargains and a colourful atmosphere. Most bazaars are located in the heart of the old cities. where narrow lanes are lined with rows of shops selling a variety of merchandise from car spare-parts, machinery, cooking utensils and provisions to textiles and jewellery. Vegetables and other fresh produce are sold on the roadside. Most cities also have the weekly bazaars, and rural India has seasonal haws that travel from village to village for the local people to shop for everything from agricultural equipment to clothes to pots and pans.
The bazaars in Agra and Jaipur were originally craft guilds and some still specialize in specific local crafts such as textiles, jewellery, marble inlay and leather work, where you can watch the craftsmen at work, admire their skills and buy directly from them.
THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT and the state governments all inn shops selling handicrafts and handloom textiles special to their region or state. The prices are fixed and the products genuine. Gangotri, the Uttar Pradesh emporium, stocks crafts from Agra, and Rajasthan, the Rajasthan emporium, concentrates on handicrafts from Jaipur. While Delhi is a centre for emporia from all the states, neither Agra nor Jaipur offer the same range of regional products.
SHOPPING IN JAIPUR
JAIPUR IS TRULY a choppers paradise . The range of textiles and handicrafts available here includes an irresistible selection of fabric: (embroidered, block printed, tie-and-dyed), as well as ready-made garments. Rolls of colourful quilts in light layered cotton, but surprisingly warm, are piled high on streetside shops, and government emporia and larger shops stock the beautiful Mughal designed woollen carpets that are made in Jaipur. The city is known for its jewellery which ranges from folk designs in silver to the elegant and more pricey gold jewellery in Meenakari and kundan work. There is also a wide variety of handmade leather goods from jootis and bags to saddles and wallets, while in furniture, there is a dazzling choice of carved and painted tables, chairs, screens, wall brackets, candle and lamp stands.
Jaipur was a centre of miniature painting, and artists now sell perfect reproductions at a fraction of the price of originals. Both the religious pichhwai and the narrative Chad cloth paintings make wonderful wall hangings. Blue pottery is another of Jaipurs traditional crafts, using delicate Persian, Turkish and Indian designs on vases, door-knobs and tiles.
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