The Flapper Life
Shopper's Guide To Kashmir
Kashmir will captivate your senses and stir your soul. This is truly an enchanting land, blessed with majestic snow-capped mountains, lush green forests, crystal-clear lakes, and meandering rivers.
The culture of Kashmir is equally captivating, with its rich history, hospitality, and delicious cuisine. Whether it's the stunning landscape or the vibrant culture, Kashmir is truly a paradise on earth that leaves visitors awestruck and in awe.
Your typical Kashmir itinerary will have the stunning Srinagar, Gulmarg and the prettiest of all, Pahalgam. But the most beautiful part about this city is its people and what they offer that can change your life.
The Kashmiri Way of Life
Kashmir’s rich cultural heritage is reflected in its music, dance, art, and cuisine. Kashmiris are known for their hospitality and warm nature, just as warm as their cuisine, which is known for its aromatic spices and rich flavors in dishes like Rogan Josh, Yakhni, and Dum Aloo.
For them, family values are highly regarded, and most families are close-knit and conservative.
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Shopping In Kashmir
Here are the top recommendations on shopping in Kashmir given by our dear local friends.
Before we get started, below are some tips you should keep in mind before purchasing anything.
- Don't be afraid to haggle over prices with the vendors. Start by offering half of the asking price and work your way up from there.
- Many vendors in Kashmir don't accept credit cards, so it's important to keep cash on hand when shopping.
- Be cautious of vendors who try to sell you products at exorbitant prices, and be wary of pickpockets in crowded areas
1. Kashmiri Carpets
Around 700 years ago, a tedious yet tremendously beautiful tradition was born where Kashmiri locals created handmade carpets that today, are found only in this state, the most genuine ones at least.
But making them is no cakewalk. It can take anywhere from months to years to make a single carpet. No wonder today’s generation has moved away from this trade and are looking for more modern jobs that pay more. Because the earning in the carpet business is not equal to the effort put in. We’ve been told a carpet maker only makes around 500/- rupees a day after working 9-10 hours.
This is precisely why these carpets are so precious. They are lovingly made by older people with nothing but hard work and dedication. But how do they make these carpets? Well, it’s a generational secret that is written in a language only understood by the locals.
Most people think these carpets are exorbitantly priced and choose to buy machine-made ones at a much lower cost. Many can’t even tell apart from the two and often fall to scams. The best way around it is to buy the carpets from a registered shop so that in case any issues arise, you can lodge an official complaint.
The prices of these carpets depend on the amount of needlework done, and the number of threads and materials used. The cost of a single carpet can range anywhere from 3,000/- rupees to 20,000/- rupees.
There are certain things to keep in mind before shopping for Kashmiri Carpets. If you’re being taken by a local, be sure they can’t help bring down the prices. You will have to use all the bargaining power you have. But we know from experience, it’s easy to get lost in a carpetey world of colours and designs!
As soon as you enter, our local source suggests you first get a look at how these carpets are made. You can watch all the needlework right there and there, and be even more fascinated!
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2. Kashmiri Shawls
These make for an invaluable small-scale industry that beats in the heart of every Kashmiri marketplace. Again, it’s the older generation that still holds the needles to this business. The youngsters want high-paying jobs and unfortunately, as we’re told, a year spent making a shawl will only result in around 35,000/- at the end of it. This is why when people buy machine-made shawls, it puts their business in bigger trouble.
We’re not biased towards handmade shawls, and a traveller on a budget may as well buy the machine-made ones. But here’s the thing- the life of a handmade carpet is 5 times more than the a machine-made one. Most of the artisans stitch the shawls at home and our local guide’s grandad is actually currently working on a shawl for the last 10 months. A lot of hard work indeed.
Apart from shawls and woollen blankets, another very interesting type of shawl is called Kani. The Kani shawl originated from the Kanihama area of the Kashmir valley. It is one of the oldest handicrafts of Kashmir and has been a part of the valley since the time of the Mughals and is woven from pashmina yarn.
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3. Kashmiri Spices
Kashmiri cuisine is known for its aromatic and flavorful spices that are used in abundance in various dishes. The most popular and important is the Kashmiri Saffron.
But again, you’ve got to be careful. A lot of merchants sell Iranian Saffron in the name of authentic Kashmiri ones.
On your way to Pahalgam, you actually stop by the saffron fields and take in all the goodness of the spice. The spice is most commonly used in the famous Kahwa Tea.
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4. Kashmiri Almonds
These are so good for your health! Packed with Omega 3 Fatty Acids, these almonds are a must-buy! They are way smaller in size compared to their Californian counterparts and are super important to Kashmiri cuisine. Kashmiri walnut and Raisins along with a Spice mix box will take your kitchen to the next level!
5. Aari Work
Aari work is a type of embroidery which is done on a stretched fabric and stitching the design with a long needle which has a hook in the end. The needle technique origins from the mocha community that use this type of needle to stitch intricate patterns on leather footwear.
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6. Wooden Crafts of Kashmir
The walnut tree is very dear to the Kashmiris. In fact, no one can cut it down without special permission. The wood of this tree is considered to be the strongest in the world and shikaras are built from this wood.
Local artisans make beautiful carvings out of it. You can find wooden trays, boxes, and other decorative items that will definitely spruce up your home decor style.
7. Kashmiri Paper Mache
Paper is boiled in hot water and then given a solid shape. This then ends up being used to make many different things like statues, vases, boxes, coasters and other decorative/utility objects.
So apart from being a natural paradise, Kashmir is also a shopper’s haven! So always take back a few things to keep Kashmir eternally in your heart!
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