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Kashmir Shopping Guide

Kashmir not only is a paradise on earth but it has so many interesting and unique craftwork, herbs, dry fruits, etc. which is exotic and one of a kind. There are some rare finds here which can leave you surprised. The Kashmir shopping markets have many authentic and moderately priced item which can be bought. Even Srinagar shopping malls have many types of craftworks, dry fruits and shawls available. Some of the finest and expensive spices are available here which can be purchased. So, when in Kashmir don’t forget to shop and taken some of the souvenirs with you back & flaunt them off to everyone. Things to buy in Jammu & Kashmir can be suitable for each and every buyer’s pocket.

Let’s Begin, shall we …

Namda :

These are rugs are made by felting the wool rather than weaving it. A low-quality wool mixed with a small quantity of cotton is used to manufacture Namdas. They are usually of two types, plain and embroidered. Formerly, the woolen yarn was used for embroidery, but now acrylic yarn (Cashmelon) is in use. Namdas and Gabbas are embroidered with thread, which gives color, beauty and strength to them. This cottage industry is concentrated in Anantnag, Rainawari, and Baramulla. Prices of Namdas depend upon their quality of wool, pattern (plain or embroidery), size of the product and the neatness in designs.

Price Range – Starting from 500 Rs – 20,000 Rs

Noon Chai Leaves

Prepared traditionally from special tea leaves, milk, salt, and usually cooked in a Samavar and it is becoming a famous Kashmiri product as well. A pinch of baking soda gives it a pronounced pink color and in winters butter is added to it. In Kashmiri culture, this beverage may be consumed two to three times a day with traditionally baked bread. This tea is proven to have many health benefits and to mention few: reduction of risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, cholesterol, skin care, controls the blood pressure, depression, fight influenza, weight loss. This tea can be bought at almost all the local stores which sell dry fruits and spices.

Price – 400Rs for half kg

Copper-wares

There are many coppersmiths in Kashmir who have mastered the art of making some really intricate and traditional designs using just hammer, and chisels. Perhaps the most effective and certainly the best value for the money is the copper work of Srinagar. Craftsmen can often be seen engraving objects of household utility – samovars, bowls, plates and trays. The work done on copper vessels is known as ‘Naqashi’, determines the price of the object, as does the weight. Drinking water stored in a copper vessel is believed to be beneficial for one’s health. This Kashmiri copper kettle is sure to enhance the ambiance of your dining table and impress your guests.

Price- Starts from 2000Rs and can go up-to 30,000Rs depending on size and weight of utensil.

Willow baskets

In Kashmir, the art of basketry had existed since the time of immemorial. It had existed in all parts of the country and is certainly the country’s most common and most popular craft. In form, most of the Kashmiri basketry presents a complex of diverse shapes and sizes and comprises circular, spherical or cylindrical shape of caskets and containers. Willow rushes that grow plentifully in marshes and lakes in Kashmir are used to make charmingly quaint objects, ranging from shopping baskets and lampshades to tables and chairs, all generally inexpensive. To increase their life-span, unvarnished products should be chiseled and frequently sprayed with water, particularly in hot, dry climates, to prevent them from brittle. In winters, the ‘Kangri’ is used mostly which is the hand-made warming basket made with an earthen bowl wrapped in a net of bamboo slips.

Price Range- 300rs onwards

 Saffron

Pampore, near Srinagar, is the only place in the world besides Spain where saffron is grown. Saffron is the stigma of the fall flowering crocus. These stigmas are worth thousands and are therefore one of the costliest spices in the whole world. Saffron is so valuable because it is a very labour intensive crop, and only 5-7 pounds of saffron can be produced from each acre of land. There are three different grades of Saffron present in the world and one type is harvested in Kashmir each year. The Kashmir “Mogra Cream” Indian Saffron is the world’s finest saffron. The dark red colour and long perfect strands are as beautiful as they are colourful and flavourful. Kashmir saffron is awfully tough to obtain, which makes it higher in price, but Kashmir Mogra Cream Saffron is truly wonderful.

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Price: 350Rs for 1gm.

Dry fruits: almonds, walnuts, dried blackberry

Kashmiri Dry fruits are known for their superiority of taste and are very popular among the consumers. The quality of these dry fruits are one of the best and are used extensively at many occasions. Some of the dry fruits that grow here are walnuts, almonds, dried apricots, dried blackberries etc.

Almond is a complete food with different types of healthy fats, minerals, vitamins, calcium, carbohydrates, proteins, fibers and other health secrets in it, which can help us fight various diseases right from the problem of memory loss. There are two varieties of almond, sweet almond and bitter almond.

The Walnut trees are very large, ranging from 50 to 75 feet in height and width. Kashmir revels in reputation in that it is the only region in India where the walnut tree grows. The natural sheen, colour and grains are indeed exceptional and unique. The carving and fret- work done on this wood is of a delight. Generally, two types of walnut trees are found in Jammu and Kashmir- one that bears fruit and is noted for its wood, and another which is not fruit-bearing. The latter is known as ‘zangul’ in local parlance and is less strong and possesses no grains.

Sweet, pulpy and mouth-watering blackberries are summer delicacies. Like other berries, blackberries are commonly eaten out of hand. The Blackberry has not only unique taste but numerous therapeutic values. It has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-carcinogenic properties with notable nutritional contents like vitamin C, K, folic acid, essential minerals and anthocyanins.

Price Range: Walnut may cost you Rs.300 to 350 per kg, Almond is priced between 850 to 900Rs per kg, blackberry cost you 450 to 400Rs per kg. ( Can be bought from Lal Chowk market)

Papier Mache

This craft is practiced all over Kashmir and it really popular choice to buy and invest in. The artifacts are designed which showcase really detailed designs. Papier mache is a delicate decorative art which shows the artistic zeal of a craftsman. This art was introduced in Kashmir in the 15th Century by a Kashmiri Prince who spent years in prison at Samarkand in Central Asia. Gold is used on most objects, either as the only colour, or as a highlight for certain motifs. Besides the finish of the product, it is the quality of gold used which determines the price. Pure gold leaf, which has an unmistakable luster, is far more expensive than bronze dust or gold poster paint. Varnish, which is applied to the finished product, imparts a high gloss and smoothness and increases with every coat applied.

Price- Anywhere from 200Rs and can go up-to 30,000Rs

Shawls

One of the famous Kashmiri product which is on everyone’s list is the shawls which are world famous. The word shawl is derived from Persian “Shal”, the name given for a whole range of fine woolen garments. Kashmir has been synonymous with shawls all over the world till date. There are three fibers from which the shawls are woven – wool, pashmina and shahtoosh. The prices of the three cannot be compared – woolen shawls being within reach of the most modest budget, and shahtoosh being a one-in-a-lifetime purchase. Woolen shawls are popular because of the embroidery worked on them, which is unique to Kashmir. Both embroidery and the type of wool used bring about differences in the price. Wool woven in Kashmir is known as ‘Raffel’ and is always 100 percent pure. Sometimes blends from other parts of the country are used and Kashmiri embroidery is worked on them. These blends contain Cashmilon, cotton, or a mixture of both. Pashmina is unmistakable due to its softness. Pashmina yarn is spun from the hair of the ibex found in the highlands of Ladakh, at 14,000 ft above sea level. Although pure pashmina is expensive, the cost is sometimes brought down by blending it with rabbit fur or with wool. It is on pashmina shawls that Kashmir’s most exquisite embroidery is executed, sometimes covering the entire surface, earning it the name of ‘Jamawar’. Shahtoosh, from which the legendary ‘ring shawl’ is made, is incredibly light, soft and warm.

Price Range- 10000Rs onwards

Carpets

Kashmiri carpets are renowned throughout the world mainly for two reasons one being that they are hand-made and second they are always knotted not tufted. Carpet weaving in Kashmir was not originally indigenous but is thought to have come in by way of Persia and till today, most designs are influenced by Persian designs with local variations. The colours- way of a carpet, and its details differentiate it from any other carpet. And while on the subject of colour, it should be kept in mind that although the colours of Kashmiri carpets are more subtle and muted than elsewhere in the country, only chemical dyes are used. The knotting of carpet is the most important aspect, determining its durability and value, in addition to its design. Basically, the more knots per square inch, the greater its value and durability. A double-knotted carpet has a pile that bends when you brush it one way with your hand, and stands upright when it is brushed in another direction. A single knotted carpet is fluffier and more resistant to the touch, there is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ side to brush it. The number of knots on the reverse of the carpet can be seen and checked whether one or more line in the design has been omitted completely in which case the pattern looks lopsided.

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Price Range: 15000Rs to 60,000 Rs depending on quality, knots and size.

Walnut Wood carvings

Kashmir is home to some of the best walnut wood carving done anywhere in the world. Wood carving is done on a variety of objects-ranging from furniture (tables, chairs, writing desks, dining tables etc.) to articles of personal use like cigarette boxes, cigar boxes, jewellery boxes, photo frames and various other articles. Walnut is the most common wood used for carving and it is the only part of India where the walnut tree grows. Walnut wood from the root is almost black, and the grain here is much more pronounced than the wood of the trunk, which is lighter in colour. The intrinsic worth of the wood from each part of the tree differs–wood from the root being the most expensive. After carving, wax polishing brings out the inherent sheen of walnut wood, and is by far the most popular finish. Many portals now sell this Kashmiri craft works online as well.

Price: Starts from 1000Rs

Crewel work

Crewel embroidery is fascinating needle art which is typically done in thin wool thread on linen or cotton fabric, crewel work provides texture not seen in silk or cotton embroidery. A special kind of embroidery done with a pointed hook used for drapery and upholstery is known as crewel. Because of the high quality of embroidery done on wall hangings and rugs, Kashmiri crewel-work is in great demand throughout the world. Crewel embroidery material is quite popular in export market as it satisfies the aesthetic expression lover of beauty all over the world. Besides these crewel products are very popular in domestic market also. Designs are available in an assortment of colors ranging from a single colour to multicolour embroidery. However, the designs and colours patterns can be altered as per order. The price is related with the amount of embroidery done on the material. The craft is also available on items like bedspreads, cushion covers, throws, duvets covers in various sizes ranging from single to king size.

Frozen packed wazwan

The food cooked here in Kashmir is basically done using some exotic herbs and spices which gives it special aroma and taste. It is definitely a must buy if one is a food-lover. Many delicacies are purely non-vegetarian and can be bought from local Kashmiri markets. These foods are deep frozen and some are canned too. There is no compromise on taste and quality as it hardly contains much preservatives. One can relish the same taste when consumed. Many online portals also sell these items which are moderately priced.

Price: Starts from 200Rs

Guchchi mushrooms

An exclusive ingredient that grows wild on the foothills of Himalayas is the Guchchi mushroom that is priced at anything between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 30,000 for a kilogram. Also known as Morel Mushrooms or Morchella Esculenta scientifically, these mushrooms command a huge demand despite their high price tag. They are locally called ‘guchchi’ in the Himalayan region and are prized for their spongy, honeycomb texture and unique flavour. But that’s not the only reason for the luxury pricing.

The villagers start the laborious process of collecting these elusive mushrooms sometime around March which continues till May-end. They start at the crack of the dawn and spend their day their entire day wandering through risky areas and sometimes digging through thick layers of snow to find these hidden delicacies. Guchchi mushrooms usually grow in clusters on logs of decaying wood or decaying leaves and even in humus soil. They may or not grow in the same spot the next season and they are notoriously unpredictable as they may show up anywhere. It can take months before enough is collected, dried and available for sale in the market.
Price : 1320Rs per 25 gm.

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Spices like Wer, Praan, Red chili powder, Zereshk, Shahi Zeera

The spices found in Kashmir are used to produce some mouth-watering Kashmiri cuisine which is popular among the connoisseurs. A must buy in J&K, which has an array of several spices that bring out the authentic Kashmiri taste in various dishes. Kashmiri red chili powder (koshur marchwagan), shahi jeera (shahi jeera, black cumin, Kashmiri jeera, Koshur zur, or kala jeera) etc, which have been used traditionally in the cuisine of Kashmir Valley region. The genuine cuisine from Kashmir is mild in taste and recognized through its rich flavour with the use of different spices. Shahi Jeera is one such spice being cultivated only in the valley region. Though it might replicate the black common cumin, there’s a vast difference in the flavors. Shahi jeera is a mix of very mildly and slightly sweet notes. Shahi Jeera when cooked gives out an excellent smell of earthiness. The red chilli here have a strong pungent taste, bright red colour and does give a spicy fiery flavour to a dish. Praan also known as shallot is a type of onion. Like garlic, shallots are formed in clusters of offsets with a head composed of multiple cloves. The skin colour of shallots (Praan) can vary from golden brown to grey to rose red, and their off-white flesh is usually tinged with green or magenta. Pran is used extensively for culinary purposes both in home cooked foods as well as Wazwan. They not only add a sweet and pungent flavour to recipes, but they also come loaded with antioxidants, Vitamin A, vitamin C and some important minerals, too. Zereshk is one other spice of Kashmir. These are a mild, slightly sweet, tangy currant Berries that are utilized in few particular dishes. These seeds are used extensively in Persian dishes. These berries add a gorgeous colour and flavour to the dishes. Its use is confined to a handful of dishes. Kashmir has always been a gourmet’s paradise. These spices are available in local markets, shopping malls and on online Kashmiri portals.

Price Range -200 Rs onwards

Chain stitch work (Aari work)

Done with a hook in long flowing designs to create embroidered designs all over a cloth base. Silk yarn is also used in the embroidery and the rug looks like a carpet in which the pile is substituted by the texture. Chain stitch, be it in wool, silk or cotton, is done by hook rather than by needle. The hook is referred to as “Aari”, and while maintaining the same quality, hook work covers a much larger area than needlework in the same amount of time. All the embroidery is executed on white cotton fabric, pre-shrunk by the manufacturers. Tiny stitches are used to cover the entire area – the figures or motifs are worked in striking colours and patterns. The background fabric should not be visible through the stitches. Aari work is used for making rugs, clothes and also cushion covers.

Price Range : 3000Rs to 15000 Rs

Kahwah

This drink happens to be one of the most famous and sought after as it is prepared especially in Kashmir. Here it is consumed during marriage feasts, festivals, and get-togethers and it is customary to serve this drink to guests- a green tea made with saffron, spices, and almonds or walnuts. There are over 20 varieties of Kahwah which are prepared in households across valley. Some add milk in Kahwah (half milk and half Kahwah) while some like it plain and simple.

Price: 250Rs for 100gm (Prices can vary)

Babri Beoul aka Chia seeds

Chia seeds have been gathering a limelight with its benefits and is the new superfood. Though in Kashmiri it has been consumed during Ramzan or in summer season generally. Here, it is called as Babri Beoul and is available easily. Easy to digest when prepared properly and a very versatile ingredient that adds easily to recipes. The chia seed is nutrient-dense and packs a punch of energy-boosting power. They said just one spoonful of chia could sustain them for 24 hours. Chia means “strength” in the Mayan language, and chia seeds are known as “runners’ food” because runners and warriors would use them as fuel while running long distances or during battle.

Price : 300Rs for 400gm

Article by Mehreen Khan

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