Pashmina: made from the finest cashmere wool which comes from the undercoat of a Himalayan goat, these shawls and scarves are feather-light and soft yet as warm as a duvet. Be aware that many pashminas are in fact manufactured in Punjab, or are made from angora, not pashmina wool. Don’t trust the ring test – angora shawls too can pass through a ring.
Papier-mache: Hand-painted papier-mache products are a popular gift to take home from India and are widely available in souvenir shops across the country. Yet visit the craft’s birthplace in Kashmir and you will see just how refined it can be. Artisans use tiny feathery brushes to achieve astoundingly detailed paintwork, mostly nature-inspired patterms, of a quality that will take your breath away.
Copper products: Copper kitchenware is part of daily life in Kashmir. Popular items include the samovar (coal kettle), tashts (wash basins), or bowls and platters of all sizes and descriptions.
Carpets: Persian in style, Kashmiri carpets come in a wide range of colours and designs, and usually in pure wool or pure silk. They are of high quality and as such are highly coveted and regarded. They often feature bright, jewel-like colours, and come in oriental, floral designs, however regularly feature Kashmiri motifs such as the distinctive leaf of the chinar tree.
Food products: Kashmir is a veritable fruitbowl, so come in the right season and pick up cherries, peaches, apricots and apples by the bucketload. Kashmir is also the source of saffron and walnuts, which also make excellent souveniers.
There are far more outlets than listed here, but for high-end buying, these are a good start:
Andraab: Pashminas here are woven by hand, and come in an array of colours and intricately embroidered patterns. You can also find bedspreads, wall hangings and other textiles here.
Shaw Brothers: Another highly-regarded pashmina and textile shop. Tara Bhawan, Boulevard Rd, Srinagar ph: 0194 2501075
Kashmir Loom: Run by a textile historian, this shop is intent on reviving and contemporising traditional Kashmiri patterns.
Suffering Moses: An iconic shop on The Bund, the former high-end boulevard favoured by the British during the times of the Raj. Visit here for stunning papier-mache masterpieces, along with wooden carved items, tapestry, textiles, carpets and more.
Gulshan Bookstore: Home to a top array of books about Kashmir. Residency Road, Srinagar. 099068 52222
Zaina Kadal Street: Come here for copper utensils, servingware and more.
Kashmir Government Arts Emporium: When in doubt, head for the government-run crafts emporium. It might lack some of the charm of other shops, however the prices are fair, the products are authentic and they have a good range.