Punjab Souvenirs mean much more to me than other souvenirs as they come wrapped in oodles of nostalgia. Each of them takes me back to some childhood memory, some folktale, some folk song or sometimes just the age that was simple.
On the recent visit to Patiala, while walking through the old lanes during the Patiala Heritage Walk or while eating the street food, it all came back.
Writing this post on Punjab Souvenirs has been a nostalgic walk down the memory lane, a time that seems to belong to another lifetime. Eating and Dressing well dominate the culture of Punjab and that no doubt reflects in the souvenirs you buy in Punjab.
I hope you enjoy shopping for these lovely souvenirs from Punjab.
Punjab Souvenirs to Buy
Phulkari is the traditional embroidery of Punjab. It literally means floral work. This embroidery is usually done on the coarse thick cotton fabric called Khaddar. The base cloth is usually in dull brown color. The threads used are always bright colored like magenta, orange, green, yellow or red. I do not recall the use of black and blue in Phulkari.
Bagh is a style of Phulkari where the whole fabric is covered with threads, the base is not at all visible. I have mostly seen geometric patterns on phulkari. Phulkari is mentioned in many folk songs of Punjab. Some even say that Indian scriptures that were primarily written in undivided Punjab also mention Phulkari but I do not have verification of this.
Phulkari was fondly worn on auspicious occasions like weddings and celebrations. In fact, when a daughter was born in the family – women used to start making Phulkaris, to give her. It was an art form that was made by the women and for the women primarily.
Traditionally, it was Phulkari dupattas that were worn. Today you can buy Dupattas, Saris, Salwar Kameez in Phulkari. Bedspreads are popular too and that is what I bought.
If there is one souvenir that you have to buy in Punjab – it has to be Phulkari.
Leather shoes with bright embroidery on them are called Punjabi Juttis. In Punjab, they are called Patiala Jutti or Kasuri Jutti. Kasur is a town in western Punjab. These handmade shoes are made of hard leather. I remember wearing them a lot in my college days. First few days you have to wear them with cotton or they hurt the skin. Probably these are the kind of shoes that gave us phrases like – Only the wearer knows where the shoe hurts.
You can find them in the subtle base color of leather – both the light and dark shades, mostly preferred by men. For women, they come in all vibrant colors. Many buy them different colors to go with outfits.
Punjabi Salwar Kameez
I think every woman in this country wears Salwar Kameez. In recent times, it is the default dress for working women across different strata of society. What better place to buy some dress material than bazaars of Amritsar or Patiala.
There is such a wide range to look for that you can be easily lost in them.
In Patiala, try going to Adalat Bazaar or AC Market for Punjabi Suit Shopping. In Amritsar, you can go to Kapra Bazaar for it. Although you will Punjabi suits just about anywhere in Punjab. What you would love about these shops is the way shopkeepers would show you, trying to judge what you would like based on what you are wearing and what catches your eye.
Paranda is a bright tassel-like adornment that women wear at the end of their braids. I do not see it very much in use these days. It is one of those things from the past that is losing its relevance. Well, the good news is that you still find it in the bazaars of Patiala and Amritsar.
I would buy a Paranda or Parandi for nostalgia as well as for preserving it while it lasts.
Punjabi Pagri or Headgear
Pagri or the Turbans that the Sardars wear is a long piece of dyed cotton cloth. It is available in various all possible colors from white that is usually worn by the elderly to the bright colors worn by younger men.
You can use this roughly 8 meters of cloth to tie a Pagri for occasions or for a change. You can also use this cotton fabric for making Dupattas or any other creative use that you can think of.
The Pankhi or Pakhi as it is called in Punjab is a small hand-held fan. In good old days, women used to fondly make their own fans. They would wrap the cloth around a frame that would be embroidered, or you could say it used to be custom designed for each. It was like a signature accessory each woman had.
You can still find some of these in lanes of old bazaars. I spotted a few in Patiala. I am sure you get them in Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar as well.
Ludhiana is known for its woolen and hosiery products. What better place than to buy your woolens especially hand-woven ones. Your choices include sweaters, shawls, mufflers, blankets and even carpets.
In Amritsar, head to Hall Bazaar for your woolen shopping.
Food Souvenirs from Punjab
Amritsar’s Papad and Dal Vadiyan are very famous. In fact, there are folk songs that talk about them. It is a perfect gift to pick up for those who love Punjabi food – and who doesn’t love Punjabi Food.
Papads come in all possible varieties but they are mostly made of Urad Daal. The most popular is the one with black pepper. Vadiyan comes in different shapes and sizes. They can be cooked in different ways.
In Amritsar you can buy Papad, Wadi at Papad Wadiyan Bazaar or Manjit Mandi.
Dry Fruit Gur & Local Gur or Jaggery
We all know that Gur is made in small-scale units close to sugarcane fields in Punjab. Gur or jaggery is an integral part of Punjabi food. People pop up a bit of Gur after meals that keep the throat clear and clean.
In Patiala, I discovered a dry fruit Gur. It is a solid block of jaggery studded with all kinds of dry fruits. I loved eating this. I highly recommend it as an authentic, local and healthy souvenir from Punjab for foodies.
Punjabi Achaar or Pickles
As someone born in Punjab but living away from it, I miss my Guthli Wala Aam ka Achaar. Every trip to Punjab, Punjab pickles is something that always comes back with me. Some of the evergreen pickles I recommend from Punjab are – Mango, filled red chili and Lime Pickle.
In winter you can pick Gobhi Gajar or Cauliflower and Carrot pickle which is kind of seasonal.
Remember Pickle recipes in India get as local as they can. So, there is nothing like an Indian pickle – it is always the local variety. Pick up this Punjab Souvenir to spice up your meals.
If you do not live too far from Amritsar, you can always pack some Kulchas for those back home. Believe me, they will bless you.
Soot Ka Laddu
This is something you get in Patiala. This is my personal favorite though not yet so popular that people line up at Pammi Pooriyan Wala or Gopal Sweets.
Punjab is home to Sikhs and you can find Gurudwaras everywhere. Your Punjab trip will never be complete without visiting a Gurudwara. Outside most gurudwaras, you would find shops selling the items that a Sikh is supposed to wear. Some of these can be great souvenirs from the state.
Kara or the Bracelet
Kara or a Solid Iron or Steel bracelet is worn by all Sikhs. I think it makes a very spiritual gift for those who connect with the energy of the Gurudwaras. It is also easy to carry souvenirs as gifts, as a bracelet can be worn by most people. It is believed that it protects you.
Kanda is a religious symbol of Sikhs. This can be bought as a stand-alone showpiece or as a locket. This souvenir would keep you connected to Punjab in more than one way, as it belongs uniquely to the land of five rivers.
If you like books like me buy the small pocketbooks called Gutkas – these are everyday prayer books. Some of the books are – Nitnem, Sukhmani Sahib & Japuji Sahib. You can, of course, pick your copy of Guru Granth Sahib – the most spiritual of all souvenirs. However, they mostly come in Gurmukhi Script – the script used for writing the Punjabi language.
Mini Swords & Daggers
You will get nicely carved Swords and Daggers in small sizes. They are meant for use but only for the symbolic purpose.
Cool 1469 Products
1469 is a modern contemporary company that sells Punjab themed products. 1469 is the date of birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who is considered the founder of Sikh Dharma.
I love walking into their showrooms that are full of cool products that are a quirky combination of tradition and modernity. Incidentally, their store is in Delhi at Janpath. I am not too sure about their other showrooms.
They are the best place to but T-shirt with something written in Gurmukhi.
So, which one would you pick on your next trip to Punjab?