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Shopping overload: 6 hard-core India markets
Trading diamonds on the street, getting doused in sandalwood perfume, drowning in bangles and saris. India's best bazaars aren't for novice shoppers
Indian bazaars are the best sensory guides to the country's diversity.
The smells, colors, the sense of organized chaos, the new vying for attention with the old ... it all makes India's bazaars enthralling and overwhelming experiences.
This is the kind of shopping where every buy has a story.
Some shops are holes-in-the-wall teeming with bargain hunters.
Then there are the street vendors fighting for space with cars, trucks, carts, elephants and horses.
Amid all this there are treasures to be found, food that can overpower the senses and a cacophony of noise creating a sort of music of the bazaars.
Johari Bazaar, Jaipur: Ultimate ladies' market
Johari Bazaar in Jaipur is spread around Hawa Mahal, the iconic Jaipur building erected for the women of the royal family.
Now, modern princesses are attracted to the area for bargains on fabric and jewelry.
Badi Chauper is the largest square in the old city. From here you can walk toward Purohit Ji Ka Katla (adjacent to the Hawa Mahal) and experience a labyrinth of lanes exploding with color and chaos.
Tiny shops are loaded with brocades, gold-embroidered skirts and glittering saris. Women dressed in fuchsia, tangerine and neon pink haggle over the prices with turbaned shopkeepers.
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Out on the main street is the jewelry bazaar, Gopal Ji Ka Rasta, which is lined with shops selling silver and Kundan jewelery.
At LMB you can grab a creamy saffron lassi or walk straight down Hawa Mahal for some of the best kulfi in India at Pandit Kulfi.
Johari Bazaar is partly closed on Sunday. LMB is at Johari Bazaar, +91 141 2565 844; Pandit Kulfi is at 110-111 Hawa Mahal Road.
Sardar Market, Jodhpur: The power of pink
Jodhpur's Sardar Market has hundreds of stalls selling everything imaginable and unimaginable. It's located beneath a 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort looming on the hilltop above.
The market is full of locals and Bishnoi villagers hunting for bargains. Favorite buys include trinkets, bangles, spices and a traditional fabric called Lehriya, which is best in Jodhpur.
Like nowhere else in the country, women here are dressed in hundreds of hues of pink. The color is practically redefined here: shocking pink, baby pink, fluorescent pink. Men sport pink turbans with mighty mustaches.
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A drink at the hotel RAAS, next to Sardar Market, completes the day. This is one of the best hotel locations in India, cradled in the lap of Mehrangarh Fort.
Sardar Market is easy to find, just next to the clock tower near Kunj Behari Temple.
RAAS, Tunvarji ka Jhalra, Makrana Mohalla, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India +91 291 263 6455, raasjodhpur.com
Chor Bazaar, Mumbai: Crowded treasure hunt
Looking for curios, retro pieces, Bollywood posters or an antique camera? They can all be found in the crammed lanes of Mumbai's Chor Bazaar, which literally translates as "Thieves Market."
In the heart of South Mumbai near Bhendi Bazaar, Chor Bazaar is one of the oldest markets in the country. Its more than 150 shops sell relics from the past.
Your haggling skills will be tested here -- the shopkeepers love to talk.
Many are in no hurry and will chat at length about the history of the bazaar. Many say it used to be called Shor Bazaar ("noisy market"), but due to British mispronunciation it became Chor Bazaar.
Chor Bazaar is open 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m., closed on Friday.
Mahidharpura Diamond Market, Surat: Open-air gemming
Famed for its diamond polishing and cutting industry, Surat is sometimes called the Antwerp of the East.
In the back lanes of Mahidharpura Diamond Market, stones worth millions of rupees change hands everyday, traded right on streets.
You can find all kinds of diamonds here, from big prized ones to scraps and powders.
Mahidharpura has a festive atmosphere, typified by groups of men huddled over packets of diamonds debating price, quality and source.
Trust plays the most important role when trading. The trick is to bring enough cash and take to diamond shopping as though you were doing the groceries.
New Delhi street shopping: New glory in an old city
The crowds and chaos can be a hassle, but if you're willing to accept less-than-ideal conditions, you can walk through the history-soaked bazaars of old Delhi under the looming presence of Jama Masjid and the Red Fort.
Every street has a specialty, from jewelry to spices to textiles and even wedding cards. The best part: there are endless of local street delicacies to sample on the walk.
Start from Digambara Jain Temple and make your way to Dariba Kalan Road, which is full of silver jewelry shops. At the end of the lane you'll find the best attar shop in Delhi: Gulabsingh Johrimal.
Kinari Bazaar is to the left and behind Gurudwara Sisganj -- it specializes in threads, bead embellishments and wedding paraphernalia.
At Paratha Wali Gal you can grab near-perfect mint or cheese parathas with a chilled lassi.
A rickshaw ride from here will take you to Chawri Bazaar, a wholesale market with paper and metal items.
Gulabsingh Johrimal is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m-7 p.m. at 320 Dariba Kalan, Metro Chandni Chowk, +91 11 2327 1345.
Kannauj markets: The scented road
In Kannauj, your nose may lead you to Jain Street. It's lined with ancient perfume houses selling exquisite attar, an Indian perfume.
Kannauj is a small, dusty town on the banks of the Ganges. It's famed as the capital of the Harsha Vardhan empire, as well as the perfume capital of India.
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Here, more than 650 perfumeries churn out traditional attar using age-old methods.
Endless variations of perfume are tagged according to the seasons -- it's OK to sample as many as you like.
Our favorite is the mitti attar, as well as bottles of freshly made rose water.