Pondicherry (and more so, Auroville) is a great getaway to relax, get in a zen mood and generally do nothing. But it’s also a great place to shop. With most of the major shopping places centered around Mission Street, you’re sure to score some amazing indie designer wear, home decor and even export surplus. So, here’s a handy guide for all you incurable shopaholics.
The Wanderer’s Guide To Shopping In Pondicherry: From Indie Labels To Export Surplus
Janaki is a project to promote conscious and sustainable living. This is a huge store with two floors full of apparel, pottery, aromatherapy products, hair, and skincare products. Janaki is also home to Upasana, a design project from the heart of Pondicherry in Auroville. Following on the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, Upasana creates sustainable fashion and includes the weaving communities of Varanasi and the fisherwoman affected by the 2004 tsunami in their work. While they do have a wide range of products, we’ve got our eyes on their indigo sarees and hand-painted skirts!
The biggest store in Pondicherry’s busiest street (Mission Street), Casablanca is home to many independent designer labels and is one of the famous stores for shopping among the tourists. Check out for clothes that are made out of natural fabrics for men, women, and children at this multi-stoery store. Apart from clothing, they also stock up on home decor, stationery, and bags from Hidesgin and Holi. As you head to the billing counter, shop for chocolates by Mason and Co. and candies for you and your little one. Don't forget to pick up souvenirs for your friends and family from Casablanca.
Cluny Embroidery Centre
If you’re especially inclined towards vintage handwork, be prepared to fall in love with the exquisite embroidery work done by the women at the Cluny Embroidery Centre. Cluny Embroidery Centre is run by sisters from the Cluny Convent and also has rooms to rent out to guests. Get your hands on classic French-Colonial embroidery of delicately cross-stitched floral patterns done on tablecloths, bed spreads, dinner sets, bath towels, table napkins and bed covers. Bonus — you get a taste of French heritage as the Centre is housed in a heritage building that was built in 1774.
Finally! Apparel with traditional block printing and dyeing techniques without the exorbitant price tags. Anokhi sells ethnic Indian women’s cotton wear with traditional block prints from Jaipur. They’re known for preserving Ajrakh, Bagru, Balotra, and many other temple printing styles. Everything is stocked based on colour and design, so you can find exactly what you want. All you have to do is pick your size!
The Cotton House
The Cotton House is a hidden gem and might be a little hard to find. It might look like they don’t have much but set all doubts aside. As soon as you enter, you’re bound to be surprised at the range of home decor they have. Curtains, bedcovers, tablecloths, cushion covers, and pillowcases made with pure cotton, as well as mixed cotton, can be found in abundance so you’ll definitely be leaving with some one-of-a-kind fabric gold.
If you’ve been pining after exclusive Auroville products like we have while roaming around the streets of Pondicherry, Kalki is your final stop. Get non-leather footwear, hand-painted silk clothes, incense, oil, ceramics and perfumed candles, all eco-friendly and sustainable. Oh, they also sell an exclusive range of natural home fragrances called Maroma. Kalki is also touted as the best shop in Pondicherry for Auroville products, so stock up lest you don’t make that next trip you mean to!
Ah, export surplus shopping — everyone’s guilty pleasure. Titanic stocks surplus goods from original manufacturers of brands like UCB, GAP, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. Don’t write this store off as an outlet for cheap knock-offs. Once you enter, you’ll find that the place is quite big with all kinds of casual apparel for men and women. They also have a dedicated floor that sells apparel on discounts.
Auro Wood Works
Auro Wood Works located in the heart of the city (MG Road) is all about beautiful, handmade artifacts. They create pen stands, bowls, and pieces resembling Hindu gods and, more surprisingly, paintings of Picasso! All the pieces are made out of oak, portia, jack and teak wood. They also ship orders to any place of your choice, so you can unleash your inner art hound without worrying about all the weight you’d have to carry back.
Hidesign Flagship Store
Hidesign, the Indian brand of leather goods that all of us (and our parents as well) love so much was originally founded in Pondicherry. All their handcrafted goods are available at the Hidesign Flagship store in Pondicherry and they also have a cafe on the top floor. Lesser known is the Hidesign seconds store where you can grab some heavily discounted bags as well as impeccably tailored jackets. Think Wallets, handbags, leather belts and even shoes! It can't get better than this, can it?