I had the pieces I purchased in Agra shipped to me in the US. I did not receive what I ordered. This dispute is resolved. The facts of this time-consuming and stressful situation are below.
When I got the incorrect pieces, I emailed the merchant a few times and got no response. I then filed a complaint with the Agra Tourist Police and with the Agra Tourism Office (government). The proprietor of Unique then began to call and email me.
The proprietor and I agreed on a resolution to the fact that I did not receive what I ordered. He agreed to give me the two incorrect pieces as a gift, re-make the two pieces I ordered and then ship them to me. The proprietor asked me to pay an additional $200USD. I agreed to pay only an additional $55USD for half of the shipping.
The proprietor emailed that the re-made pieces were done. But, then, for three weeks, he did not respond to my emails about whether the pieces had been shipped. I thought he was not going to ship them. After three weeks of no response, he emailed that my pieces were shipped.
The re-made pieces I received were satisfactory enough for me to wire him the $55USD and move on.
If you purchase items here and on a credit card – make sure you have the merchant write all of the details of your order in the original invoice. MasterCard told me my invoice had none of the details they need to dispute the charge. For example, if this merchant says they will polish a piece, get this written in the invoice. (Luckily, I ended up getting the details in a later email from the merchant.)
Also, know that there are two showrooms at their location. The second room is less expensive and has a larger variety of marble works. We were told room 1 is the masters’ works and room 2 is the apprentice works. Had I been shown this second room right away, I would not have made the purchases I did in the first room. (You pay for purchases in room 1 before you are told about room 2).
What to pay: Much more expensive in the first showroom. More reasonable prices for the budget conscious in the second showroom.
No sooner I stepped into this shop, I was greeted with a warm smile and offered a chai. Adil, the store owner, had this genuine personality that impressed on me. I bought a prayer rug and was very satisfied with the purchase.
Haggle! It was one thing I would shy away from but when you are out in these bazaars, vendors are more than willing to give you "special" price-if you dare to ask. Final price could be 1/3 of original and I mean it. Do not buy right away. Give the bazaar shopping ample time. Check other stalls for similar products. If you have a good friend among the locals, bring him/her with you and let him settle the price. End a wonderful shopping spree with a very cold lassi!
Taj mahal is known for exquisite inlay work. The descendants of the makers of the Taj Mahal are still carrying out this work. The beauty about it is that it lasts for ever. Look at the Taj Mahal it is standing their as proudly as it was 354 years ago. The picture you see here is of a Marigold plant. It is a good example of inlay in marble.
What to buy: You could also go for finally carved and intricate Mogul style jewelery . The jewelery is cheap in India as compared to its price in western countries. Also buy fine Persian carpets to decorate your Home Sweet Home.
Not the most creative name, but there’s truth in the advertising. This is a wholesale shop for marble inlay pieces of all shapes and sizes (tabletops, boxes, vases, etc). The quality is top end at a fraction of the cost of comparable pieces at “official” crafts stores. In addition, the proprietor walks you through a demonstration (there’s a small workshop on premises), and explains the materials and the process of making these things. It’s pretty amazing. (It’s part of the sales pitch, but is decidedly lower key than you’ll find elsewhere, and it’s informative. The materials and processes are the same as those used to create the Taj Mahal, and it makes the Taj all the more beautiful.)
Lower cost doesn’t mean cheap – I paid about US$330 for a flat piece the size of a dinner plate – but elsewhere similar items were 2 or 3 times that, or were of noticeably lower quality. The cost is based on the intricacy and fineness of the design rather than the size of the item, so there’s a wide selection of less expensive pieces that are no less masterfully made. They will ship anywhere; taking it with you gets you a decent discount.
The photos here were taken at the store. If a bud looks like it has 8 pieces, it does, and every one of them has been hand shaped and fitted together like a puzzle.
What to buy:
Outside the East gate of Taj there is a long row of shops that sell tons of marble and stone knickknacks. If your baggage weight permits, you may indulge. Be ready to compare shops and bargain hard.
What to pay: Something that can make a nice gift is a complete stone chess set. An 8in by 8in set would come for around Rs350. That's a pretty good price. You will not find it that low even in the other tourist-circuit mecca - Jaisalmer. Don't believe it is marble though. It is stone. Marble chess sets come for around Rs1,500.
Kalakriti, basically a marble inlay workshop, is an amazing place with astonishing marble art and craft. It has other sections as well where one can look out for clothes, wood, marble in wood and jewelery.
They also run a very beautiful dance drama show in the evening, which is based on the life of Shahjehan and Mumtaj. The emperor who made Taj Mahal in the memory of his beloved queen Mumtaj Mahal. This show is replete with Dolby sound, laser lights and great dances.
What to buy: Basic cottage industry of Agra is Marble inlay, also called "Pietra Dura". But one should be aware of fake n counterfeit items as well. The shops near world famous Taj Mahal indulge in selling fake marble inlay, so it is best to avoid them. Usually, they would lure tourists in on the pretext of water or cheap post cards or even cheap marble inlay. But it is really fake that's why it is cheap.
Agra is also known for its leather industry.
What to pay: At Kalakriti the price is fixed. The kind of efforts and semi-precious stones that these guys put into marble makes it bit expansive. But it is worth its price. It is priceless and timeless. Exact art of Taj Mahal can be seen here.
Agra has many local handicraft shops located near to the major attractions such as the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Overall, there are many crafts to choose from, ranging from marble souvenirs (famous products of Agra), traditional cloths, scarfs, religious displays and paintings etc etc.
Important thing is to bargain hard because the prices have been inflated significantly. When you are buying lots of things, you can try asking for even more discounts.
One of the most famous local craft of Agra are the marble crafts made from the same sources of marbles used in building the Taj Mahal. When you visit the marble shops, you will see all sorts of marble crafts ranging from small souvenirs to huge items such as tables. The craftmanship is very good.
If you want to buy marble items, it is better to buy from a reputable shop to reduce changes of fake items (e.g. those made from chalk). Remember to bargain hard because the prices have been inflated many times. For me, I bought a marble display of the Taj Mahal (see photo). Paid about US$15 for it after some bargaining.
Not forgetting, the shop people will bring you on a tour to show you how the marble crafts are being made by the local craftsmen, very insightful indeed :)
After you've visited Agra Fort, maybe the Baby Taj and (of course), the Taj Mahal, you'll understand one thing. Agra = Marble work. There are a plethora of fine shops in the Agra area offering incredibly beautiful marble items, featuring the same precious and semi-precious stone inlay work for which the Taj Mahal is so famous.
We visited a shop called Kalakriti, and it was a classy and reputable place. One of the problems visitors sometimes face when buying higher-end art and crafts in India is to find a shop that is dependable in both their pricing policies and delivery options. Kafakriti, recommended to us by our trusted and terrific guide Rajiv, is such a store.
If you are looking for any marble work, be it a large table top, maybe an end table, or even just small jewelry boxes - all with the impressive local marble and inlay craft in evidence - this is a good place. WE loved the table tops, but were a bit intimidated by the prospect of shipping something home that weighs hundreds of pounds. In the end, we did purchase a lovely little marble jewelry box, inlaid with peacock designs featuring a deep green, blue, gold and red stone(s) patterns. Very nice.
We also took a chance to examine their fine selection of quality jewelry. If you'd like to shop for fine gold and silver rings, necklaces, earrings.... then, you'll have a lot to choose from. In my opinion, the prices were reasonable as well. I'm sure you could find something cheaper somewhere in Agra, but... you wouldn't necessarily have the confidence in dealing with or perhaps having something shipped home with "lesser shop".
As with most of these craft shops, there are areas in which you can observe and appreciate the artisans crafting the treasures being sold. I have to tell you, after seeing the work necessary to inlay marble.... I would have charge 20 times what the store was charging.
Kalakriti is a unit of the Oswal Traders and Travels group.
What to buy: marble treasures, inlay work. Lots of jewelry options, as well as an extensive carpet selection. I found a better selection and price on carpets in Jaipur, later in our trip. (just for your information)
IMHO, THE thing to look at in the Agra area is marble.
What to pay: Depends on what you buy. Table tops are generally $800-1200 US or so. Smaller ones are less. There are small marble items for less. The little box that we bought was something like $80 US or so. Just a little something for our mantel back home.
Agra is also known for its fabulous handicrafts, made of marble and softstone inlay work. The Mughals were great patrons of arts and crafts. I have seen how they fixed the colour stone in the marble stone.
What to buy: I bought a Taj Mahal for gift to my Friend.But in the place you can find many tips of table Tops in small size & Big size, Plate, Flowers stand, jewellery box, Elephant etc.
What to pay: I Pay in Indian Rupee.
Tucked away in the narrow alleys of Sadar Bazaar are some fascinating varieties of shoes sold on the street for a great bargain. I went from the end where there is an icecream stall where the market starts. The first alley is further ahead from a shoe shop called Berry's and is a great place to shop for flip flops. Slightly further down the lane, there is another alley which does not have as many stalls as the others , but it boasts of some really quaint belle shoes with amazing designs. Just have a look at the beauties I bought.
What to buy: Belle shoes particularly, but flip flops are also nice
What to pay: About 5 - 8 USD per pair
This shop looks like a little poky thing from the outside, but once inside you find they produce leather goods of such quality, that they supply the leather jackets for River Island, and have also made a leather trenchcoat for Bill Clinton. Situated 1/2 a km from the taj mahal, they will tailor the clothes (if needed) and deliver them to your hotel room, later that day. I couldn't justify buying the rediculously high priced marble when I saw children fighting over an apple ,but felt my money was well spent here.
What to buy: bags,jackets,waistcoats,wallets,crafts
What to pay: not cheap but leather which feels as comfy as suede, 120 euro for jacket, wasn't lookin for another leather jacket, but it just felt too good.......They gave me free gifts as well (4 fantastic camals with leather saddles & a leather whip)
Other crafts you will find in Agra are beautiful embroidery work and carpets/rugs, brassware, leatherware and jewellery. Better quality goods are best bought at the Government Emporia or the U.P. Tourism souvenir shops.
Other than the Government Emporiums there are other places to check out such as the Sadar Bazaar, Raja-ki-Mandi, Kinari Bazaar and Munro Road. There is also the Shilpagram crafts village who sell marble items direct by the artists.