Going to India or visiting an Indian friend? Check out this guide on Indian gift ideas and gift-giving etiquette.
In India, gift-giving is a form of expressing friendship and affection, and according to their religious belief, a way to move on to the next life. In building a strong relationship, whether friendly or professional, it is essential that one has to know the traditional gift-giving customs practiced by the majority of the Indian people. Many Indians are Hindu, and the Hindus are very traditional and despite the global modernization, they remain faithful to their age-old beliefs.
Although your host may try to understand you for making a mistake and will not appear displeased in front of you, it is best to know what you should and should not do in India.
Jump to gift suggestions: Indian Housewarming Gifts | Gift Ideas for an Indian Friend | Vegetarian Gift Ideas for Indians
What You Should Choose When Giving Gifts to Indians?
Indian Gift Ideas You Should Avoid and General Giving Etiquette
Here are some things you should do when give gifting to Indian people:
- It is not unusual to receive a gift from your host/hostess on your initial visit to their home, so to be prepared to return the gesture, bring flowers or sweets on your visit
- Gifts are usually presented upon arrival at a host’s house, and are given to the head of the household.
- Gifts are offered with both hands.
- If your host drinks, a high-quality bottle of scotch will be fine.
- You can bring gifts for your host’s children, they will find this gesture sweet.
- If you are staying with a family, feel free to ask them what they would like. They don’t find this action offensive.
- When giving money as gifts, make sure it is an odd number, like $11, instead of $10.
- Flowers are always welcome but different flowers have different meanings so just buy roses (as long as they’re not white) to be on the safe side.
- Use bright colors for gift wraps. Green, yellow, and red are considered lucky colors.
Here Are Some Examples of Ideal Gift ideas for Indians:
The Best Indian Housewarming Gifts
Attending a housewarming? Is the host Indian? You better take a look at this list of Indian housewarming gifts since gifting to someone with a different culture can lead to offending the recipient.
Ganesha Wall Lamp Artwork
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This is a beauty! This wall lamp has an Indian-inspired elephant artwork that looks like it will bring in good luck. The hostess might not use its true function (which is to be lit) but it looks very nice to behold, she will have this installed immediately!
According to a commenter named Shridhar:
“In the Indian-art wall lamp, the statue or figure is of Lord Ganesha, the god of knowledge that is worshiped at the beginning of every good thing. An elephant’s face is attached to his body. The statue hanged on the wall is of the god and not the elephant. we can see one tooth on the right side broke’ in the statue which is one of the specialties of the god. the three lamps at the top and three subsequent bells at the bottom of all the lamps reflect an act of worshiping the lord. Thus the entire gift article is not just ‘decorative’ but also religious as it honors the lord with lamps and bells. The light of the lamps and sound of the bell is considered as sacred in India.”
Intricate Decorative Vase
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Decorative vases are very widely accepted Indian gift ideas because they look very sophisticated. Your Indian friend will also love to receive one. This Intricate vase has a bit of Hindi vibe in its beautiful design, thanks to the Madhubani art which was hand-painted at the center of the vase.
Kitchen Spice Rack Set
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Indian cuisine is big on spices which makes sense that a spice rack set makes a great housewarming gift for an Indian home. This set contains twenty jars of spices, all perched in a beautiful revolving rack. Oh, and the set includes a five year free refill, so this makes it even more thoughtful!
A Nature-Inspired Painting
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Home decors come in second as nice Indian housewarming gifts because a new house will need decorations. Try to get nature-inspired paintings like trees, meadows of flowers. One fine decor you can get is this tress painting from gardenia Art. it is 100% hand-painted and it will look very nice hanging on a living room wall or on top of a bed.
A Beanbag Chair
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Furniture is also a nice housewarming gift for your Indian hostess, especially the ones she can display in the living room. One good example is this beanbag chair which can be used when lounging while watching TV or just reading a book. Bring in colorful ones like this huge beanbag chair to add liveliness to the house.
Cast Iron Tea Set
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Tea sets look pretty, whether they are being used to serve tea or just on the kitchen counter as a decor. they break easily, though. Oh, I know. How about this cast iron tea set? They look very nice and rustic and will not break if your hostess drops it accidentally.
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One of the best housewarming gifts anyone can get is a kitchen appliance. oh, why not get them an espresso maker? Your hostess will be happy to receive such a convenient machine for their daily caffeine needs.
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Be careful about this. Before bringing wine, make sure the host or hostess drinks liquor because many Indians do not drink. If they drink, though, wine is very much accepted. Sweet wine? Even more so.
Indian Gift Ideas for a Friend
Indians can be quite easy to please as they are so appreciative. As long as you stay clear of taboo gift ideas (check the guide below) you are clear! Here are some gift ideas for Indian friends, boyfriends, or girlfriends.
Sweet Fruit Chip Snacks
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Snacks that can be enjoyed solo or shared are going to be perfect Indian gift ideas. It is even more perfect if it came from your home country and is made of fruits or veggies as many Indians are vegetarians. This sweet fruit chip snack is delicious, vegetarian and they come in colors that are considered lucky in Indian traditions.
Vegetarian Gift Basket
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Most of Indians are vegetarians and one of the most accepted Indian gift ideas is food. Put those together and you are sure that this vegetarian gift basket will be appreciated by your Indian friend! This vegetarian gift basket has cranberry chevre with cinnamon, basiron pesto, kerrygold dubliner, mini toasts, artisan blistered Virginia peanuts, trouvillais, artichoke tapenade, olive tapenade. All of those are very vegetarian and very delish.
Ganesha's Sweet Tooth
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Children’s books are a great gift idea to an Indian party hostess. It is even considered super sweet to think about the children first before the giftee themselves. This book, Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth is a colorful book that tells the story of how Ganesha helped writing the Mahabarata. Super cute book for little Indian babies.
Ramayana: Divine Loophole
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This book is a carefully drawn rendition of the classic Ramayana. The fresh, whimsical style of the illustrations would be a great way to teach literature to Indian children.
A Nice Smelling Cologne
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Colognes make excellent gifts for Indians! Colognes as gifts show that you care and this will remind them of you whenever they wear their new favorite cologne. One great cologne that I like is this 4711 cologne. This is unisex, so the gender of teh recipient does not matter much.
Gift Ideas for a Vegetarian Indian
If you are looking for more food ideas for a vegetarian Indian, here are some ideas, aside from the ones mentioned above in this list.
Vegetarian Gift Box
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This huge pack of vegetarian snacks is one good food gift to give a vegetarian Indian friend. This contains various snacks, including cookies, popcorn, nuts, juices, and chocolates. This is perfect for those who are in dorms, road trips, working at home, as well as those who are pregnant. Delicioso!
Apple Cide Vinegar Gummies
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If they are pursuing weight loss or a fit and healthy lifestyle, a bottle apple cider vinegar gummy candies are a sure-fire way they will eat your gift! The Gummies virtually ahve no calories and have no sugar in them. It is Vegan-friendly and perfect for those who follow a strict diet!
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Banana chips! These are hickory flavored and this goes so well with the natural sweetness of the dried banana! This is vegan and paleo-friendly, so those who are following a diet regimen won’t have to worry!
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If chomping sugar is not a problem with the recipient, then you should get them these super sweet and super delicious dried mangoes! This is an export from the Philippines, which is known for their sweet delicacies. This is a bestseller!
What Should You Avoid When Giving Gifts to Indians
Indians strongly believe in karma so the practice of gift-giving must always be returned. Avoid giving expensive gifts for the recipient will feel obliged to return the favor and may cause embarrassment.
- Gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver. If you receive a wrapped gift, set it aside until the giver leaves.
- Never present a gift using only your left hand, the left hand is considered “unclean” in India.
- Never give anything made of leather. Cows are very sacred for the Hindus and giving a leather item is very insulting.
- Most Indians don’t drink alcoholic beverages so unless you are sure that your host drinks, don’t bring wine.
- Many Indians are vegetarians so when bringing food, make sure that it is free from any meat and even egg products.
- Don’t wrap gifts in black or white, which are considered unlucky colors.
- Never offer Frangipanis. These flowers are associated with funerals.
- The Indian people are very conservative and they generally don’t appreciate expensive gifts so keep your presents simple
- Any form of jewelry is seen as an intimate gift. Women and family members may exchange jewelry but gifts such as these coming from a male may reflect a different intention.
- Business gifts are not very popular in India since this is seen by the majority as a form of bribery. If you really want to bring something for your business associate, a souvenir or a delicacy from your home country will do.
Here are some examples of gifts that you should avoid giving in India.
- Leather goods.
- Meat products or food with meat or egg in it.
- Alcohol if the recipient does not drink.
- Gifts wrapped in white or black
Gift Giving Occasions in India
- Diwali – or the festival of lights is the most celebrated holiday in India. Diwali is a five-day celebration filled with family gatherings and gift-giving. Sweets, clothes, and ghee (clarified butter) are the most common gifts during this event.
- Rakhi – also known as “Raksha Bandhan”. It is a special occasion that celebrates the bond of love between a brother and a sister. Rakhi means a “bond of protection” so a ritual is observed on a full moon day on which sisters tie bracelets on their brothers’ left wrist, and receive a promise of protection in return.
- Housewarming – if you are invited to a housewarming party in India, bring bread, spices, sweets, candies, or flowers.
- Birthday – since birthday parties are more popular among Hindu children than adults, toys, candies, and new clothes are the most common gifts.
- Christmas – Christmas for Indians is not a religious event but more of a fun affair. Gifts and food are also exchanged among family members and friends.
- Wedding – cash gifts are most accepted at weddings, though gold and jewelry are sometimes given by relatives and close friends. Money gifts should always end in “1’ like $101, $1001, or $111.
- Baby Showers – one of the most popular gifting occasions. Expectant mothers are presented with jewelry which they will later pass on to her baby. Mothers expecting a baby girl often receive baby saris (traditional Indian dresses), while others also receive money and Hindu statues as gifts.
Looking for More Gift Giving Around the World Guides?
Check out our Philippines and Mexican Gift Guides articles.
Hello, We are currently a business in which a new Indian Restaurant is opening next door. Is it appropriate to give them a Congratulatory gift? If so, what is appropriate. We don’t want to insult them. The restaurant owners are both male. Our business is a salon where only women work.
My son had offend our India neighbors. How can I make amends. I’ve apologized but it hadn’t amended our friendship. What can I do?
What did your son do?
So if my Indian friends are vegetarians can they have anything that might have butter in it
Yes butter is considered as veg
I’m staying at a hotel for a prolonged. Of time and it’s run by a really nice indian family; I’m here because of a domestic violence abuse where I was in severe danger my life was in grave danger. They were extremely nice to me and made me feel so welcome and from day one ask me if there is anything that I needed and were totally, dating to me even during the epidemic! I’m not sure if they’re Hindi or Buddhist or what their religion is all I know is that they’re extremely kind and gracious and such good warm kind people and I really want to do something to show my appreciation, and I was wondering because I’m not sure what their specific beliefs are if maybe making some origami marigolds and coloring them red yellow and green putting them on a piece of art for maybe their lobby might be something nice? Or maybe something else I know marigolds kind of transcend a lot of different beliefs. I for one was raised in an all girls boarding school at Buddhist monastery; and we were taught all the religions of the world which is why I have so much confusion about what religion they could because there so many sub-sect religions in India.I really appreciate some feedback because I would love to do something to show my appreciation to these very kind people
I’m kind of in the same situation accept mine has nothing to do with domestic violence, (I’m sorry about your situation and hope all has worked out for the best for you)I’m unsure about their religion as well but feel that my wife and I want to do something special for them as well, have you cone across any suggestions that I could possibly borrow from you??
What to give an indian business owner in appreciation to allow me to advertise my business in front of his store, flyers?
My husband befriended a 31 yr Indian National. What are the expectation from this male that my husband would buy him things, take him on trips, give him credit cards due to his bad credit and not have to repay for his charges?
My gut says I don’t understand the culture. What is the expectation of buying and paying for everything. Thousands and thousands of dollars spent and not reciprocated?
Correction my husband says I don’t understand the culture???
I would say there is something fishy going on. Although my Indian relatives are very giving/generous, your husband sounds a bit extreme. I don’t want to put labels on this but if it were me, I would be concerned
Be concerned!!! This relationship does NOT ride on Indian etiquette, as they are a very conservative culture and would never take such gifts without returning equal gifts in exchange. It is considered insulting to give expensive gifts where the recipient couldn’t afford to reciprocate in return.
I have met a sr. couple which frequents a restaurant that i help manage. They wife asked for my phone number several months ago. Saying she would like to talk sometime. Two days ago she called me, but i missed the call and did not answer. Yesterday she called again and told me she would like to see me. She explained she has been going through chemo therapy for past eight months. She invited me to her home at 4pm. I accepted her invite, i did not want to insult her. I feel like i would like to take her a gift but am at a loss as to what it should be. Would it be acceptable to take her a small pot of minature red roses and maybe some dried fruit. Would it be offensive if i took home made cookies or cake.
Guys just sharing, I’ve found this interesting!
I clean homes for a living and recently started cleaning for a family. The father is from India & his mother recently came to live with he & his wife in the U. S. (the house I clean). I am moving out of state and told the wife and decided to tell the elderly mother in law goodbye as she was always so kind to me. When I did, she gave me an item of her clothing. I was confused and didn’t know if it was rude to refuse a gift so I accepted it thankfully. Was this the right thing to do or should I have gratefully declined taking the clothing item? Thank you if you answer!
Yes, you did right thing to accept the gift. In India, gifting gently used or their own stuff to household helper is not considered rude. I can understand if you have felt odd receiving her used stuff as a gift but it is probably because she was not aware of customs followed in USA.
My boss is leaving to have surgery, he’s been teaching bout his culture, we have became close friends what gift is appropriate for this occasion?
I have an Indian surgeon doctor, a genius who saves lives everday.
What gift can I get him to show my gratitude, and let him know how appreciated he is?
An affluent Hindu family is opening their home to host a fundraiser party for the nonprofit I work for. They have been very kind and more than accommodating. There are 4 generations living in their mansion, from 80 to 5! What would be a gift our organization could give them to show our appreciation?
An Indian woman that I recently met at a meditation course has invited some of the ladies from our course to her home for light snacks and meditation. I would like to bring her some red tulips or roses. Is one more appropriate than the other?
I know that red is considered a lucky color.
My boss just announced that his wife is pregnant with their first child. They are Indian and I would love to give them a traditional gift. What would you suggest?
My son is marrying a Hindu young lady, first generation Indian American, I would like to know if there is a traditional gift that is suggested for a mother-in-law to daughter-in-law.
It depends on how Indian she is, if she is traditional and still bound to Indian culture. I would recommend the mother in law to gift a Mangal Sutra(via her Son ) and get it tied around her neck after rituals of Marriage.
You could also gift her gold jewellery. Hindu women love gold jewellery. It could be necklace or gold bangles.
You could also gift her a saree, or an idol of Radha-Krishna but it depends on her life style.
As a last resort, you could gift her cash as rightly pointed out in the article in the following denominations( as these are considered auspicious) 101,501, 1100 , 5100 dollars etc
My son who is American is marrying a girl from India and is having a Maharashtrian wedding. There will be a wedding in American and then a week later in Mumbai. As the mother of the groom can you advise me what gifts for the bride and her parents would be acceptable and expected? Thank you
My boss keeps giving my daughter £5 and a meal with lots of spices eye in it. I have 4 children but she’s the youngest so I presume that’s Why? He’s never said why he does it only can I make sure she eats it! It’s heavily spiced so I’ve tried but she’s having none of it! If she won t eat it should I refuse it altogether?
Yes, there is a difference between Indian culture and remaining world. Indian also use flowers and fruit as a gifts. Even it is very common in India, when they visited to hospital to see their relatives, they bring fruits as a get well soon gift.
I gave iPhone to my coworker she returned it back to me why
There are many assumptions in this post. And certain assumptions are offensive; certain assumptions funny. Not all Indians are Hindus and Christmas is indeed a very religious festival not a fun affair.
This is a reply to the post you left in Oct 2017..
I have a neighbor that has just had her baby today. I don’t know this family very well but was wondering what my family may be able to give them and how to give a gift properly.
Thank you very much for your time :)
What kind of gift would you give a veterinarian who is opening a new clinic for a congratulations on their business. Very nice people but not sure what kind of present to give him
I have a Hindu coworker would it be appropriate to give her a Christmas gift and if so what would be a good gift
When giving gifts , Indians do not like to receive or give sharp gifts like set of knives or scissors etc. It is believed that doing so will create a rift in the relationship or be completely end.
Due to our live aboard boat being repaired we have stayed three months at a hotel where the owners are Indian and I wish to give them a gift for their kindness and hospitality during our stay. There is a traditional sweets and spices store locally, is this appropriate as a semi business gift?
Hello. My son-in-law is an Indian – Tamil. His sister is going to have a baby. I usually knit baby jackets, bootees etc. as a gift. Would it be offensive to the mum to be if the baby garments were knitted in white. Is there a more preferable colour?
Not at all! Many new parents appreciate receiving clothes for their newborns as they aren’t exactly inexpensive and children outgrow them too quickly…they usually prefer if it were a size or two bigger
Color should be bright like red, yellow, green, orange for the babies, parents would like it more. white or black are not preferred.
Hello Kit. My future Indian in-laws will be visiting me for the wedding. What should I give them to welcome them for their first visit to my country (Taiwan) and express my gratitude to them? Thank you !
How about artisan goods that are vegetarian friendly? Examples are wine, jellies, dried fruits. Spice sets would also be nice.
Hello! When is it appropriate to give a Ganesh or an elephant ornament?
We are leaving in 9 days for India…our daughter is marrying a Kashmiri fellow, whom we adore. We’ve met his family. They have a lot of precious and not precious jewelry and offered to loan me some of the not-precious for the wedding. I declined as I’m allergic….I think they understood, as our daughter is too!
But what are we expected to show up in India with for them, and for the uncles who have helped, enormously, to put this big wedding together? I keep staring at huge boxes of Godiva (very costly!) but don’t know if my suitcase will allow it.
Hi! I’m a Gujarati. My husband feels it’s bad luck to give shoes as birthday present
Is this true?
The Chinese do believe that, so maybe he picked that up from a Chinese colleague.
Giving shoes as a gift are not preferred in India.
These are really great ideas and a great blog as well. I must also recommend Candeberg LED candles as an addition to the Christmas gifts ideas.
Kit! I’m so happy to have found this article! We live in an area where many Indians are here on working Visas and I have made friends with some of them. My daughter has known these 2 sisters for 3 years now and we are going to their birthday party. We got both girls some Barbies and I always like to pick dolls that look similar to the child I’m buying for (not the traditional blue eyes & blonde hair). I found this great eye doctor career Barbie for the oldest, and found “Barbies of the World- India Barbie” for the younger girl. Is that offensive? She looks like a beautiful Indian “princess” with clothing & jewelry inspired by India. But now I’m having second thought! I’d appreciate your input!
Not offensive at all! That is a really fine gift as it is. Toys are very much accepted as children’s gift, even encouraged. Have fun!
Hello. I wish to present an Indian coworker (female) with a gift for her birthday. Nothing edible. What would you suggest please? I was looking at business card holders with a Hindu emblem or beautiful scarf. Thanks.
The scarf sounds great. Also, please check out the item I suggested to Jacquie Sequin. You might also think it is beautiful.
I am invited to a friends mom birthday. the mom is from out of country. they are indian. What should i get her as a gift. I want to give her something as I quite like her. She is such a beautiful person.
How about this Hindu-inspired coaster set?
I have a sick Indian auntie that I will be visiting in hospital tomorrow – can you advise an appropriate gift to celebrate her culture and acknowledge her condition.
How about food? Bring a good vegetarian food, like a vegetarian lagna. Khichdi is a traditional Indian comfort food. Vegetarian, too.
A work colleague (not someone I would consider a “close” friend but a friend nonetheless) has invited me to the party for his son’s first birthday. Are there any traditional gifts that are good for a first birthday and are there anything (other than those you have already listed) that I should avoid?
Thank you :)
Nothing else. Toys are always appreciated.
Kit, I need some help!! I’m living I’m a hotel and the owners (also the managers of the hotel) are extremely sweet, caring and giving individuals! My wife works in the construction/plumbing business and often comes across extra doors, sinks, mirrors, medicine cabnets ect… Brian had said once to us that he needed two doors for a couple of the hotel rooms he owns as previous “tenants” had broken them, we immediately went to our storage and got them out and brought them to him, he asked us how much money we wanted for the doors, I explained to him we wanted nothing, he could have them at no charge, we were just happy to be of help in any way possible. We had also given him a small sink with the cabinet below attached to it and a medicine cabnet as well, free of course!! We expect nothing in return as I said before we are happy to help in any way possible today his wife had to walk by we said hello and good morning to each other she was wearing a light pink shirt which is my favorite color I told her I like her shirt and she asked me if I needed it and insisted that if I needed it she would go wash it and give it to me. I explained to her that i didn’t need it and thanked her for her consideration anyway. My wife and I are wanting you something for both Brian as well as his wife just to say we really appreciate the hospitality, caringness, and all the compassion they’ve showed us, we’re unsure of their culture but I know that the lady comes out in the morning faces the sun takes off her shoes and prays… I don’t want to give them any type of food as in our culture that’s being seen as they are poor what would be a great gift to give them both to show them our appreciation?? Please help ASAP
My daughter has 3 children in her daycare who are from India. The children’s mother is a very kind woman. I have some clothing from India that I would like to give to the mother but I do not want to offend her in any way. Would I be out of line in doing so?
Hello, Shirley! I just asked a friend who is Indian. She said to go ahead. There are no bad associations with receiving used clothes from another person. Well, unless the recipient is a baby. Hope this helps!
Is it normal for indians to give an used clothes as a gift or object to a friend and then after a time, ask to give it back because they regreat it. I´ve been hurt about this, because in my culture that is considered as bad taste and skinflint, but is the second time that happens with an indian friend, so I really dont know how to take it.
I think it is bad etiquette for any culture to ask to take back something that was given as a gift. It is your clothes now, so you decide if you want to give it back or not. Always be polite, tho.