Indian Gift Giving 101: Traditions, Customs, Do’s and Don’ts


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. The Hindus are very traditional and despite the global modernization, they remain faithful to their age-old beliefs.

Looking for Indian housewarming gifts? Check this new blog post for a list.

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.

What You Should Choose When Giving Gifts to Indians?

General Indian Gift Giving Gift Giving Etiquette

Presents wrapped in green is considered good luck!

Presents wrapped in green is considered good luck!

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.

So, here are some examples of ideal gifts for Indians.

  • Sweets – in India, you can never go wrong with sweets on any occasion.
  • Electronic gadgets
  • Knives, disposable razors
  • Perfumes and toiletries
  • Household Items
  • Toys and books (for children)

What Should You Avoid When Giving Gifts to Indians?

Indian Gift Giving

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.

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
  • Gifts wrapped in white or black

Indian Housewarming Gifts

Indian housewarming gifts follow the general rules of gift giving in India. If you are looking to buy housewarming gifts for an Indian host or hostess, you can check out this post we recently made.

Business Gift Giving Custom In India

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.

Indian Gift Giving TraditionsGift 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 in 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 she 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.



About the Author

Kit K

Kit Kalagayan is a content writer for many blogs and websites. He runs Gift Canyon and does most of the content and administrative work.



22 thoughts on “Indian Gift Giving 101: Traditions, Customs, Do’s and Don’ts

  • March 22, 2017 at 2:17 pm
    Permalink

    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?

    Reply
  • February 10, 2017 at 9:47 am
    Permalink

    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 !

    Reply
    • February 10, 2017 at 12:32 pm
      Permalink

      How about artisan goods that are vegetarian friendly? Examples are wine, jellies, dried fruits. Spice sets would also be nice.

      Reply
  • February 2, 2017 at 5:56 pm
    Permalink

    Hello! When is it appropriate to give a Ganesh or an elephant ornament?

    Thanks

    Reply
  • February 1, 2017 at 12:05 am
    Permalink

    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.
    Help!

    Reply
  • January 29, 2017 at 12:05 am
    Permalink

    Hi! I’m a Gujarati. My husband feels it’s bad luck to give shoes as birthday present
    Is this true?

    Reply
    • January 29, 2017 at 8:54 am
      Permalink

      The Chinese do believe that, so maybe he picked that up from a Chinese colleague.

      Reply
  • December 18, 2016 at 10:59 am
    Permalink

    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.

    Reply
  • December 8, 2016 at 2:41 pm
    Permalink

    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!

    Reply
    • December 9, 2016 at 12:31 am
      Permalink

      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!

      Reply
  • November 15, 2016 at 11:19 pm
    Permalink

    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.

    Reply
    • November 16, 2016 at 1:50 am
      Permalink

      The scarf sounds great. Also, please check out the item I suggested to Jacquie Sequin. You might also think it is beautiful.

      Reply
  • November 15, 2016 at 3:37 pm
    Permalink

    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.

    Reply
  • November 13, 2016 at 10:17 am
    Permalink

    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.

    Reply
    • November 15, 2016 at 2:04 am
      Permalink

      How about food? Bring a good vegetarian food, like a vegetarian lagna. Khichdi is a traditional Indian comfort food. Vegetarian, too.

      Reply
  • November 7, 2016 at 2:23 pm
    Permalink

    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 :)

    Reply
    • November 7, 2016 at 11:35 pm
      Permalink

      Nothing else. Toys are always appreciated.

      Reply
  • September 17, 2016 at 12:23 am
    Permalink

    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?

    Reply
    • September 21, 2016 at 5:32 am
      Permalink

      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!

      Reply
  • August 22, 2016 at 4:03 pm
    Permalink

    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.

    Reply
    • August 23, 2016 at 12:59 am
      Permalink

      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.

      Reply

Leave a Reply to Granny Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>