Buy a bag of each and get cooking.
A powder made from unripe, green mangoes that have been dried and ground. Amchoor adds a sweet and slightly tart flavor to dishes. Use it in small quantities.
A little seed that comes from the mustard plant. Buy the brown variety rather than the yellow. Mustard seeds add a pungent flavor and can be bitter in large quantities.
A red powder made from dried and ground cayenne peppers. This is hot, hot, hot. Especially varieties Indian grocery stores. To avoid heat substitute an Indian or Hungarian paprika, from a milder red pepper plant.
This seed comes from the cilantro plant. It is available in both whole and ground varieties. For beginners, avoid the seed and use the ground. For a really fresh flavor, buy it whole and powder it yourself in a mortar or coffee grinder. Ground coriander adds a mild, earthy and savory flavor to Indian food. It's used in quantity to add richness and substance to gravy in wet dishes. Use this in just about everything. It's not spicy at all, just flavorful.
This smell of this spice is commonly associated with Indian food. My pop can't tolerate it. One day while cooking Indian at my parent's house he came home from work and bellowed, "It smells like the god-damned third world in here." Was he joking? I doubt it... cumin can be ew-la-la stinky. Purchase a bag of each, and use it in almost everything. Or be really smooth: buy it whole and powder it yourself, as needed, in a mortar or coffee grinder.
This powdered spice is actually a plant resin. It has a stinky, pungent odor, which I rather like. Quarantine it well in your pantry using a double sealed container, most folks don't like the smell. Never store hing in a spice box because everything in your kitchen will adopt this smell. Used in tiny quantities it has a delicious flavor. It's believed to have digestive properties. Many Indians don't consume onions or garlic, but use this spice to duplicate the same savory flavors. On the other hand, go nuts and use all three. All the better.
This powdered spice is bright and beautiful, but stains unmercifully. In fact, it's commonly used as a natural dye. It imparts a nice shade of yellow to dishes and has a very mild, earthy flavor. Don't overuse, it can get chalky and gritty. It comes from a dried and powdered tuber in the ginger family.
These green pods are delicious to chew. The outside is covered with a strawlike hull, while inside lie rows and rows of tiny lemony seeds. Use these pods in small quantities. Crush each pod lightly before use, to break the hull. Decorticated cardamom is also sold powdered in health food stores. Buy it this way if you want, but it's expensive and unnecessary. Besides the flavor will stay more vibrant if you keep it whole until use. Stay away from the big black cardamom pods unless you know what you're doing. They are not the same thing.
Feeling like a fancy-pants? No worries. Plenty of other spices await you, Evil Knievel. Here are a few more yummies to check out after you've tried the basics: ajwain seeds, curry leaves, cloves, fennel, nigella seeds, saffron, and tamarind pods and paste.