Nepali handicrafts, decorative domestic objects made by hand, are most popular and highly appreciated all over the world. Handicrafts are produced in different parts of the country reflecting local tradition, art and culture. The major handicrafts are – bags , basketry products , ceramics, decoration items , contemporary paintings, craft paintings, ethnic dolls , garments , filigree products , gift items , hand knitwear , handmade paper products , home furnishing , incense , metal crafts , paubha (thanka ) based on Buddhist and Hindu religious scriptures, silver jewellery , stone and wood carving products among others.
Travellers, apart from visiting and exploring the country, are interested to take photographs and buy some local products. So is the case with Nepal. Nepalese craftsmanship is highly appreciated by tourists since the centuries. Nepal’s handicraft exports amounted to US $ 46 million in the fiscal year 2071/72 BS. There has been an increase in demand for Nepali handicrafts from the US and European markets in recent years. The tourists visiting Nepal are more interested to take the following products as souvenirs from Nepal.
Nepal’s largest export item is the Tibetan carpet made in Nepal. These are very expensive in the developed countries but cheap here compared to its price in their own country. The techniques used in the manufacture of carpets are traditional Tibetan, where high quality handspun wool of Tibet and New Zealand are woven. Designs range from neo-Tibetan to the modern abstract ones in bold and bright colors. Superior quality European chemical and vegetable dyes are used in making fine carpets. Prices vary according to size, designs and knots. A 100 knots per square inch carpet usually cost more. One must be careful in buying carpets because carpets of inferior quality are also sold which are not color-fast.
The continent of Asia is famous for its precious stones and jewels, but the widest selection of these gems can be bought in Kathmandu at prices which are remarkably low. Name any stone from Topaz to Lapis Lazuli, you can get it here. Tourmaline being Nepal’s highest quality gem.Without proper knowledge of the characteristics of original gems, it is very difficult to assess unless bought from a shop that can be trusted. Nepal does not mine Topaz. The common local name given to the lovely yellow citrine is “Golden Topaz”. Fine deep purple amethysts are produced in Nepal. apart from soft pink sapphires. The inexpensive stones are admitted by the dealer to be artificial.
Since the centuries, Nepal has been in the lime-light when it comes to originating or making a replica of a design in gold or silver. Be it an ear-ring, necklace, bracelet, ring or any other item, it is made ready for delivery in a few days time. Silver beads that are traditional are made in Patan. Beads made of glass charms the buyer. A market for beads is found close to the centre of the capital near Indra Chowk. In shops near Buddhist temples a variety of Tibetan jewelry is sold. The honesty of the jeweler with regard to wares sold is remarkable. White gold of international quality is scarce in Kathmandu.
The molding of metals such as copper, bronze, brass into statues of Buddhist deities in the Tibetan style and Hindu images is one of Nepal’s oldest and living craft traditions. In a statue, the specific pronunciation of parts such as fingers, eyes which are skillfully painted, attractive pleasant faces and non-existence of pits or spots is formidable.
Woodcarving on temples and houses is a common sight in Kathmandu. The designs carved are traditional and are produced in all sizes. These intricate carvings can be found on doors and windows as well as smaller items such as jewelry boxes, picture frames and wall decorations.
Handloom and Printed Cloth
A variety of cloth is produced in different parts of Nepal. Hetauda, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, to name a few, produce cloth for hats, blouses ,daura suruwal and other attires. Dolpo blankets, colourful block-printed handlooms and soft Pashmina woolen shawls are also available.
Tibetan scroll paintings of Buddha, mandalas, meditation deities are known as Thangkas. These are hung in the shrine rooms of monasteries and living room of private homes. Thangkas, not of recent times, used vivid colors of grounded mineral pigments which was traditional. The modern ones use modern materials such as pastel colours and are not as expensive as the old ones. The skill endowed in painting the tiniest figures without disfiguring or distorting the faces or hands is the key to its genuineness. Wood smoke is used for ageing Thangkas.
The Nepali people of different community perform ritual dances at festivals wearing masks that are replicas of the image they depict. These masks, made of Nepali paper and wood, are available in markets of Kathmandu valley.
Other items of interest available in Kathmandu valley are khukuris, incense, handmade paper, prayer wheels, Tibetan souvenirs, silk purses, dolls, filigree items, hand knit sweaters. readymade attires and Nepali tea.
There are dozens of reliable transport agencies who take care of transporting cargo in different parts of the world. Careful packing before being shipped or airlifted, with contacts to reach its final destination , are some of the services offered to customers.
Nepalese antiques. part of the country’s rich artistic heritage, belong to its people and is expected to remain in the country. If purchased, such articles are very expensive and are subject to customs restrictions leading up to confiscation. The buyer is advised to get a certificate from the dealer, and if still doubtful, one from the Department of Archeology, to avoid disappointment on departure. Artificial antiques of masks, statues and paintings are other accomplished crafts of Nepal. Craft salespersons of Nepal are generally honest about the originality or age of their wares. Authentic Nepali and Tibetan antiques are increasingly rare and difficult to find.
Where to Shop
Some of the places where shopping can be done and items bought are: Basantapur and Thamel for handicrafts and Khukuris, prayer wheels, grotesque masks; the Supermarket for a variety of items; Taleju temple area for thankas and masks; the street from Durbar Square to Indra Chowk for caps, small rugs, shawls, knit sweaters, sari fabrics, copper and brass pots and curios, Durbar Marg area for jewellery , handicrafts and mandala paintings, and Jawalakhel for carpets of Tibetan designs.
Nepal has a good reputation for craftsmanship and the souvenir prices are reasonable in the markets of three cities of the valley – Kathmandu , Patan and Bhaktapur.