Strolling around the temples and the ancient palaces of Kathmandu valley, during dusk is one of my favourite habits. It’s not just that these places radiate a sense of serenity but the neighbourhood filled with the antique shop full of Nepalese handicrafts and the temples with fabulous wood carving make my time worthwhile.
Handicrafts in Nepal is believed to have started since the Licchavi period (300-879 AD) though the official account of first handicraft is not available. But the classical period of Nepal (13th to 18th century) ruled by Malla dynasty helped, extensively in the enrichment of quality, authenticity, and originality of the Nepalese handicrafts.
Also Read : History & Current Status of Nepalese Handicrafts
In today’s hi-tech and industrialized society, the mere glance of the handmade and eco-friendly products lifts our tired spirits. Especially, obtaining the authentic and local handicraft gives us the pleasure, nowhere to be found. In Nepal, especially in Kathmandu valley, the tradition of craftsmanship is still preserved, thanks to the close-knit Newar (Indo-Burmic in origin believed to be natives of Kathmandu valley) communities who have been practicing it since many centuries. So, there is still the chance to feel the originality and the local-ness in the variety of handicrafts.
Basically, handimade crafts in Nepal can be divided into two main categories viz. textile handicrafts and non-textile handicrafts. The details of these categories are what I intend to describe in this article.
It includes, along with pashmina, wool, Dhaka (one kind of local textile), hemp products, also (nettle fiber), felt, silk, and cotton goods. These materials are extensively used to prepare the clothes, bags, jackets, shawls, trousers and so forth.
In Nepal, the source of pashmina is the fur of the Himalayan goats (chyangras). Since they are reared in the high altitude of Nepal, pashmina is the item of the rarity. Often used to make the pashmina shawl, these days, with the advancement of technology, manufacturers in Kathmandu have been exporting Pashmina goods via internet too. Though pashmina industry experienced downfall because of the wide use of fake furs, after the strict scrutinization, the business is booming again.
Widely considered to be the pride of Nepal, Dhaka is the local textile which has been widely used as Nepali Cap(dhakatopi), blouse and shirts (kamij). During festivities of Newar and hilly people, women can be seen in colourful Dhaka attire that captures anyone’s eye. Believed to be originated from western hills, today, Dhaka represents the identity of Nepalese.
Woolen, hemp, felt, and cotton goods
If you travel on the alleys of Thamel or Patan, you can clearly observe the bags made up of hemp, or the scarfs made up of silk with an art crafted by skilled artisans. Not to miss, woolen products such as jackets, pullovers, ponchos, mufflers, hats, gloves, and socks are textile handicrafts found in Nepal. And after 2006/7, the products of felt (somewhat like woollen are in optimum demand.)
It consists of woodcraft, stone craft, metal craft, silver jewelry, leather goods, thangka/paubha (religion-based paintings), bone and horn products, handmade paper products, incense, ceramics items, bamboo products, and plastic items.
Maybe one of the oldest and popular handicrafts in Nepal, Woodcraft has been practiced by Silpakar (woodcarvers), the distinguished clan of Newar. Various products made out of wood can be found in Nepal which includes the miniature statues, and the tools for daily use crafted by skilled artisans.
Undoubtedly, metal crafts are the most popular and widely exported handicrafts of Nepal along with woollen and cotton products. Crafted by the members of Tamrakar (copper crafters and idol makers), metal crafts are often found in different variety. The magnificent statue of Buddha, Ganesh, Shiva and different deities are prepared out of copper and silver. One simply doesn’t get tired walking the alleys Patan, where antique shops are filled with the amazing display of metal crafts. Initially, designed out of wax, the shape of the craft I encased in the clay mould which is heated to harden. Once the job is done, the wax is melted and poured out through the case and instead replaced by the metal of choice, often bronze and silver. Letting the shape to set, the metal being is extracted by breaking the mould; final piece obtained by polishing and giving a final touch by a skilled artisan.
Silver jewelry is one of the most exported handicrafts from Nepal. The skilled artisans who are the member of Shakya and Bajracharya (Silversmiths) have been exploiting their talent and crafting the fabulous silverware.
Kathmandu is often quoted as the city of temples. The cultural and religious environment in Nepal is the mixture of the Hinduism and Buddhism. Thangka is religious based painting, especially Buddhism and the amazing and mysterious lifestyle of Lamas. It depicts the lifecycle of the Buddhist deities and the historical incident.
These products can be considered as the recent addition to the Nepalese handicraft. After the introduction of the concept of recycling and reusing of the materials citing the environmental concern, various useful products are made out of paper and plastics.
There are so many online stores in Nepal, that are established with a sole purpose to promote the handicrafts of Nepal, and addition to this, with the advancement of technology, each buyer can go through each product review on the internet before spending money in it.
There are some locally owned and charitable online stores who want to keep the tradition of Handicraft alive in the country by spending a certain amount of their revenue in social sectors of backward communities. One can, easily, from her apartment in Sydney or Chicago can get handicraft items on her door without much hassle and delivery charge in today’s high sophisticated world.