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Shopping

Nepal is such a beautiful place that it defies description. Every street and every corner seems to have a story to tell. The people, their way of life, their crafts all seems to be as uncomplicated yet immensely beautiful as the people inhabiting there. Such is the experience that, there is no way you want to come back without bringing back something from there that will always jog your memory. Inevitably, shopping in Nepal will make it into your list of “things to do” once you get there. In Nepal, Katmandu seems to be a favourite destination among the travelers to shop. Katmandu seems to have everything. From clothes to jewellery, electronic items to artifacts. You name it and Katmandu will have a shop that will be selling it. Some of the things that are very popular among the tourists are clothes, contemporary crafts and articles, Nepali tea, carpets, handicrafts made from paper Mache, batik, handcrafted toys etc.

Metal Work

From the beginning Nepal produced beautiful art work in metal. The copper coins of the Licchavi from the 5th century of the Christian era show the highly developed metal art of Nepal. In the temples of the Kathmandu Valley there are copper statues made from the lost wax process (cine-per-due) that can be dated back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D.

The Chinese traveler, Wang Hsuan Tse, when testified to the existence of highly developed metal craft skills in Nepal saying he was surprised to find crocodile headed copper pipes which drained the monsoon (waters) from the open balconies of the palaces. The palaces also had copper roofs. Copper utensils were used and exported to India. The Tibetans after the emergence of Buddhism in Tibet needed many Buddhism in Tibet needed many Buddhist icons most of which were obtained from Nepal. A beautiful tall one-cast image of Buddha made in Patan in the year 591 A.D. is displayed in the Cleveland Museum in the U.S.A. In and around Kathmandu there are thousands of figures from the 7th century onwards. During the medieval period they sculpted various Hindu and Buddhist deities to fulfill the local needs as well as to meet the demand of the Tibetans.

The metalwork even today is done by the century old cine-per-due or lost wax process. Firstly the object is shaped in beeswax, every detail of the brow, hair, ornaments are made in a wax model. Then the second process covers the wax model in soft thin clay and dried in the shade (drying in the sun will cause the clay to crack). After drying, a second coat of hard clay mixed with rice husks is applied. A small hole is left at the bottom. When the mould dries completely it is then heated on a fire so that the wax melts and comes out the hole, but the clay has taken the impression and then the melted metal or bronze is poured through the same hole and it takes on the shape of the original wax model now in clay. The mould is then broken and the figure takes theorem of the object originally designed. The bronze is cleaned and chiseled, gilted with gold and finally the eyes, face and hair are painted on. One mould casts only one piece, that is why they are quite expensive.

Along with casting the Nepalese are experts in repose- hammer beaten brass and copper works. There are life size repose images of Ganga and Jamuna in the three royal palaces of the Kathmandu Valley. The copper and brass sheets are beaten by hammer into the required shape and then gold is applied. Many tympanums, the royal statues of the three cities supported by the tall monolithic stone pillars are done this way. The golden gate of Bhaktapur, the golden windows of Patan Durbar and Hanuman Dhoka are the best examples of these.

Jewellery

Jewellery is closely associated with a culture's aesthetic ideals, with its sensuous contours, the glistening patterns of its stones- even materials from which they are made all reveal a culture's impassioned view about what is beautiful.

In the Himalayas, jewelry also communicates social status and political power. Its symbols convey ancient cultural values and, particularly in its form as an amulet box it serves as a powerful talisman. Himalayan jewelry also reflects the great religious traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism. The Newar craftsmen of the Kathmandu valley created amulet boxes adorned with both Hindu and Buddhist iconography for their customers from Nepal, and for export around the Himalayan region, and Tibet in Particular.

Jewelry plays a significant role in Buddhist and Hindu iconography, with the gods and goddesses of these traditions richly adorned with abundant jewelry crowns, earrings, necklaces, armlets, an klets, finger and toe rings.

The Newars became the gold craftsmen in Lhasa Tibet, as far back as the 16th century. Amulet boxes and other gold jewelry were created by repousse, a metalworking technique which flourished in the Kathmandu valley as early as the 7th century A.D. It translates from the French word repousser to beat again. The technique demanded great skill of the artist, as the material actually worked upon is metal a surface particularly un forgiving of mistakes. A sheet of metal must take the imprint of the craftsman's chisels and punches, beaten again and again a pitch of wax and resin. Most surviving repousse work from Nepal is in copper or brass, although it is often gilded to look like gold.

Nepal is famous for its silverware studded with precious and semi precious stones. You will also find a lot of junk and chunky jewellery. It is also very popular for the glass bead creations. Katmandu has lot of shops selling this kind of jewellery. Apart from Katmandu, you can find such jewellery in Indra Chowk’s Ranki Bazzar. Patan also sells some unique pieces of jewellery and has several such shops too.

Art & Craft

If you love scouring markets for those rare artifacts unique to the place then Nepal is your haven. They are very famous for their jewellery batik work paintings and of course the toys and handicraft items. Patan is a must visit place if you love handicrafts. There is a Traditional Craftsmen Colony that is very popular for all the Nepali handicraft items. Durbar Square is very popular for the Thangka which are Tibetan silk painting with intricate embroidery on them. However you will also find them in places like Tri Devi Margh and Thamel.

Carpets and rugs are available in abundance and at very affordable prices here. Jyothi line has a shop called “Royal Collections” which has an assortment in at various prices. Artifacts need to be bought very carefully here as it’s very difficult to differentiate between the originals and fakes. The rarest artifacts however are not on sale as the government doesn’t allow it. But you can get some real good bargain on the Buddha statues which are sold in Patan. You will find bronze statues of Buddha at various prices and in sizes. Bhaktapur is another such place where you will find bronze statues busts and other such artifacts. Another must buy is Kukri i.e. knives. However check whether your airlines will allow them back. Your best bet will be to buy either tiny kukris or the ones which look real but are made from other materials but metal. At Pokhara you will find various other artifacts such as flags medals and other such memorabilia. You will also find a lot of Newari artifacts here. If you crave for more of items related to Buddha then a visit to Lumbini and Buddhist sites located in Katmandu shall satisfy your whims.

Clothes

Famous for their unique motifs and hand embroidery, clothes are a popular buy among the people who visit Nepal. Nepal being very cold, you can get very good bargains on the woolen clothes. From caps and jackets to sweaters and mufflers, you’ll find it at a good price in Katmandu. Places like Thamel and Freak Street are famous for their woolen products. Indra Chowk is famous for the Saris and dress materials. Kaftans also make it into most tourists shopping list.
If you have been forever behind a Pashmina shawl, which is the Nepali version of the Cashmere then Indra Chowk is the place you have to visit. They are available in various varieties and also at much more reasonable prices. Tibetian Refugee camp just outside of Patan also will give you great Pashmina products at affordable prices. You might find the local Nepalis wearing a traditional cap or Topis; these are easily available at Ason Tol.

Stone Artwork

The Kathmandu valley is endowed with thousands of works in stone, some of them dating back 2,000 years, with the huge life size statue of King Jayavarma from 185 A.D. considered the oldest sandstone sculpture in Nepal, which is on display in the National Museum at Chaunni, looking similar to contemporary Indian icons.

The ancient stone sculptures of Nepal could be divided into four categories (1) Sculptures from the beginning of the Christianera up to the middle of the 5th century, (2) Sculptures from the middle of the 5th up to the 10th century, (3) from the middle of he10th up to the 15th, and (4) from the 15th century to the present.

The statues of the first phase are of a soft sandstone, depicting the icons of Shiva, Yaksha, Boddhisathvas, hariti, Laxmee, and other mother goddesses. Some Uma Haheswor, Shiva and Parvati statues have also come to light and are very simple with no multi heads and arms. The second phase, around 450 A.D., reveals advanced technology on good quality stone that has stood the test of time and weather. Narrative in nature, the statues engraved during this period depicted the whole story. The huge solid monolithic statue of the Sleeping Vishnu in Budhanilkantha can be seen as a fine example. (All the guide books will tell you how to find Budhanilakantha on the north side of the valley). They also sculpted buddhas, and boddhisatt was, and their attention to detail and skill shows in the proportionate limbs, slenderness of the waists, not too large breasts limited use of ornaments, elaborate head dress or a tiara and attractive diaphanous clothing. The themes of the sculptures were various incarnations of Vishnu, Shiva lingas with or without face Shiva along with his family. The phase can be regarded as the classical age of stone sculpture in Nepal. The third was a kind of transitional period with many similarities to the second phase but new gods, goddesses of Vajrayan Buddhism included Yab-Yum, the Tibetan expression that represents cosmic union gave birth to a number of multi-headed and multi-armed deities full of symbolism.

Precious Stones

The artistic finesse of Nepal is also seen in semi precious stones like coral, quartz and crystal. Most of the artists who work in semi precious stones are located in Patan, using malakite, agate and jaide as well. Hindus of Nepal use as pendant statue of a multiarmed Ganesh carved in coral, and some wear a ring carved from coral. In medieval Nepal, the coral was considered precious because it had to be imported from Europe. From the 18th century Nepal imported coral in large quantities and exported them to Tibet During the 18th century they carved statues of Buddha and Boddisathvas from coral, for the local market and for export.

The rulers and aristocrats of Nepal liked wearing jewellery and collecting ornaments made of semi precious stones, whereas the poor people wore jewellery made of wood, bamboo and copper. A Chinese traveler who visited Kathmandu in the 7th century described in detail that the then King Narendradeva adorned himself with various kinds of jewellery made of amber, jade and turquoise. The Nepalese used to import yellow soft amber from Tibet which does not have any flies or aquatic leaves inside like that of the amber of Europe.

There are families in Patan who specialize in working in semi-precious stones like crystal, quartz, amethyst, coral, malakite and turquoise, and you can visit their workshops and see how they work their craft and the intricate designs, and of course you can order.

But now many art works in semi-precious stones are made in India on machines and sold in Kathmandu at quite reasonable prices. The real art works are all handmade with traditional technology, and of course their price reflects these age old techniques. It is important that the visitor should learn the difference, particularly if he has a real interest in stones. The Nepalese from way back loved coral so some old antique coral pieces can be found and purchased in Kathmandu. Patan is the best place to buy art objects and jewellery of semi-precious stones, and you can even watch your own piece of jewellery being crafted, and the prices are amazing in comparison to European and American prices. In Thamel there are bead shops which sell beads for jewellery, using coral, amber, turquoise and silver made up, or loose to design your self.

Thangkas

"Painting is the mother of all forms of art" so says a Hindu scripture, whereas the pre-historic cave paintings of Dordogne in France and Altamira in Spain are considered 12,000 years old, the history of painting in Nepal dates back to the Lichhavi period in the beginning of the Christain era. The wall paintings and inscriptions in Chhabahil near Pashupatinath are dated to the 5th century and inscriptions in Kathmandu and Gorkha are some other examples.

Some of the oldest most refined and beautiful Thangka paintings found in Nepal date back to the 12th century or even earlier. The majority of these paintings come from Buddhist manuscripts like pranjaparamita, and are preserved in national archives, in temples and monasteries, and in private collections and museums abroad. The National art gallery of Bhaktapur, the National Archives, and the Kaiser Library have good collections of these manuscripts.

Wall paintings, frescos and mural paintings are found in the Kathmandu valley in all of the three palaces of Kathmandu, with whole rooms painted without an inch uncovered. Showing both religious and secular themes. The Kumarighar of Kathmandu, and the Temple of Kirtipur show wonderful examples of wall painting with gods, divinities and the rulers and aristocrats of the period. As far back as the Lichhavi period the temples of jayabagiswari, the temple of chandeswari at banepa and the wall of tika Bhairaba were painted every twelve years, and this tradition still continues today.

The rulers, and the rich and aristocratic painted nine planets, twenty eight constellations, all in different poses such as seated. Standing, walking, eating, sleeping according to the birth time of the constellations and planets, but these horoscope charts are not easily found as the tradition in Nepal is to burn them along with the body at cremation or tear them up and throw them in the water with the ashes.

Thangka painting in Nepal was used to describe the complicated tantric philosophy which also worked as a visual aid to a lyman. "Ushnisa Vijaya" a coming of are ceremony (77 years, 7 months and 7 days) in the newar community is another occasion when an elderly person is depicted in the centre of a Thangka riding in a palanguin through his neighborhood or locality. Thangkas are also painted to commemorate the building of a temple or stupa, and are used in worshipping the divinities in their various manifestation. When it comes to his holiness the dalai Lama or other reincarnate lamas in the monasteries ordering Thangka, these paintings still adhere to old iconoographic rituals and they have their special masters who have been trained by their fathers or other masters. But the commercially motivated on obviously fall into a different category.

The two types of thangka produce is the Newari Thangka and the Tamang Thangka which has been influenced by the Tibetan school. The Newari Thangka are the more refined and detailed, and are always mostly much brighter in colour. The Newar thangkas have gods, Buddhist gods dominating the whole canvas, while the Taman Thankas mostly depict mandalas, the life of Buddha and the wheel of life.

Throughout Kathmandu and the valley Thangka schools and painters can be visited and time can be spent learning listening and watching artist at their work. Westerns can learn Thangka painting and spend time learning the meditative art which will pervade their whole being and bring them closer to their own truth.

Mithila Art

Janakpur, a city in Nepal's eastern Terai, is a Hindu pilgrimage site with a legendary history, and is the center of Mithila culture in Nepal. It is an age old culture with its own language and rich literature where women have had a predominant role in the field of painting, as well as handicraft.The painting traditions vary from caste to caste. The art of Brahmins and Kayastha (the caste which one kept records for Brahmins) is closely tied to religious ritual, as shown in the making of aripana, in which the women grind rice with water into a paste called pithar. Dipping two fingers into the pithar they make graceful lace like designs on the mud floors of their homes or courtyards. These designs are used for worship, for rituals related to marriage, or a particular full or half moon day.Brahmin women decorate a maraba a pavilion made out of mud plaster on the occasion of Upanayan (a boy's haircutting ceremony) with images of the goods. Before weddings Kayastha women decorate a wedding chamber called the kohbar.

The art of the women is transient with the rains destroying mud and painted designs, or in the spring during a New Year festival the paintings are covered with mud. The practice of painting on paper is fairly new for most Mithila women, although the Kayastha caste has had a tradition of making paintings on paper to wrap gifts for marriages.The Janakpur women's development center (JWDC) was established for the purpose of encouraging the women to keep their artistic tradition intact, a tradition which is alive on the walls of its neighboring village.

In view of the limited market for their paintings the women are taught to use their painting techniques and traditional designs in printing, ceramics, sewing and weaving. The JWDC also provides training for the poor and uneducated women from the neighboring villages. Subjects include, literacy, record-keeping, costing and quality control, marketing, management, leadership and teambuilding, gender awareness, planning and evaluation.The range of products now made and sold thought Nepal by the JWDC are paintings, notebooks, photo frames, writing sets, recycled cards, mirrors, ceramics, bags and cushion covers, screen printing on table sets, and t-shirts, and tapestry.

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