Ceramics and Pottery:
Pre-historic pottery of Nepal consists of red, brown or black shades on unglazed surfaces. Excavation on various sites in the Kathmandu Valley have revealed specimens of ancient potteryware. They are ususally terracotta unglazed, although a few pieces of glazed potery have ben found. Most of Nepalese potteryware is for utilitarian purposes, such as container jars, water pitchers, lamps, washing bowls, flowers vases, and chilims-small objects used in religious workship. The pottery clay is found in the Kathmandu Valley. Black terracotta is another variety of folk pottery.
Bronze & Metal:
Nepal, specially Kathmandu is an ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ for shoppers, with reliable original antiques, along with reproductions of antiques plus masks, woodcarvings, and metal work all made to look old. From the beginning Nepal produced beautiful art work in metal. In temples of the Kathmandu valley there are copper statues made from the lost wax process that can be dated back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. Along with casting the Nepalese are experts in repousse – hammer beaten brass and copper works. There are life size repousse 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.
Jewelry is closely associated with a culture’s aesthetic ideals, with its sensuous contours, the glistering patterns of its stones – even materials from which they are made – all reveal a culture’s impassioned view about what is beautiful. The Newar craftsmen of the Kathmandu valley created amulet boxes adorned with both HIndu and Buddhist iconography for their customers, 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, anklets, finger and toe rings. Along with the gold the HImalayan stones of coral, amber and turuoise decorate the amulets, the jewelry, the ornaments, rings, earrings, and necklaces, and even belts. Hunting among the antique, metal and jewelry shops of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur is a shopper’s delight.
Semi Precious Stones:
The artistic finesse of Nepal is also seen in semi precious stones like coral, quartz and crystal. Hindus of Nepal use as pendant statue of a multiarmed Ganesh carved in coral, and some wear a ring carved from coral. The real art works are all handmade with traditional technology and or course their price reflects these age old techniques. In Thamel, there are bead shops which sell beads for jewellery, using coral, amber, turquoise and silver made up, or loose to design yourself.Masks:
The gods are on the one hand, the demons on the other, representing good and evil; they are the two radical opposing forces in Hindu mythology who have been fighting ever since the beginning of creation itself. Masked dances are performed in Nepal on almost every major religious occasion, like Gaijatra, Indra Jatra, Pachalibhairab Jatra, etc. and the dancers are mostly gardeners from the Newar community. At Bouddhanath you can see many old wooden masks which are quite old and have an antique or art value, and Thimi is the place to see the paper and clay masks including the masters turning a lump of clay into a beautiful masked wall hanging.Handmade paper (Lokta paper):
The Nepalese handmade paper is called “kancho kagaz” This paper is ancient in origin. Nepali paper is used in making kites, dolls and toys, papier mache, calendars, envelopes and writing material, in writing horoscopes, mandalas and thangka painting. The raw material of Nepali paper still grows wild; it has not been cultivated as yet. The common name for the bark is Lokta. Handmade paper produciton can be seen very easily on the edges of the Kathmandu Valley. More enterprising entrepreneurs are now pressing petals, flowers and leaves into the paper and are making wallpapers, lamp shades and other designer items.Tibetan Woollen Carpets:
The famed Tibetan woollen carpets are found aplenty. In Durbar Marg and Bouddhanath there are antique stores selling old carpets from Nepal and Tibet. The modern carpets, copies of old Tibetan designs, are woven with New Zealand or Tibetan wool, and mostly with reliable Swiss dyes, but vegetable dye rugs or carpets are sought after and can be found. As well there are modern designs, and of course they all come in different qualities, ranging from 60 knot to 100 knot.Textiles:
Raw materials for textiles are abundant in Nepal, and with the contrasting climates and altitudes there has been a wealth of materials which for centuries have been extracted, spun, twisted and wooven into a multitude of textiles. Textiles in Nepal are woven, knitted, crocheted, plaited or braide. The most remarkable and visible cotton textile are the intricately patterned, colourful cotton panels used for caps for men, and blouses and shawls for women, called Dhaka-cloth. A lovely cotton, with a very free design, very much up to the individual weaver, with no two pieces the same. The Limbus and Rais of the mid-mountains are famous for their Dhaka cloth. Pashmina shawls and lambswool shawls are everywhere, plus jumpers and cardigans from Cashmere, and some handknitted jumpers in local colours and designs. Cashmere, Pashmina shawls are in demand in Tokyo, New York, Paris, London etc. Yak hair is made into shelters, ropes and cloting, yak skin for shoes, saddle bags and straps. Sheep’s wool was made into rainproof Nepalese woollen blankets that were used for trading items 2,000 years ago; and now woven clothing, blankets and rugs are still in use in the mountain areas. The most attractive Sherpa woollen front apron is woven from sheep’s wool, hand spun and coloured with multi coloured natural dyes. Silk is also used in the pashmina and silk combined shawls. Jute goods and raw jude are important export items for Nepal to India and Bangladesh. Within Nepal the jute is sold to the mills in the Terai where it is machine spun and made into sack cloth and rope.
Painting is the mother of all forms of art. Wall paintings, frescos and mural paintings are found in the Kathmandu valley, with whole rooms painted without an inch uncovered, showing both religious and secular themes. Thangka painting in Nepal was used to describe the complicated tantric philosophy which also worked as a visual aid to a layman. The two types of thangka painted are the Newari Thangka and the Tamang Thangka. The Newar thangkas have gods, Buddhist gods dominating the whole canvas, while the Tamang thangkas mostly depict mandalas, the life of Buddha and the wheel of life. Throughout Kathmandu valley, Thangka schools and painters can be visited, and time can be spent learning, listening and watching the artists at their work.Woodcarving:
In the annals of the art and architectural treasures of Nepal wood has been the most common material used for carving
. Besides the struts, windows of various designs, the peacock window, the Desemaru Jhya, meaning the unparalleled one, fake and lattice windows have added to the beauty of Nepalese temples and monasteries. They have beautiful carvings on their pillars and door-frames, lintels and cornices. There are intricate carvings of a number of animals and birds including the story of Ramayana,. These temples have erotic carvings at the bottom of their roof struts, a symbol of the tantric cult.
Khukuris, curved steel knives used by the Gurkha soldiers, are particularly a popular souvenir to take back home. An authentic khukuri should have a notch on it’s blade near the handle. Sheathed together with the khukuri in the scabbard are two tiny knives: one is the karda whih is used for sharpening the khukuri, and the other called a chakmak is for striking a flintstone to make fire.
Ilam, the hilly district of eastern Nepal products world famous is tea. The tea is wrapped in small pouch and packets and very suitable for providing as gifts. Packaged tea from different tea gardens in the country as well as international brands retaining the original flavor and aroma are available everywhere in Kathmandu or Pokhara. For a taste of fresh tea directly from the tea gardens, however, a visit to the tea gardens in the eastern part of the country is recommended.