Gift shopping in Nepal – pashminas, beads and Buddhist shops
Every visitor to Nepal is captivated by the country's culture, so it's no wonder that everyone wants to take a piece of it with them. Despite the fact that the country's intellectual and spiritual radiance inevitably accompanies everyone for a longer or shorter time, tourists also buy many of the diverse handicraft products produced by the locals.
As in all big cities - since Kathmandu, with its nearly 1.5 million inhabitants, is undoubtedly the metropolis of the Himalayan region - there are many shopping opportunities. This is also the case in Kathmandu, where from traditional markets to modern plazas, there are many different places where the tourist can get the coveted souvenirs.
Although the country is primarily known in the Western world for its Buddhist traditions and mountain climbing expeditions to Mount Everest, the markets and shops of this country with a rich craft culture offer much more.
Clothing products play a leading role among souvenirs, which is no wonder, since the local, high-quality yak and lamb wool is world famous. Pashminas made of high-quality cashmere are perhaps the most popular of the clothing items. Their main feature is the variety beyond all imagination, which makes it almost impossible to choose. Nepalese artisans offer a wide range of colors and patterns using the most varied types of cashmere. But don't let the bright colors dazzle the customer, it's worth looking around in several stores and finding out about the prices.
Pearl, bone and stone jewelry also have a long tradition. Some of them serve merely as clothing accessories, but a significant proportion of them are important accessories for the practice of Hindu and Buddhist religion.
If someone is looking for jewelry made of pearls, they must visit the so-called Pote bazaar, where on 750 square meters, only and exclusively glass pearl jewelry is sold by local artisans, most of whom are already fifth or sixth generation artisans. The name of the market is derived from 'Pote', a jewelery worn by Hindu women. This jewelry consists of at least 20 strands of colored glass beads, which Hindu women receive as a gift from the groom on their wedding day and always wear during their married life, as it symbolizes marriage. Wearing the necklace symbolizes the bride's wish that her husband live a long and healthy life. When the husband dies, it becomes taboo for the widow to continue wearing the necklace. The strange thing about the market is that although the pearls are traditionally bought by followers of the Hindu religion - of course in addition to tourists - the pearl makers are mostly Muslims. According to legend, the current market was once located on the banks of a river where Hindus used to hold funeral ceremonies. Over time, the course of the river changed, but the superstitious Hindus refused to use an area that had previously been used for burning funeral pyres. The king consulted the priests, who said that the area would be suitable for people who write backwards. So the king invited some Kashmiri Arab artisans to take possession of the area. They settled down and since then, the craft of bead making and stringing has been passed down from generation to generation.
The situation is different with stones and jewelry made of semi-precious stones or other minerals. These usually serve purely fashion purposes in the Western world, but in Nepal each stone has a different meaning. These stones and the jewelry/objects made from them very often serve religious purposes. One of the most characteristic pieces of jewelry is the so-called mala bracelet or necklace. Almost everyone with some connection to the Buddhist religion has mala beads. Its meaning - although universal - varies from person to person. For some, the mala is simply a physical reminder of positive intention, while for others it is a meditation aid used during religious practices. There is no clear definition of what a mala is, everyone has to decide for themselves what it means to them. There are many places in Kathmandu where you can find shops where you can choose your own malan, but the most authentic is usually to look around a large stupa and you will be sure of success.
However, Buddhist souvenirs are not limited to buying malas. Many other religious souvenirs can be found in Kathmandu's shops and markets. Mandalas are very popular, thanks to their symbolic meaning and magical colors. The symbolism of the mandala is a combination of philosophical, mathematical and artistic beauty, which not only appeals to practitioners of the Buddhist religion, but also enchants almost everyone. Which is no wonder, since the dimensionless center of the mandala traditionally involves external energies and generates the unfolding of its own energies, thus representing the external and internal spaces. The traditional mandala representation is usually a circle within a square, where the circle represents dynamic knowledge and the square represents the physical world. The power of such a "picture" lies not only in its colors and form, but also in the fact that the painter of the picture is not a craftsman in the traditional sense. Since mandala painting is also a form of worship based on scriptural texts, anyone who wants to gain permission to practice this activity has a long way to go, learning that concept precedes form, that colors and shapes serve the whole. . It is no wonder that mandalas are widely popular among locals and tourists alike.
Singing bowls also play an important role among Buddhist souvenirs. Traditionally, sound bowls fulfill several functions. According to the intention of the user, the sound bowl can help meditation and religious practice, but it is also suitable for healing. As can be deduced from its name, the bowls owe their name to their unique, powerful and harmonious melody. Their production goes back to long traditions, some of the bowls are still made by traditional hand casting, using seven metals. The seven metals symbolize the seven planets that were known in the Middle Ages and their role to involve the astrological power of the planets. The appearance and shape of the bowls can be very different, on some of the bowls you can find depictions of Buddha, while on others non-figurative patterns, but there are bowls without any pattern at all. The quality of the sound bowl is determined by its sound, the better the quality of the sound bowl, the higher and clearer the resonance produced by the sound bowl. Anyone who wants to buy a sound bowl in Nepal should be careful, because there is a huge range in terms of size and quality, which results in very different prices. The advice is to avoid the areas most popular with tourists when shopping, because the prices are naturally higher here. It is also a good idea to buy the singing bowl and other ritual objects in a place that is near a stupa less popular with tourists, or in an area inhabited by artisans, such as Patan.
The various sculptures are also very popular among tourists. Various statues play a big role in Buddhist traditions. These can be Buddha statues, which are made in the greatest variety, the color, size and material of the statues are all important, not to mention the pose taken by the Buddha. Different Buddhas have different meanings, which is worth researching before buying. But in shops selling religious objects, you can also find statues of Maitreya, Tara, Csenrézi and many others. One of the most famous shops is the Statue Maker's Shop in Kathmandu, which is located next to the famous Buddhist stupa, Boudhanath Stupa. This shop was founded and maintained by Buddhist sculpture families from the city of Patan. According to their creed, they work not only with their hands, but also with their hearts. This can be felt in the sculptures they carved, as celebrities such as Richard Gere and Cher bought from the sculptures they carved in addition to ordinary customers.
In our online store, you can find both machine-made and hand-made sound bowls: take your pick!
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