Travelling always feels like magic. Going to new places, meeting new people, coming face to face with completely different cultures, walking entirely different roads with exclusively different music is like going to a new fairy land. Travelling equals immersing and wrapping oneself up in a shawl of totally different scenario. What better than to have something to remind us of this magical land we went to after we return and take our shawls off? A prayer flag to remember the wind of Himalayas, some sculptures to take a bit of the culture to your living room, a diary to reminiscence the land trodden while waiting for new ones to walk, or photo frames to recollect all the memories. Anything as long as it brings back whiff of the place. That is why, any wonderful places we go to, we find shops or stalls full of different souvenirs to take back home, and the destinations in Nepal are no different. May it be Thamel, Pashupati, Durbar squares, Boudhanath, Namo Buddha, or any other place, they have stalls selling the specialty of the place. These trinkets have a huge business, and I want to unravel what all these trinkets might mean!
The most famous souvenirs to take back are the metal sculptures and the most famous sculptures are the Buddha ones, according to Ashish Shakya from Ashish handicrafts. He has an amazing collection of sculptures, and says that one sculpture alone takes about 4 or 5 person, each being designed a separate job to finish the work. First, the wax is molded, then mud work, then the desired metal, usually copper is placed through the hole, and the casting taken off. The carving, gold plating and face painting finally give the finishing touch to the sculpture. The Buddha sculpture are also of various types, the meditation Buddha, Healing Buddha, Shakya Muni Buddha, etc. These sculptures are also available in various sizes. These hand crafted sculptures are therefore in the bucket list of many tourist wishing to take back a memento of Nepal.
The bells vary from very intricately designed to very simple ones, and one of the attractions of any souvenir shops. In Hinduism and Buddhism, bells are used for worshipping, although they may be used in different ways. According to a Buddhist lama I met in Ashish handicrafts, the bell’s dome represents void, or emptiness, which is a core concept of Hinduism, and the sound that bell produces, represents creation from nothingness. So, if buying bell is your choice, you are carrying a serious philosophy in your bag! In Buddhism, the bell comes along with Dorje, which is a symbol of peace and acceptance, a will to help everyone and everything, and this Dorje and bell can also be seen carried by many deities in their sculptures too.
PRAYER FLAGS AND PRAYER WHEELS
Prayer flags and prayer wheels are really popular souvenir, because they are a really important part of the culture. They are seen during Himalayan trekking, around any Gumbas or Monasteries, and as decorations too. Both the flags and the wheels have important mantras, or inscriptions, written on them, which is believed to bring in positive vibes and power, and ward off evil. They are used mostly for indoor decorations after being bought as a souvenir, and lightens up the room because they are so colorful. Mr Ashish shares that the tourists usually buy smaller prayer wheels and use them in their office desks as stress buster as well as paper holder.
The singing bowls are also really famous, as a very meditative and relaxing souvenir. The set consists of a bowl and stick, when the stick is moved against the bowl, it produces a very relaxing and meditative surround sound. It is believed to have healing powers as well. Many shops are dedicated to just the singing bowls, which are also available in variety of sizes.
The teacups and other utensils from around the Himalayas are unique in that they are really embroidered, and people buy them to add to that color in their homes. The colors are very bright, like red, orange, yellow, blue, etc. So, you can remember Nepal and it’s vibrant colors while sipping your tea!
If big sculptures and table show pieces are not your choice, and you would rather wear your travels, then there are choices available from so many kinds of earrings and bracelets. They are of many colors, and also different textures. Sometimes, you can also make your own custom one, with miniature bells, sculptures, or prayer wheels. Or if metal and coppers is not your thing at all, you even have ones made out of clothes or pashminas too!