9 Unique and Traditional Handmade Gifts from Nepal
A frequent question we get from friends visiting Kathmandu is “What unique Nepali gifts or souvenirs can I buy to take home with me?” Please allow us to offer a few suggestions. What makes these gifts unique? They are handcrafted products that are rooted in our history and culture, and you know exactly who made it: home-based elderly makers with incredible life stories.
1. Dhaka Baby Blanket by 83-year-old Dil Hera Tuladhar
No fabric is more interwoven to Nepali culture than the Dhaka fabric. The most visible use of this fabric is the Dhaka topi worn by Nepalese men. The Dhaka baby blanket is made by stitching the Dhaka fabric between a layer of soft muslin cloth, making it a perfect swaddle for your newborn. Dil Hera Tuladhar of Ganabahal started making these for her grandchildren and more recently for her great-grandchildren.
2. Swayambhu Stupa by 70-year-old Juju Ratna Tamrakar
This 5.12 inches high replica of the Swayambhu Stupa is made of clay and lokta paper by Juju Ratna Tamrakar who used to work as a designer at the Nepal Rastra Bank. Swayambhu is Kathmandu's most popular landmark and a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site. Even after retirement, Juju bajya hasn't given up his passion for art and design. "If I stop crafting, I fall ill!" he said to us when we first met him.
3. Dharma Chakra Fridge Magnet by 70-year-old Juju Ratna Tamrakar
Another unique creation of Juju bajya is the Dharma Chakra fridge magnet which depicts the 'wheel of dharma'. Each of the eight spokes on the wheel represents eight principles of Buddhism, also referred to as the eightfold path. It is made of clay and lokta paper with a magnet stuck on it's back. You can stick this souvenir on your fridge to serve as a daily reminder of these timeless buddhist principles.
4. Dhaka Baby Bhoto Set by 71-year-old Pragya Shakya
A bhoto is a traditional top with four knots worn by both women and men in Nepal. This particular baby bhoto set made by Pragya Shakya of Patan consists of a top, bottom, inner, and cap all made of the Dhaka fabric. It is designed to keep your toddler warm during the winter months. Shakya is a retired tailor who lives in Shreebahal neighborhood of Patan and loves to sing old Newari songs.
5. Kon Organic Scrub by 62-year-old Anita Joshi
Kon is a traditional Newari all-natural scrub recipe that has been passed down through generations in the Joshi family. It can be used on your face or body to exfoliate dead skin cells. To use it, you mix it with water and a few drops of coconut oil. Anita Joshi was born and raised in the Jyatha neighborhood of Kathmandu and is well known among her relatives for her homemade beauty products.
6. Muda Stool by 66-year-old Ram Maya Maharjan
Products made of 'sukul' (straw) originated from the farming village of Siddhipur in the outskirts of Kathmandu which is where the maker of the Muda Stool, Ram Maya Maharjan lives. The skill of making products with sukul has been passed down through generations in the Maharjan family. This 14 inches tall stool is a perfect addition to your porch or veranda to enjoy tea and conversation during summer evenings.
7. Pata Coaster by 66-year-old Ram Maya Maharjan
If you want a sukul product but you find the Muda Stool too bulky to carry with you, then the Pata Coaster also made by Ram Maya Maharjan is the perfect option for you. It weighs around 80 grams and is small enough to stash in your hand carry. Sukul or straw used to make the Pata Coaster is a by-product of the rice crop grown by the Maharjan family.
8. Dhaka Handkerchief by 82-year-old Ram Kumari Shrestha
Another great Dhaka product in our collection is the Dhaka Handkerchief made by Ram Kumari Shrestha of Hyumat tole, a neighborhood close to the Swayambhu stupa. It is made using the same technique as the baby blanket, i.e. by stitching Dhaka fabric between two layers of muslin cloth which gives it a soft touch. Ram Kumari lives in a six-story home with her family and at 83, still manages to go up the stairs to her terrace to admire the Swayambhu stupa that is visible from her home.
Available at Timro Concept Store in Kathmandu.
9. Mheecha Pouch by Late Gyani Laxmi Manandhar
Mheechas are traditional pouches carried by Nepali women. Aji's Mheecha pouches were handcrafted by Late Gyani Laxmi Manandhar with recycled scraps of cloth that she collected from her neighborhood tailor shops. During an interview with Nepali Times, she described her Mheecha pouches, "This little pouch is like god's temple. People can keep things in it with great care and love." Gyani aji passed away earlier this year at age 92.
There you have it, the most unique traditional gifts or souvenirs that you can buy from Nepal. Next time someone asks you what unique gifts to buy from Nepal, just send them this list!
You can learn more about each of our makers here.