Regaining Lost Glory Nepali Handicrafts

Features Issue 110 Jan, 2011
Text by Robin Pradhan / Photo: ECS Media

Diverse is the nature of Nepal’s handicrafts and diverse too are the raw materials used. Pashmina comes from the fine fur on mountain goats’ neck and shoulders, allo is the bark of the giant nettle, moonj, the tall grass of the Terai and Dyo Cha is black clay found only in Thimi. What is similar however is the skill of Nepali artisans no matter what handicraft they are involved in.

The good old days for pashmina

“The boom (for pashmina) started in 1997 and the orders began coming in 1998, and hit the roof the following year. I came in touch with my first major client through the Internet in 1998 who ordered 300 shawls. A month later he asked for another 1,000 pieces. Within two months, he wanted me to supply 3-4,000 pieces each month. After three months, he wanted me to supply 10,000 pieces,” were the exuberant words of the Managing Director of Nepal Pashmina Industry in an interview in August 2002. “We had so much demand that we even had to turn some down.”

Those were the good old days for Nepali handicraft exports because, after all, if pashmina was flourishing then the whole handicraft industry could be assumed to be similarly on a high tide of success. The pashmina industry employed over 50,000 people and made up at least 82 % of all handicraft exports from Nepal in 2000-2001. In 1997, Nepal exported Rs 3 million worth of the fabric, and by 2000 the figure had risen to more than Rs 5.6 billion. The number of registered factories jumped from 25 in 1993 to 959 by 1999.

Fast forward to 2009/2010 and what do we get?

The fiscal year 2009/2010 recorded pashmina exports of just Rs. 473.60 million and its contribution to the total handicraft exports (Rs. 2.78 billion) had come down to only 17% (which however still makes it the biggest single contributor to handicraft exports). Although the decline had been a steady one after plummeting to Rs. 661.37 million in 2002 from Rs. 5.6 billion in 2000, 2009/2010 was an especially bad year for the industry. The year before (2007/2008), pashmina exports had totaled Rs. 686.63 million and contributed 23 % to total handicraft exports.

Skilled hands weaving Dhaka fabric

So, what was the cause of Nepali pashmina’s downfall? Indian as well as Chinese pashmina products started affecting Nepali exports drastically. Exports of fake pashmina rose owing to factors like lack of public awareness and nonexistence of a trademark, the absence of which encouraged the misuse of its name to sell products made from viscose-polyester, wool, cotton and other textile materials. Desperate times require desperate tactics and so, a collective trademark logo of Nepali pashmina with the brand name “Chyangra Pashmina” was launched at the beginning of this year. This is Nepal’s first internationally registered brand name and so far, has been registered in 38 countries till date.

As per the registration, pashmina is a Nepali term given to the finest fur extract of mountain goats (chyangra in Nepali). Also, it’s purely a Nepali good and it defines pashmina goods as products that possess the finest material content and traits. By virtue of this registration, Nepali producers have achieved intellectual property rights over pashmina and have hopefully closed doors for competitor exporters from promoting their goods as Nepali pashmina in those nations. According to officials, the top 10 countries importing Nepali pashmina are America, Germany, Canada, UK, Japan, France, Italy, China, Denmark and Switzerland. In 2009/2010 the US imported one-third of the total Nepali pashmina exported in the year. Well, that’s the story of pashmina till now. Let’s see how the year ends. A spurt in pashmina exports will signal an all round growth in exports of the entire handicrafts sector as well.

The handicrafts of Nepal
The handicraft sector as a whole falls under two broad categories:  the textile sector and the non-textile sector. In addition to pashmina, the former includes woolen, felt, silk, cotton, dhaka, hemp and allo (nettle fibre) products. Last year, these totaled Rs. 1.5 billion in exports. The latter consists of silver jewelry, metal craft, handmade paper products, woodcraft, leather goods, incense, paubha (thanka), bone and horn products as well as ceramics, bead items, bamboo products, stone craft and plastic items. These totaled Rs. 1.27 billion in exports in 2009/2010. The top five contributors were: pashmina (17.01%), woolen goods (16.18%), silver jewelry (13.25%), metal craft (13.14%) and felt products (12. 65%).

Woolen products

A long time back this writer had the thought that if only Nepal could get an order for knitted socks for the Chinese army, a lot of people here would be employed gainfully all year long! Well, my view wasn’t far off the mark seeing as to how our woolen products are doing quite well abroad, so much so that they have become the second largest contributor to the total handicraft exports. The items most in demand are sweaters, ponchos, hats, gloves, socks, mufflers and jackets.

According to Kedar Rimal of Kalanki Knitwear Pvt Ltd, wool from New Zealand and Australia are mostly used and knitting of the various items are given on contract basis to many groups in areas adjoining the Kathmandu Valley. These groups in turn employ families in villages and small towns to make the products. Exporters like Kalanki Knitwear are responsible for the finishing as well as coming up with the designs. Although business is satisfactory, Rimal is of the opinion that the concerned authorities in government are all too lackadaisical in areas to do with finding markets and promotion. He bemoans the way pashmina, once such a promising export business, has gone down the drain but feels relatively confident that woolen product exports will not follow likewise. His confidence stems from the fact making woolen items is a totally handicraft business in which no machines are used thus making bulk production, impossible. The United States (Rs. 91.1 million), Canada (Rs. 81.97 million) and United Kingdom (Rs. 66 million) were the three biggest importers of Nepal-made woolen products in 2009/2010 while the total exports was worth Rs. 450.42 million.

Besides New Zealand and Australian wool, yak wool is also used, although of the finer variety. These are especially used to make jackets, the typical Nepali ones that one can see hanging from shops in Thamel.  In fact, fine yak wool is quite popular due to its unique texture besides being a stronger and softer type of yarn as compared to other wools. This assures a longer life for the product in question. At the same time, yak wool does not come in pure white color and is not as responsive to dyeing as is sheep wool, which is why many manufacturers combine both yak and sheep wool during the knitting process.

Silver jewelry

Patan, or Lalitpur, is home to many reputed silversmiths of Nepal. One will find many shops selling silver jewelry all over the city. Most such businesses are in fact those that have been handed down through the generations along with skills that have made some clans like the Shakyas and Bajracharyas famous as master silversmiths. It is a reputation that has crossed the seven seas and the intricately designed silver jewelry of Nepal has found a place in both high end showrooms as well as in alley shops in many a foreign city. For instance, in Copenhagen’s famous pedestrian street (Stroget) one will come across a row of curio shops in one of the many side streets that have display cabinets full of Nepal made silver jewelry. During a trip some time back, I had taken a dozen or so such jewelry with me and visited some of these shops. I discovered that indeed, Nepali silver jewelry was much in demand, with those having coral or turquoise stones in them, being the most popular. In addition, silver jewelry with snake designs seemed to be a particular favorite. An aside – many of the shopkeepers claimed to have visited Kathmandu in the 1970s – mostly as one-time hippies.

Rugged mountainfolk need rugged clothing!

On the other hand, in places like Florida in the United States, there is tough competition from Spanish designed silver jewelry and a visit to some malls in Orlando unfortunately made this writer realize that Nepal’s beautiful silver jewelry has not been able to make much of a dent there. One can only surmise that similar could be the case in other important cities of the United States as well, Florida being a worthy barometer of American trends countrywide, and Spanish-everything being the second culture. So, even if the US is the biggest importer for Nepali silver jewelry, it seems that a lot of potential remains still to be tapped. And, this could be the case for other countries too, seeing as to how silver jewelry exports have more or less remained stagnant through the years. In 2002/2003 it was Rs. 353 million, in 2005/2006 it was Rs. 360 million, in 2007/2008 it was Rs. 345.69 million and last year it was Rs. 368.72 million.

Metal craft   
In the ancient city of Patan, there are many side lanes and narrow alleys interspersed by both small and large courtyards linking the various parts of the city. Among these side lanes and alleys are some that are home to some of the finest craftsmen in the country, and I daresay, the whole world. Names like Ekha-cha, Nag Bahal and Oku Bahal have been ancient centres for the making of magnificent sculpture and crystal works, Bhinche Bahal, the centre for stone crafts, Jom Bahal, for woodcarving and Bu Bahal, for silver crafts including jewelry. The Lalit Boudha Art Exhibition which is held almost every year in Patan offers an opportunity to view at one site the magnificent works of art created by master craftsmen. One such exhibition held some years back serves as an example of the wide range of metal craft (besides others) being created by these masters of the arts. At the event were displayed such fascinating items as a huge copper Sahasvabhuja Avalokiteswore (one of the many incarnations of Buddha) by Santa K. Shakya, a graceful iron Mandala (a concentric diagram having religious significance) by Lumbini Raj Shakya and four other religious icons, the copper Megha Sambhar, the three and a half feet red Bajra Yogini, the six and a half feet Swet Mahankal and the colorfully painted copper statue of Sahasvabhuja Lokeswore by Rajesh Awale, Kalu Kumali, Raju Maharjan and Amit Shakya respectively. Rajesh Awale also displayed his other works, cast metal statues of Guhya Samaj and Dattatreya while Raj K. Shakya and his brothers exhibited a copper metal sheet embossed statue of Padam Sambhav. Also displayed were a huge bronze Sahasvabhuja Lokeswar by Rajan Shakya and a copper Maitreya Bodhi Satya by Gyanendra Shakya.

Aunti and Sukunda, two essential requirements of all Newari Pujas

Indeed, there is no dearth of beautiful metal craft works being made day in and day out in the busy lanes of the ‘City of the Arts’. Oku Bahal especially, is known to many as the lane where 88-year-old Siddhi Raja Shakya and his five sons have their home. A visit to this place can be very revealing for those interested to know more about metal craft. Their workshop makes statues of Buddha and his different incarnations as well as of other Buddhist deities using the lost wax method wherein a wax model is first created which is then covered with a clay mold that is fired in high heat. Next, the wax is poured out through a small opening and liquid bronze, copper or whatever metal used, is poured inside the hole and allowed to set. At the end of the process, the hardened mold is broken to reveal the metal figure upon which finishing touches are done using refining tools and paint.

According to one son, Nhuchhe Ratna, “We only make idols for worship and so you will not find them being sold in shops,” He also reveals that they are descendants of royal monks who were in charge of the most important monastery, Rudravarna Mahavihar, in that area. Obviously, it is a traditional vocation, one that has been passed down through the ages and appears set to continue down the coming generations as well. This is a fortunate thing because at present, there are only four or five families in the country that can be said to be really carrying on the traditional art of metal sculpture for which Nepal has always been famous. Siddhi Raja is renowned for works like the 21 Bhagwati idols that adorn Hanuman Dhoka and the two lions inside the erstwhile Narayanhiti Royal Palace as well as the Mayadevi and Chintamani Lokeswar statues in Sri Sadan on the same premises. The figurines made in their workshop are in copper, bronze, brass, silver, gold as well as in ‘pancha dhatu’ (amalgamation of five metals) and ‘astha dhatu’ (amalgamation of eight metals). The statues are generally in sizes of 14 to 18 inches but larger ones have been made occasionally such as the six and a half feet statue of Shakya Muni for the German funded monastery in Lumbini. The family also once made a mold for a three feet statue of Amodha Lokeswar (having eight hands) for a monastery in Nagasaki, Japan, where the casting was done using almost two hundred kilos of gold!

A Tamrakar at work on a big sized bell

Besides Patan in Kathmandu Valley, Bhojpur District of eastern Nepal is renowned for the famous khukuris of the Gurkhas. Similarly, Tansen in Palpa District of western Nepal has an entire ward called Taksar Tole that is home to many metal craft shops whose principal products are bronze karuwas (water bearing vessels with narrow spouts), panas (lamp stands) and other similar utensils and items related to household and religious use. A certain Suresh Man Bajracharya who runs the ‘Palpali Karuwa Udyhog’ in this very tole (ward), has on display one of the biggest karuwas ever made that is said to weigh a mammoth 150 kilograms!

So, is the metal craft business growing as robustly? Let’s see. In 2002/2003, exports totaled Rs. 276.29 million. In 2009/2010 the export figure was Rs. 366.21 million. Again, like silver jewelry, the trend appears to be a stagnant one. The question thus remains: what ails our handicraft industry? Deeper analysis has of course shown that the problems can of a different nature for the individual sectors, but even if it is so, on the whole, Nepal seems to have taken a truly laid-back approach to gaining momentum in a field that provides employment to so many people. Now, let’s get along and see how other handicraft sectors are faring.

Exquisite metalwork

Felt products
Felt products have only recently come into their own, having been de-listed from woolen goods only from 2006/2007 as a separate entity. Exports have been on an upward trend having registered Rs. 224.74 million in that year and reaching Rs. 352.27 million last year. In fact, felt products are now a sizeable part of leading handicraft exporters like Association of Handicraft Producers (ACP) which is evident from the large variety of felt goods displayed at their retail outlet Dhukuti in Kupondole, Lalitpur. ACP has its production site at Rabi Bhawan in Kalimati of Kathmandu and a visit there will also make one realize that felt products appear to have very good demand nowadays. Meera Bhattarai, Founder Member and Executive Director of ACP agrees and in fact the organization also provides training to its many employees and local producers on the art of felting besides other crafts like weaving, dyeing, knitting, etc.

Now, you might be wondering what is felt exactly? It is a fabric made of wool fibers or animal hair matted together by steam and pressure without spinning, weaving or knitting. Such fibers include wool, fur and certain other hair fibers that mat together under appropriate conditions because of their peculiar structure and high degree of crimp. After carding, the fibers are dyed to acquire the required colors. And, from this starting point, can be produced a multitude of items such as key rings, shoes, foot warmers, socks, caps and hats, scarves, even jewelry, mats and coasters, playful felt balls, puppets and decoratives, etc. etc.. In fact, the variety is only limited by the imagination. No wonder felt products are doing quite well. They already contribute 12.65% to total handicraft exports.


What about the ancient art of wood and stone carving for which the Newars are renowned as highly as in other sectors? In the case of the former, it is the Shilpakars of Patan who are renowned for their craftsmanship and a small town (village?) called Bungamati in the valley is also almost as famous as Patan for the fine art of woodcarving. Wood carving actually holds a special place in the valley’s history since the name Kathmandu itself is derived from the famous wood monument known as Kasthamandap Temple near Kathmandu Durbar Square, which is said to have been built from a single Sal tree. Today too, mainly Sal, Agrath and Chapa wood are used. Moti Lal Shilkpakar of Wood Carving Industries in Patan Industrial Estate is an institution as far as this art form is concerned.

He and his organization have been responsible for many fascinating works of wood art here and abroad. In this fine art form, exact instructions in old texts are meticulously followed and great skill is needed to execute the precise decorative work so that the even tiny parts of a pattern fit perfectly since no nails or glue can be used. The extent to which wood work has dominated art and architecture in the valley is evident from the thousands of latticed and intricately carved wooden windows one sees everywhere in the older parts of the three big cities as well as in the hundreds of temples around the valley. Now, let’s see how wood carving is faring as an export business. In 2002/2003, it recorded Rs. 56.21 million in exports. In 2009/2010, the figure was Rs. 48.45 million. Not good obviously. 

Stone Craft
As for stone craft, the oldest existing works of art in Nepal are stone statues dating back to the 1st century AD and techniques and tools have remained unchanged over the centuries. The exquisite craftsmanship is obvious in many old stone images in and around temples and heritage sites. The dhunge dharas (stone spouts) at the hitis (sunken bathing sites) also are further evidence, if indeed they were needed, of the Newari people’s highly refined skills in the craft. Like wood carving, skills have been passed down the generations. Two great examples of stone craft are the massive stone lions in Kathmandu Durbar Square which were made by Dharma Raj Shakya of Patan. They were commissioned in 1997 as part of the preparations for the first ever Visit Nepal Year Campaign in 1998. It is to be noted that Dharma’s ancestor, Abhay Raj Shakya, was responsible for making the Mahaboudha Vihar, also known as the nine thousand Buddha Temple in Patan in the 16th century. Dharma claims to have carved more than 3000 figures the largest of which is the 19 by 15 feet limestone Budhanilkantha Narayan located in the Chandeswari temple in Banepa. He is also proud of the Chaityas and Garuds he made for Hyatt Regency Hotel in Boudha. He says, “Once upon a time, stone carvers were called ‘Lokarmis’ and looked down upon, but now it has become a respectable vocation.”

An apprentice stone carver at work

 Jaya Raj Bajracharya who has a showroom in Baber Mahal Revisited, is also well known for his impressive stone statues including an eight feet tall statue of Milarepa, the revered Buddhist saint. Stone carving is in his blood. His father Lok Raj and grandfather Budha Ratna Bajracharya too were skilled stone carvers. Jaya says, “We are one of the few families that has such a long history of stone sculpting which has continued the tradition unbroken”. He could be right because stone carving is one of the most demanding of crafts and many stone craftsmen have transferred their skills to less strenuous craft like woodcarving. The late Budha Ratna was responsible for many stone carvings in the palace, including those at the main entrance and he is also credited with the stone peacock windows at the Royal Nepal Academy hall. Jaya says, “In fact, one can see his works in many cities around the country.” Jaya himself, and his father, Lok Raj, have many outstanding achievements themselves. One of the most famous is the seven feet tall Panchmukhi Hanuman on the Challing hilltop in Bhaktapur. The family was also the sole commissioned sculptors for making all of the late King Birendra’s statues and busts. Stone craft exports stood at Rs. 3.62 million in 2002/2003. Last year, the figure was Rs. 3.44 million. Here, it must be pointed out that export of stone craft is a difficult affair primarily because of their weight and so, exports is not a good parameter to go by when judging its progress.

The detailed workings make Paubha art time consuming affairs

Paubha (Thanka) paintings
Lok Chitrakar of Simrik Atelier in Patan Dhoka, Lalitpur, is one of the foremost in this field. According to him, Paubha painting requires some knowledge about religious shastras (sutras), or texts but at the same time, while all Paubha paintings are religious in nature they are not necessarily based only on Buddhism. This self taught master has overseen the making of some awesome paubhas like a 68x68 cm Garbadhatu Mandala, a 65x65 cm Vajrabhairaba Mandala and a 68x68cm Chakra Sambhava Mandala. Overseen, because it is not uncommon, and indeed, the norm, for many artists to work on the same canvas - so intricate are the details and so long is the time taken (some can take many years in fact).

Explaining his craft, he says, “Paubha actually comes from two words, ‘Pau’ and ‘Bha’ derived from the Newari term Patra Bhattarak, which means, ‘depiction of god in flat form’. It is an ancient art form and the oldest one ever found, a Ratna Sambhav, is lodged in Los Angeles County Museum in the United States. I believe it is either from late 12th century or early 13th century.” The starting point of Paubha painting is the making of the canvas which is referred to as ‘Patbhumibandhan’. The white canvas is stretched on a wooden frame and rubbed with ‘kamaro’ (white clay) and ‘saras’ (buffalo hide glue). ‘Kamaro’ provides the colour that covers all the minute pores while ‘saras’ acts as the binding medium. Next come the colours. There are five basic colours: red, blue, yellow, white and black and all are mineral and vegetable based, produced in the workshop itself. Lapis Lazuli stone from Afghanistan is the source of blue color. The minerals Orpiment and Cinnabar are available in the Solukhumbu mountains of Nepal and are sources for yellow and red respectively. Conch shell powder from Japan provides the pure white color while black color is derived from the soot of burning pine wood. The color gold, much used in Paubha paintings, is produced from gold dust while the Indigo plant from South India is the source of rich indigo color.

Lokta handicrafts are diverse and colorful

The process begins with fine free hand sketching by pencil and each drawing is based on a particular religious theme. In most Buddhism based Paubhas, the central figure is of the icon which sits on a pedestal and is the central point of a figurative temple. Thus there will be a canopy above, and cornices at the four corners with various associated figures (Buddhas, Boddhistavas, monks, disciples, Yakshas, Apsaras, etc.) at particular points around it. Then permanent ink sketching is done, after which the painter gets down to the arduous task of putting in color. According to Chitrakar, “Some of the color details too have to be according to what the texts prescribe and one cannot deviate from that.” Unfortunately, the going is not good as far as exports are concerned. Rs. 15.76 million worth was exported in 2002/2003 but in 2009/2010, the figure had fallen to just Rs. 10.58 million.

Traditional ceramics is an age-old craft going back many centuries with the oldest recorded finds in Lumbini being supposedly 2600 years old. Historically, the Prajapatis of the valley and the Kumhals of the Terai were involved in pottery making. Pottery making is also found in the mid-mountain regions of the country and utility items like water containers and earthenware are the major products. Modern ceramic products, both glazed and unglazed, include flower vases, containers, toys, idols, etc. Krishna Sunder Prajapati of Haribol Ceramics in Bhaktapur, is a leading pottery maker. His artistry is evident in the magnificent lions, the roly-poly laughing Buddhas, the hefty elephants and the various kinds of vessels as well as many other beautiful objects on the shelves around his room. Many similar objects are done in either terracotta or deeper chocolate and metallic colours. In fact the clay objects d’art done in metallic colors look like they are made of bronze or copper.

Ceramics is a craft that is handed down through the generations

According to him, most of the orders from abroad are for Buddha and Garuda statues, elephants, flower pots, different kinds of vessels, as well as deity idols and the Buddha and elephant figures can be quite large - up to three and a half feet tall. The Prajapatis (meaning the whole family) have traditionally been in this line of work since ages gone by and many other families in the area are involved in the business as well. Their cousins in the Terai are known as Kumhals. Prajapati says that ceramics made in Bhaktapur are superior to those made elsewhere primarily because unlike others who use some black clay mixed with white clay from India and commonly found natural clay, they mostly use black clay which is called ‘Dyo Cha’, literally meaning ‘clay of God’, and is found only in a place called Khapi, near the present Harisiddhi Bricks Factory. It is said to be supple and elastic in nature. He reveals, “Only the Prajapatis of Bhaktapur are allowed to dig for it. We get permission to dig only once a year, that is before the rice planting starts in July.” He adds, “We go in groups and dig down to more than 10-12 feet. Then we make tunnels and dig out clay, sometimes even lying on our backs. It is a very risky work and sometimes lives have been lost as a result of cave-ins.” So, is pottery doing well? Yes, thank God. Rs. 23.49 million worth was exported in 2009/2010 compared to Rs. 15.97 million in 2002/2003.

Commonly known as lokta kagaj, Nepali handmade paper is renowned for its exceptional durability and texture. The production of handmade paper begins by boiling the dried bark of Daphne Cannabina or Daphne Papyracea, locally known as lokta, with ash or caustic soda solution. The softened bark is then washed to remove impurities and beaten with wooden mallets to a pulp which is poured onto wooden frames and sun dried. This is then dyed, stenciled, printed and transformed into attractive products like wall paper, stationary, greeting cards, diaries and  notebooks, gift wrapping paper, bags, envelopes, photo frames etc by skilled craftsmen. It is well known that ancient religious texts and royal edicts were recorded on lokta paper and even today, many legal documents are recorded on the same. Besides this, Tibetan monks too use it for their manuscripts and for printing sacred texts.

Lokta products are very popular worldwide and that is why its contribution to total handicraft exports from Nepal is almost 10%. In 2002/2003 exports of Lokta totaled Rs. 275.37 million while in 2009/2010, the figure stood at Rs. 270.5 million.

Other handicrafts
As for the other handicrafts, let’s see what Sunil Chitrakar, Executive Director of another premier handicraft organization, Mahaguthi, has to say. According to him, “Lokta (Nepali handmade paper) products have always been in good demand. Ceramics also are very popular as are handloom textiles and garments made out of the same.” Talking a bit about his company, the MD says, “We have 90 producer groups in 15 districts of Nepal. While many of the products, especially silver jewelry, wood and metal craft as well as handloom textiles are made in Kathmandu itself, much of the ceramic work comes from Dang in west Nepal while from Pyuthan (also in the west), comes herbal soap. Similarly, tea comes from Ilam (in eastern Nepal) while madals (ethnic drums) and other traditional musical instruments are made in Dhading of Kavre District. From the Terai comes moonj products. Moonj is the tall grass found growing in the Terai and out of which a variety of items have customarily been crafted by Terai women. Sunil specially mentions allo products as a particularly distinctive group at Mahaguthi. “This is a natural fibre which was previously used to make ropes in the eastern hills,” he explains. “We were the ones to develop many different products from this fibre, including curtains and clothes. Now, producer groups in the western hills too are manufacturing allo products.”

Nimble hands are needed for the fine art of woodcarving

Allo is derived from the bark of the giant nettle Girardinia diversifolia. The barks are boiled in water to which wood ash has been added. After drying, the fibers are beaten to remove any remaining plant matter, and coated with a white micaceous clay soil to lubricate and make their separation and spinning easier. Allo is traditionally woven into cloth in an open back strap loom. Handloom fabrics are also a big thing with Mahaguthi as well as with all other handicraft businesses here. A popular handloom fabric is Dhaka shawl and cloth. The traditional pattern weaving is done on wood and bamboo treadle looms by Limbu and Rai women of the eastern hill areas of Nepal using mercerized sewing cotton with their intricate colorful stranded cotton patterns. Mahaguthi, like ACP, exports all over the world and as a matter of interest, Chitrakar reveals that Canadians seem especially fond of silver jewelry and singing bowls while the Spanish and the Italians appear to like clothes and ceramics.

Oh yes, all said and done, the world loved our handicrafts once. There is no reason why they shouldn’t once again do so. With new initiatives like the registration of ‘Chyangra Pashmina’ logo and trademark, things appear to have taken an upward trend in the present fiscal year 2010/2011. With so much at stake especially with regard to the large number of employment opportunities created by this sector right down to the grassroots level, one cannot but hope that Nepali handicrafts will regain their lost glory once again and that the world will look with new eyes and rediscover once again the fabled skills of Nepali artists and artisans. 

Ref: Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal.