Since the home country of our lovely stoles and scarves is Nepal, we cannot ignore the artistry of this wonderful country, which has inspired us to create.
The art of Nepal has been developing for centuries upon centuries, taking influence both from the neighboring countries, and the people of Nepal themselves. The location between India and Tibet, its division into several ethnic groups, isolated location, and multiple languages, all created a complicated twist of traditions and cultures of the people inhabiting Nepal. Multi- ethnic and multi- lingual setting played a big role in the development of religion, philosophy, culture, arts, crafts, and folklore. Multiple colorful holidays and festivals described below are a great example of these influences. On festival days it is easier to understand the magnitude of the cultural variety in Nepal.
Nepal is a country where art, culture, and religion are an inseparable part of the lives of its inhabitants. Religion and art of Nepal can't be separated from each other. The Nepalese look at the world around them through Puja (a ceremony, an act of worshipping divinity), prayers, and rituals. They acknowledge the divine in everything, from the greeting “Namaste”, which means “I salute the divine in you”, to spirits and deities present in trees, mergers of holy rivers (dhoban), and mountain peaks. When traveling through the Valley of Kathmandu, you will inevitably come in touch with priceless examples of Nepalese art: wood carving, architecture etc., reflecting the religious themes of Buddhism and Hinduism.
Architecture and sculpture of Nepal
The oldest monuments of architectural art in the Valley of Kathmandu have, with time, lost their glory. Piles of dirt with grass growing all over them are all that is left from the four Ashoka Stupas in Patan, and the illustrious stupas of Swayambhunath and Bodnath have been re- built countless times throughout centuries. Nevertheless these miraculously preserved constructions continue to amaze with their uniqueness, their aura of mystery.
The most ancient examples of amazing works of stone-carving such as the sculptures of Changu Narayan located near Bhaktapur date back to 4th to 9th century. Not a single wooden building has survived to see the modern times. Neither have woodwork elements that are dated further than the 12th century, but the skill of newar craftsmen lives on in elements of the gorgeous temple of Jokhang located in Lhasa.
The hailed skill of newar maters reached its peak during the reigh of the Malla dynasty between 15th and 17th centuries. Arguments and constant battle for priorities between the cities of Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur fueled a competetive building boom where each tried to outshine the other with amazing temples and palaces. The skill of the newar spread far beyond the masterfully created and well- known wooden items. Gradually the newar mastered and polished the skill of working with metal, ceramics, brick, and stone sculptures.
In Nepalese paintings a distinctive influence of chinese, tibetan, and mongolian art can be felt. The newar paubha consists of religious images resembling Tibetan thangka. A unique style of painting called mithila (also known as madhubani) exists in Eastern Terai.
It is believed that this style originated in the ancient country of Mithila during the reign of the legendary king Janaki, the father of goddess Sita (wife of Rama). This traditionally feminine craft was practiced in families of Mithila royalty, and passed from one generation to another. The city of Janakpur is considered he centre of the mithila style. Most typical are abstract ornaments with scenes from country life amongst them. White and ochre colors are used.
In Nepal this kind of art is presented by Tibetan painting (thangka) and Nepalese newar painting (paubha).
Paubha is the predecessor of thangka. Complicated floral ornaments are a distinctive feature of the Nepalese paubha. Bright, contrasting colors are also a typical element for this kind of painting. The Nepalese paubha is an irreplaceble part of lives of the Nepalese. It is created by newar painters, the main ethnic group in the Valley of Kathmandu. Paubha is painted on cotton canvases. Paint is traditionally maid from ground rocks and plant- based pigments such as indigo, or gold and silver powders. The dominant color in paubha is red. Blue, green, and gold are used for accent. The main themes in paubha are Buddhist and Hindu deities. When it comes to picturing them, strict standards are applied to poses, facial expressions, and hand gestures. There are paubhas that show the history of construction of a palace or a temple, or the history of a monk guild. For the last few decades the traditional paubha has been in decline but is currently experiencing a rebirth.
Thangka is a Tibetan cousin of the newar paubha. Thangkas usually picture Buddha or one of the Bodhisattvas. On an already prepared canvas a painting with a distinctively silky matte surface is created using paints made of flowers, plants, and ground semi- precious stones. The paint for thin, decorative lines is made from gold powder. Images of deities in thangka are painted according to a strict canon of proportions. Souvenir thangkas are mostly painted using tempera (paint with a base of egg yolks) which is easy to recognize by a glossy surface. Gold is also replaced with yellow paint. Thangkas have special fabric silk frames, that fit the paintings color- wise.
Traditional crafts of Nepal
Casting of bronze
Nepalese metal products are known worldwide. Originally thy were mostly made out of bronze, later out of brass. This craft peaked during the 14th and 15th centuries but amazing pieces are created to this day. The lost-wax technique is used. First the figure is made out of wax and smeared with clay. The wax is then melted and the clay mold is filled with liquid metal with a clay pole inserted so that the statue remains hollow. The statue, cleaned from clay, is polished and covered with gold or painted. Particularly valuable statues are decorated with jewels. Patan is considered the center of bronze casting I Nepal, and rightfully so.
The city of Bhaktapur is known for the most skilled tree carving masters in Nepal. Wonderful wooden sculptures and statues of different deities such as Shiva, Buddha, and Krishna, as well as ethnic wooden masks that protect the home from evil spirits, are produced here.
When walking down the streets of Nepal it is hard not to notice that during the construction of temples, palaces, and homes, the Nepalese have always preferred wood. By combining red tiles and dark wood, the newar skillfully combined practical necessities with intricate elements. Every beam is richly decorated, and wooden elements that are supposed to carry the massive weight of several roofs are top to bottom covered in images of gods and goddesses, folklore scenes, and flower ornaments, and thus seem light and elegant. The peak of the art of wood carving are multi- layered doorframes in temples and richly decorated windows in palaces and homes. A common feature in Nepalese architecture is the torana, an arch in the doorway which is not attached to the wall but is hanging above it. Toranas are always richly decorated with beautiful wood cutting elements, often depicting the deity to whom the temple is dedicated.
Traditional pottery has been developing in Nepal for centuries. The craft became the main occupation of some ethnic groups in Nepal, which are focused mostly in the Terai, and partially in Bhaktapur. The material used is not clay but a special ceramic mass with different additions. Products are made by pouring the mixture into molds, with more intricate details added by hand afterwards.
Jewellers produce different silver items with semi- precious stones, mostly in an "ethnic" style. Earrings, rings, bracelets, amulets, talismans.
Khukuri is a national type of knife used by the gurkhas of Nepal. Gurkhas are a militant tribe described as brave, loyal, self- sufficient, resilient, and aggressive in battle. The khukuri has a shape of a hawk´s wing, sharpened on the inner side of the blade. Khukuri is one of the most ancient kinds of cold weapons, which has survived until the modern times without changes.
Music and dance in Nepal
For centuries dancing and live music have enriched holidays and family celebrations in Nepal. In the countryside the majority of villages have their own distinctive style of music and dance. During festivals the sounds of bansuri flutes, madal drums, tingsha bells, and sarangi strings are filling the air. Chanting can be heard wherever you go. When high in the mountains you can hear th mysterious sounds of morsing if you´re lucky.
Several castes of musicians exist in Nepal. Two of them are gaine, a gradually disappearing caste of wandering musicians and damai, singers and musicians who perform at celebrations and weddings. Usually only men perform in public.
Nepalese styles of dance are rich in variety. Some of the most well known are the tharu dance performed with sticks, dance of the Sherpa, and the dance of Nepalese monks performed with masks on.
Dhaka is a traditional Nepalese jaccard fabric with a colorful geometrical ornament. It is considered extremely valuable for the beauty of its patterns and color combinations and is made by hand. Dhaka is used for making national men´s hats, Dhaka topi.
Nepal is also famous for its cashmere scarves, stoles, and shawls, which are all produced by hand often at small family- owned factories in Nepal.