Shopping Guide - Kerala

You will fill be bound to fill your suitcase when shopping in Kerala. In this Shopping Guide, we will provide you helpful shopping information, as well as a list of places that you should visit during your shopping activities in Kerala.

Kerala lets you take home with you several items and articles (or at least miniatures and beautiful replicas) that are distinctly characteristic of God's own country. Kerala is a shopper's paradise. After browsing through the local handicrafts, you will find it difficult to resist filling your shopping bags! Just like their food, Keralites use whatever the land offers and turns them into beautiful products. For example, coconut shells are carved into vases and bowls, coir is used to make floor mats and rugs, wood is carved into different kinds of figures, and the list goes on.

Bamboo Mat Paintings
Far more difficult than ordinary painting, painting on a bamboo mat requires a lot of skill and concentration. Mats of different sizes are first made and then painted on. Human and religious figures, animals, birds, and beautiful landscapes most commonly inspire these paintings. The paintings are then framed with bamboo reed.

Coconut Shell Craft
Making use of the abundant coconut available in the state, the Keralites have made coconut shell carving a popular craft. The artisans have to be quite skilled since the coconut shell is rather hard. Flower vases, snuff boxes, nut bowls, spoons and sugar basins are some common end products. The district of Calicut is a major centre of this craft.

Coir Products
Coir making and then converting it into different products is a major cottage industry in Kerala. Doormats, carpets, floor rugs, crush proof pile carpets, and flowered Mourzouks are some of the products made from coir. They are made in different colours and designs. Rubberised coir is another product. Here, coir and latex are blended to make mattresses and cushions. Kerala's coir products are exported to several countries.

The source of coir is the coconut. The coconut husk is first separated from the nut and soaked in lagoons for long periods of up to 10 months. This process is called retting. When the husk is sufficiently softened, wooden mallets are used to beat the husk and obtain the coir fibre. The fibre is then spun into yarn. It is now ready to be dyed and woven into attractive products. Alleppey, Kollam and Calicut are the biggest producers of coir products.

Horn Carving
This is an ancient craft perfected by artisans mostly belonging to the Viswakarma community. Thiruvananthapuram is the centre of this art. Flowers, birds, combs, lamps etc are the usual products carved out of horn.

Metal Inlaid Wood Craft
The end products of this intricate craft are figures of dancing ladies, peacocks, Kathakali heads, key stands, butterflies etc. Rosewood and White wood pieces are cut and shaped into the desired design, pasted on a plywood base and polished. Brass pieces are then fixed to make the final product. Ernakulum district is where this craft is practised the most.

Metal Work
Bell metal, an alloy of brass, tin and copper, is one of the materials used in this craft. This is also an ancient art. Temple bells, lamps, different types of cooking vessels such as the majestic "varpu", tumblers for drinking etc. are some products made from bell metal. Bell metal work is done mainly in Thiruvananthapuram, Irinjalakuda and Kasargod.

Another well known art in Kerala is the production of religious icons. An eye-catching icon is the "Gaja Tandava"or "Gajasamhara" which depicts the "Tandava" dance. Here Shiva is seen crushing the evil demon, which is in the form of an elephant. Angadipuram in the Palghat district, Payyanur in the Cannanore district, and Thiruvananthapuram are centres of this craft.

An unusual product is a metal mirror made out of an alloy of copper and tin. It has a lovely reflecting quality, which closely resembles glass. Aramula, a village near Chengannur is the home of this product.

Screw Pine Products
Another ancient craft in this long list is screw pine mat weaving. This is practised mainly in certain villages of Kollam, Alappuzha, and Kottayam districts. Screw pine leaves are woven into mats, hand embroidered, and made into household linen, straw hats, and bags.
Wood Carving

Kerala is famous for its wood carving. The best places to see the impressive wood carving styles are temples, palaces, and ancient houses. A very intricate art, wood carving requires a high degree of craftsmanship. Rosewood, Sandalwood, Cedar and Teak are the usual varieties of wood used in this craft. Life size mythological and religious figures stylised with gestures and postures are frequently carved out of wood.

Intricately carved elephants, paperweights, lampshades, decorative furniture and jewellery boxes are the more common products these days. Kerala's Sandalwood and Rosewood carvings are distinctly different from those produced in other states.

Other Crafts
Making products out of Papier Mache is another popular craft of Kerala. Masks of dancers, especially Kathakali dancers, is the most commonly made product. Other natural materials used for various crafts are floor mats woven out of banana fibre, collages on black silk made from rice straw and mats made out of cora grass.

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