How many times have you scrambled at the last minute to find that ‘special souvenir’? And let me guess: you ended up with some kitsch made in china or buying a completely overpriced fake at the airport. Souvenirs should give you a chance to relive an original experience every time someone walks into your house and says, "What the hell is that?” In Kerala, simple things like wearing a traditional saree or taking part in local festivals could go a long way in connecting with the locals. That saree or an elephant model which reminds you of the festival could actually be the best thing you carry back home.
This article is to let you in on the speciality of stuff you can get only in Kerala, where to buy authentic products from (more importantly where not to!)
In the end, it is a matter of taste. Read on, you are sure to find something that catches your fancy.
Historically, people from all over the world came to Kerala in search of spices and ended up sharing their culture and religion with the Keralites. Our guests say that the black pepper you buy from Kerala will transform your idea of what it really tastes like. The same holds true for cardamom, ginger, turmeric, nutmeg and other spices produced extensively in Kerala.
Gift yourself a packet of assorted authentic spices to jazz up your dishes with the famed Kerala spices
Being a typical Kerala shopping item, spices are commonly available but don’t buy the cheap stuff in touristy places. If you go for a spice plantation tour in Thekkady or Wayanad, you can purchase the product directly from the farm at reasonable prices. The Spices Board of India’s ‘Flavorit’ sells authentic spices in its various state-of-the-art showrooms like Lulu Mall Kochi. Old Jew street or the Broadway in Kochi also have some reliable places to shop for authentic spices. An assorted box of authentic spices could cost you between Rs.300 to a thousand.
This special type of mirror is not silvered glass but a hand-made metal-alloy mirror which reflects with complete clarity by eliminating secondary reflections. The secret composition of this mirror which has received geographical indication (GI) tag is known to only a few members of a particular family in Kerala who originally created it. The regal tradition of the equipment adds to the aura of this beautiful crafted oval mirror. Even the British Museum in London has a 45cm Aranmula mirror as a collection piece.
Being a reflection of tradition, Aranmula Mirror is considered to be a royal gift which brings in prosperity
As this product is very popular is easy to be conned into buying counterfeits. It is best to buy directly from the workshop of the family that makes it at Aranmula in Kerala. Depending on the design and size the product could cost your anywhere between Rs.2000 to a couple of Lakhs. You can also order it online from Kerala tourism’s cultureshoppe.com.
These masks made of various materials like - plaster of Paris, clay, papier mache or carved out of wood have become the face of Kerala. The models capture the representational rules and the super natural characteristics of the characters portrayed by Kathakali (art form) artists. The Kathakali faces made of wood and figurines of different sizes are also equally elegant.
This intricately designed mask can adorn your living rooms and be an affordable reminder of the best times you had in Kerala
Having become extremely popular, the product is available in handicraft shops all across Kerala. If you are visiting Kochi, you can buy reasonably priced Kathakali models at Kairali, Kerala State emporium showroom. A piece will cost you anywhere between a couple of hundred rupees to a thousand depending on size and design.
You won’t find such pieces anywhere else in the world, with each elephant model being made from a single piece of wood. From decorated elephants to different poses of the animal and even life size figures, the range of these artisans is simply amazing. The product is manufactured in Cherpu near Thrissur under a co-operative society of artisans and also near Trivandrum. The costlier pieces are made of rosewood while cheaper rain tree make is also available. This is an ideal souvenir to take back home which will remind you of the culture of Kerala.
Elephant figurines are a quintessential Kerala souvenir which blends Kerala’s tusker mania with excellent craftsmanship.”
A one-foot high elephant would cost you between Rs.3000-Rs.3500 while small models would be cheaper. The product is available in most recognised handicraft stores throughout the state. A custom order can be done directly with the Cherpu Carpenters society if required.
Nettur Petti or the traditional jewellery box, the possession of which was once considered an indication of royalty and wealth, is an astonishingly attractive Kerala souvenir. It is made of rosewood and designed in bell-metal. Being fully hand crafted with each lock and screw shaped and chiselled by hand, this is another authentication of the patience and skill of the artisans from Nettur region in north Kerala. The box is completed by fixing brass frames in the outer for beauty. Today, this richly fashioned box with its conical lid is a collector's item
The Nettur Casket is yet another collector’s item of regal tradition which is completely hand-made
An authentic piece would cost you anywhere between Rs.5000 to Rs.15000 depending on the craftsmanship and design. Surabhi outlets (Kerala State Handicrafts Co-operative) in Kochi or Trivandrum would be a good place to purchase this item.
There is gold in the clothes too! Kerala’s Kasavu Sarees, an elegant symbol of culture, are spun in traditional hand operated looms. The saree is made of light cotton material in off white with a border interwoven from thread dipped in real gold (kasavu). The sari for women and mundu for men is the dress code followed by Keralites on festive occasions reflecting the flavour of the land. This product is probably the most popular Kerala shopping item for women travellers.
If you are looking for a memorable Kerala styled gift for women folk in your family, this is it
An original kasavu sari could cost you anywhere between Rs.1000 for a very basic version to a few thousands for slightly more contemporary designs depending on purity and gold work. Specialised saree shops in Kerala like Kasavukada in Kochi and Karalkada in Trivandrum will offer you a good range. For men try on the ‘mundu’.
Have you had a chance to dress in traditional Kerala style? We make such special experiences happen on your trip here!
Be it a presentation of an art form or the beginning of a function, nothing auspicious happens before lighting a brass oil lamp. Traditionally, Hindu households keep a lit lamp in their front courtyard every evening to bring in good luck. These lamps are cast in bronze or bell metal and last for centuries with occasional cleaning. Different varieties available include mayil vilakku (the peacock lamp), hamsa Vilakku (swan lamp) and archana deep (lamp for offering).
Take a nilavilakku home if you have a fascination for unique metalwork which is all about tradition
It can be purchased from any of the metal ware stores and souvenir outlets throughout the state. Traditionally made lamps could weigh around 2kg and cost you between Rs.7000 and Rs.10000.
The coir products, made from the fibres extracted from the husk of coconut, prove that the people of Kerala make use of every part of the coconut tree. Mats, rugs, wall hangings, hammocks, bags, door pieces, ceiling and floor furnishings, beds, cushions, show pieces and many more products are made with coir. It is an important small scale industry of Kerala which is monetarily supported by the Kerala government.
Coir making is a laborious process but it’s widely popular for their bio-degradable composition and long life.”
The price and looks depend on the way the fiber is extracted from the shell of the coconut and the quality of the fiber. Alapuzha is the place where the product is made so check out some shops as you explore the backwaters here.
Beypore near Kozhikode has a heritage boatyard which manufactures uru or dhow, a traditional Arabian trading vessel. The gigantic ships are made out of wood not fiber glass and it takes a team of 50 men around four years to complete a vessel. A remarkable feature of the technology of Uru making is that, there are no documents, work plans, technical data sheets or drawings right from the concept stage to completion. With fewer boats being launched nowadays, the skilled artisans now spend time making wooden models of these gigantic masterpieces.
When you buy an Uru model, you take home a symbol of heritage technology known to a few master craftsmen in the world
It is best to pick one up at a bargain from the local outlets in Beypore. It would cost you between Rs.500 to Rs.2500 for a 10 inch piece depending on the design. You also have the option to have it made-to-order in various shop around Kozhikode.
The sight of a procession of caparisoned elephants is indeed a riveting spectacle. The head gear of regal lineage which adorns the elephants is called Nettipattom. The traditional piece is crafted from gold (24g) and copper (3.5 Kg) and sports golden crescents and spheres in its design. The Nettipattom is valued-showpiece in many establishments and it said to bring in good luck. The artisans who make it take a strict fast for the 20 odd days they work on a single piece.
This inimitable good luck charm will make a beautiful wall hanging show piece for your home
A traditional Nettipattom would cost around Rs.50000 and needs to be made-to-order with the artisans who specialise in the product. Small replicas of the product can also be brought as souvenirs from kerala.
Murals, which used to adorn Keralan temple walls for centuries, are now decorating homes and are used as art pieces on canvas and paper. The present day artists were kind enough to mainstream this beautiful art form by painting them on canvases with acrylics. Besides mural paintings, Raja Ravi Varma paintings have also become the face of Kerala's rich art tradition. These paintings seize subtle emotions of either mythological characters or the common man in a realistic manner.
If you are an art collector, you really must have one piece of the world famous Kerala mural art
We really don’t have to say this to an art connoisseur, contact an artist whose work you like. Most established artists have displayed their work on their personal websites. Art lovers can buy mural paintings at the art gallery of Vaasthu Vidya Gurukulam, Aranmula or remakes of Raja Ravi Varma work sold in Kochi.
Murals are best observed in Kerala Temples. Check out our customisable tour designed on Kerala's spiritual circuit.
Kerala’s affinity for coconut is also reflected in the collectible items we fashion. Carving coconut shell is very difficult and only highly skilled craftsmen can make products out of it due to its hardness. You can get some really beautiful items which charm you by its simplicity. Bamboo craft also has a variety of items to offer.
Cute item’s to decorate your show cases manufactured in a totally eco-friendly manner with sales directly benefiting artisans
A bamboo crafts artisans collective called ‘Uravu’ in Wayanad fashions some really good products. Coconut shell products are available in Kerala handicraft emporiums in kochi and also in places around Alapuzha.
What we have talked about till now in no way makes an exhaustive list. As you spend your time traveling you are sure to find something else that might be of interest to you. If you experience any of Kerala’s snake boat races and enjoy yourself, why not buy yourself a snake boat model? Gold ornaments of traditional design could also be considered as a unique take-aways or pick some sandalwood work you stumble upon.
This is Asia’s largest shopping event organised annually with unique products, mind blowing offers and exciting prices in Kerala
Imagine the entire state of Kerala turning into a giant shopping mall with participation from 10000 odd establishments of all sizes. This is what the 45 day annual shopping event in Kerala is all about. Fresh enterprises, mind blowing offers, exciting prizes and unique products which promote the cultural heritage of Kerala are the hallmarks of this event. 2013 event featured a contemporary art fair and a global village in Kochi. This annual event takes place from December to mid-Jan which is part of the broader peak season for travel in Kerala. So if shopping is a priority on your vacation plan, you know when to come to Kerala.
When you buy something for keepsakes it has to truly mean something to you. Shop slowly, give yourself time to think about it, and don't buy the first thing you see. If you find something you like, shop around and compare prices and quality.The airports and the shops around touristy areas are the last places where you want to pick up stuff. We have already suggested some places in the article, there are more and always buy from the specialists for the product you are looking for. Be willing to spend a bit more for authentic stuff. Trust me, it is worth it and will last for generations.
We guess that’s about it when it comes to souvenirs from Kerala. Feel free to share your thoughts in our comments section here. Happy travelling!
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