The Himalayas are found across northeastern India, passing through, Bhutan, China, Pakistan, and India, but perhaps most notably Nepal. In fact, nearly 75% of Nepal is covered by the Himalayan mountains.
Though Himalayan communities can be found in just about all of these vastly different nations, Himalayan arts and crafts are known for their own distinct style. They’re largely influenced by Tibetan, Nepali, and Kashmiri religious cultures, but that doesn’t mean that every piece has a religious connotation. People of different religions or who don’t consider themselves to be religious at all can certainly still appreciate a unique, well-made Himalayan craft.
Besides, religion is not the only influence when it comes to Himalayan craftsmanship, as the climatic conditions, terrain, and available resources throughout the region also play an important role. This is partly why they tend to use a lot of natural materials such as wood, bamboo, cotton, paper, and wool in their handiwork.
One of the most impressive things about Himalayan crafts is how beautiful and appreciated they still are after hundreds and even thousands of years. Let’s take a closer look at some of these traditional Himalayan crafts and their history.
Himalayan communities have a long history of making traditional wood and bamboo crafts, as these resources are typically available in this region. They are best known for constructing quality items such as wooden masks, beaded necklaces, boxes, jewelry, and watches.
You don’t even have to be in the Himalayas to get your hands on some of these items. Since no one does them quite like the Himalayan people, some of these wooden and bamboo crafts are often exported to European and Western markets.
A lot of traditional paper crafts in the Himalayan region are made out of Lokta, a handmade artisan paper cultivated from the Daphne Bush that is native to Nepal. Historically, Lokta was used for religious texts, mantras for prayer wheels, and writing traditional stories. Today, Lokta paper has been embraced by other countries as well, and can be used to make book bindings, origami, and even paper lamps.
For hundreds of years, communities from the eastern and western parts of Nepal have been weaving Dhaka, a unique type of cloth made from pure cotton. The same traditional handloom methods and colorful designs are still being used to this day to craft shirts, shawls, saris, handkerchiefs, and even bedsheets.
Thangka is actually a Nepali art form that had been exported to Tibet by Princess Bhrikuti around 621 CE. While you may not know them by name, you may recognize Thangkas as the representations of Buddhist deities painted on silk applique or cotton. These are typically painted by the monks who live in monasteries and temples around the Himalayan region.
Tapestries featuring the mandala, temples, and even the Himalayas themselves are often crafted in Nepal and exported all over the world. These typically colorful textiles have been hand- or loom-woven by Himalayan artisans for a number of years, and are made from materials such as cotton and wool.