Shopping in Kerala: Few Useful Tips
Are you planning to visit Kerala? If yes, then, please get ready to return from this "God’s own country" with a truck full of 'souvenirs' that you purchase from here.Shopping in Kerala is as thrilling as touring this mystical place.When you get tired , take a break , and enjoy the famous traditional food of Kerala especially the banana recipes.
Wherever you go in this small state, there will be something special to shop, like tea in Vayanadu, Aaranmula Kannadi in Aaranmula; coir products in Alappuzha; sea-shell products in beaches; k asavu m undu and s ari in Guruvayoor etc.It is sure that the products that you shop, would really give you the colourful memories of your Kerala visit throughout your lifetime.
The pure white cotton, light handloom clothes with borders of golden colour threads (k asavu ) are the unique and traditional dress style of Kerala. The price of these k asavu may vary from hundreds to thousands, depending on its quality. Men wear k asavu m undu and k asavu shawl, while ladies wear k asavu m undu and k asavu n eryathu , which are two pieces of clothes worn in a special manner. Now-a-days, k asavu s arees are also available. Little girls and teenagers wear skirts and blouses with k asavu . Sometimes, the golden borders touched with contrasting bright colours are also seen in the shops.
Keralites, in general, like gold; and you can see many big gold showrooms in important cities of the state. Gold has an important role in many rituals of all religions in Kerala. Thaalikettu , the main function of Hindu wedding ceremony, is tying of the sacred nuptial thread, on which is stringed a tiny leaf-shaped gold plate called ‘thaali ’. There are several types of golden ornaments with unique traditional designs. Even though the boom in fashion industry has brought an entirely different trend, the traditional designs in Kerala still have demand. Paaalakka Maala (necklace), Naagapadam Maala (Necklace in shape of snakes head), Lakshmi Maala , Mullamottu maala (necklace in shape of jasmine blossoms), Poothaali , Ilakkathali , Manimaala , Kappu (a kind of bangle), Thoda and Jimikki (types of ear rings), Pavithra mothiram (A kind of ring),etc are the traditional gold ornaments of Kerala.
The brass art happens to be one of the famous arts of Kerala state. You can see idols of Gods used in the alloy of tin, copper and brass in the shops of the state. Nilavilakku (brass oil lamp) has an important role in Kerala tradition. Any Hindu religious rituals and ceremonies like weddings, birthdays and poojas, etc are usually started by lighting a Nilavilakku . You can see Nilavilakkus of various sizes, shapes and designs in Kerala. Even the Christians use Nilavilakku on many occasions, as influenced by the traditional Kerala culture. Apart from this, vessels of different shapes are also made using brass. ‘ Uruli ’, the traditional vessel made of brass is used for preparing chips and payasams , etc. ‘Ashtamangalya set’ which consists of eight auspicious items, usually displayed at religious functions like marriages in Kerala, also contains many brass items like kindi (a special type of vessel to hold water), kodi vilakku , kavara vilakku , kudamani (pooja bell),etc.
Kerala is the land of coconut trees; and the people, here, make use of every part of coconut and coconut trees. Coir is one of the major export items of Kerala. Coit, the fiber drain from beaten coconut husks, is used to make various products like mats, rugs, wall-hangings, bags, hammocks, beds, cushions, door pieces, and ceiling or floor furnishings, etc. To add more charm to these products, the crafters make beautiful sceneries and pictures with different colours. There are many coir industries in Kerala, and most of them are concentrated in the districts of Kollam and Alappuzha.
Kerala is a coastal land; and there are several beaches in the state, which are the favourite destinations of tourists. One of the main items that you can see on the shops in and around these beaches are various products made of sea-shells. You can see attractive necklaces, hair clips, mirrors and other show-pieces, etc which are decorated with sea-shells of different shapes, designs and colours. The artistic skill of the local people look really amazing.
The geographical peculiarities of Kerala are suitable for the cultivation of spices; and various kinds of spices are exported from here. In fact, the spices even used to attract the foreign invaders to this small land, during the ancient days. You will never get better spices anywhere else, at such economical prices. As the spices will last for years, you can buy a bag full of different spices, like black pepper, chilly, cloves, dried ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, etc from here. Kumily near Thekkady, Fort Cochin and Vayanadu are the best places in Kerala for shopping of the spices.
'A aranmula Mirror', the most demanded item by tourists, is a hand-made, metal-alloy mirror, instead of silver glass. Even the British Museum in London keeps a 45 cm 'A aranmula Mirror' in their collection. It reflects with complete clarity; and at the same time, eliminates secondary reflections. There is a secret composition to make this mirror, which is known only to a few members of a particular family. As lot of efforts are required to make 'A aranmula Mirror', it happens to be little bit costly. So, you should shop this traditional item from the family workshop itself, wherein it is made.
Kerala stands next to Rajasthan in terms of collection of murals based on ancient Indian mythology. The uniqueness of aesthetic composition and techniques of mural paintings in Kerala is reflected largely through decorations in the old palaces, churches and ancient temples in the state. These paintings requiring lot of dedicated efforts are created using natural pigments, gum and brushes taken from plants or natural minerals. There are many institutes in Kerala that give proper training to those, who are interested in mural paintings. Tourists shop the mural paintings largely as a souvenir from Kerala. They are available in handicraft shops or can be ordered directly from noted mural art creators.
As Kathakali is the unique traditional art form of Kerala that is known world wide, the tourists, like to shop the masks of kathakali characters as an icon of Kerala culturescape. Made by using wood, metal, Plaster of Paris or clay, these maskes are painted using natural extracts or artificial paints. The masks of different types of characters like ‘Kathi ’, ‘Pacha ’, ‘Thaadi ’ and ‘Minuk ’ are available in the markets across nooks & corners of Kerala.
How can we wind up without mentioning the most delicious 'Banana Chips' while discussing about the shopping in Kerala? Chips are always a favourite snack for all ages of people. Keralites usually prepare a variety of chips from unripe bananas, jack fruits, potatoes, tapioca, etc. What makes them special is, that, they are made in pure coconut oil, without adding any artificial colours or added flavours. The crispy, salty, deep-fried, thin-sliced 'Banana Chips' are the most famous among them. They will last for many days, if they are kept in airtight vessels.
It is difficult to stop within a few sentences, if we talk about the shopping options in Kerala. This beautiful and traditionally rich land presents before you a lot of wonderful and unique items, which are exclusively available here only.
So, what are you thinking now? Just plan a trip to 'God's own Country' in order to have a lifetime memories. Then only, you may get a feel of the 'Kerala Charm' while availing the opportunity to go for shopping.
Suja is a post graduate in Communication and Journalism.She has several years of writing experience for online media on various topics including Lifestyle, health , Information technology and consumer electronics.