The handicrafts of Kerala are the flag bearers of their inimitable and glorious cultural heritage. It also reflects a society that is deeply religious. This is evident in the hundreds and thousands of Lord Krishna, Goddess Saraswati, Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Ganesh and the enigmatic Nataraj - in all his dancing frenzy- idols carved in rose wood and sandal wood. Kathakali, the colorful dance drama comprising histrionics, dancing, singing, dating back to the Seventeenth century also finds representation in full-size moulds. The models of the famous snake- boat races of Kerala, steeped in mythological folklores, are also coveted souvenirs.
Brass and Bell metal Lamps
Kerala is famous for its metal art. In tandem with its cultural and religious roots, bell metal is used in casting several mythological events like the ‘tandava dance’ which is popularly known the ‘gaja tandava’ or ‘gajasamhara’ where Lord Shiva vanquishes a powerful demon. Angadipuram, Payannur and Trivandrum are the places to visit to acquire one of these Kerala trademarks. Bell metal is an alloy of brass, tin and copper. Besides being used in churning out idols of deities, it is also used in fashioning out lamps in all sizes, household utensils like jugs, ‘varpus’, ‘urli that are an integral part of their tradition and binds their lives . Irinjalakuda, Trivandrumare famous for their Bell metal artisans. Mirrors made out of polished metal is another marvel of craftsmanship and the place to check this out is a village called Aranmula near Chengannur.
Coir and Cane Products
Though Tripura is the most famous state for its bamboo products, Kerala churns out exquisite rattan and coir mattresses, painting adorned mats, floor furnishings and a host of other colorful and eco-friendly goodies. This should not come as a surprise as coir products form one of the most important cottage industries. Kollam and Calicut are renowned for coir products.
The carving of the ivory is another example of the traditional art of Kerala. Besides the predominant mythological characters that forms fodder for the artisans, a wide variety of ivory carved showpieces are also cherished as mementoes. The craftsmen often use buffalo horns for their art. Working wonders with the wood comes naturally to a group of highly talented artists who borrow generously from their music and dance tradition. It may, however, not elicit a favorable response from the PETA folks.
Metal and woodcraft join hands to churn out exquisite decorative lacquer ware. Rose wood and sandalwood are carved out in different shapes and sizes and given a lacquer finish and the final showpiece is adorned with precious metals. This art thrives in the Ernakulam district.
The fragrant sandalwood is carved into a host of products, including ashtrays, decorated boxes, candle stands, figures of elephants, rhinoceros and Kathakali dance postures and so on. Alike the Rosewood carving industry, this industry is also primarily concentrated in Trivandrum, Trichur, Ernakulam and Cochin.
The land of Kathakali and coconuts has earned a place for itself on the world map for the exquisite collection of textiles. The flowing silks, Kancheepurams and the wedding yards are among the must buys.
Besides chiseling wood for carving out mythological characters, wooden toys are also among the sought after souvenirs.