Nepalese handicrafts, which have been a part and parcel of the Nepalese heritage, depict the great tradition and proud culture of this great Himalayan Kingdom. Their origin dates back to the stone age when human beings were devoid of tools of any kind. Nepalese handicraft products have been best known to the World for its rich art, crafts and oriental architecture. The skill and techniques of making handicraft products, which have been handed down from generation to generation, not only represent the talent and skill of craftsmen but also reflect the social, religious and cultural values found in different parts of the country.
Being a labour intensive product, it is difficult for one to produce it in large quantity with uniformity and with equal quality standard. In Nepal, the production of handicrafts is an age-old occupation. Novel handicrafts are also developed in harmony with changing market taste. In the last 27 years, export of handicrafts of the country has considerably grown. Thus, the development of handicraft, on one hand, helps in preserving the national heritage of the country and on other hand, it contributes to eliminating poverty by creating job opportunities. Nepalese handicrafts industries have been providing employment to hundreds of thousands of people of the country. It has also been a prime source of foreign exchange required for the importation of necessities.
Handicrafts are prevalent in almost all parts of the kingdom of Nepal. However, handicraft-related works have been adopted as a traditional occupation by the Newar community of the Kathmandu valley, particularly by the Bajrachary, Shakya and Chitrakar families.
According to Handicraft Association of Nepal (HAN), Nepalese handicrafts cover 42 groups of products out of which, metal craft (statue and utensil), pashmina products, paubha (thanka), silver and gold jewellery, stone carving, wood craft, bags and accessories, basketry products, filigree products, handmade paper products, handloom products, ceramics, decorative items, leather products, horn and bone products, macramé (knot crafts), religious goods,crazy/fancy hats, ethnic dolls, paintings, giftware, ethnic costumes, hand knitwear, incense, natural buttons made of small tree branch, stone, bone and horn, natural fiber products (apparel and non-apparel products made of hemp and allo), puzzles and toys etc. are the major ones.
The export of Nepalese handicrafts started from the mid 60’s of the last century. However, the systematic export started only from early 70’s. Handicrafts have long been a major line of Nepalese exports. Currently, it has been the largest overseas export item of the country next to readymade garments and carpets. More than 20 handicraft products mainly the pashmina products, woolen goods, silver jewellery, Nepalese handmade paper and paper products, metal craft, wood craft, cotton goods etc. are being exported to about 85 countries. USA (which alone absorbs around 25% of the total export of handicraft products), Britain, India, Canada, Germany, Japan, Italy, France, Australia, Netherlands and China are its major foreign buyers.