Last Updated: July 6, 2019 Abhishek Gurung
Every traveller looks forward to collecting a thing or two before heading to other destination. In fact, keeping a memento is a constant reminder of your experience and your journey to a place. As a traveller, a souvenir is like a ‘Golden Globe Award’, an achievement to cherish throughout your life. To come to think of it, visiting Northeast India and not buying any souvenir is like eating ice-cream with no sugar or sweetner. The Eight Sisters have so much to offer right from their handloom product to handicraft that one cannot help feel overwhelmed and of course confused as to what to take home.
This blog here saves you from dilemma and offers you a list of what to buy and must have souvenirs from Northeast:
1. Tea Leaves
There are plenty of places in India that boasts about their mesmerizing tea estates and then there is Assam. As exotic the destination can be, it oozes with fragrant tea and buzzing cicada echoing from afar. Assam is perhaps the only region globally where tea is grown in plains and it is the single largest bordering tea growing region in the world which includes the northern Brahmaputra valley, the Cachar hills, the southern Barak valley and Karbi. The tea grown in Assam has a deep aroma, rich colour and a malty taste. Assam teas are extremely popular and if you happen to barge in the tea estate make sure to take up a tea tasting tour. And you can also visit India’s largest tea research centre located at Tocklai in Jorhat. Also, most importantly as you leave the state you can collect a pack of CTC Assam tea. CTC tea leaves are freshly packed and it comes in many irresistible and fresh flavour packs.
While there are many states in India who hosts a halting ground for silk shopping, Assam has its own share of silk paradise. The state is home to three native silks like Muga silk, which is the product of the silkworm Antheraea assamensis endemic to Assam; Pat silk or Mulberry silk, which is a variety of domestic silk in Assam; and Eri silk which comes from the caterpillar of Samia cynthia ricini, found in North East of India. These silks are unique to the region and are not found anywhere else in the world. Let me distinguish the uses of the silk, for instance, Muga silk is used to make traditional Assamese dress for female (mekhela chador) despite being used to make other clothing as well like sarees, kurtas etc. Pat silk are smoother than Muga and they are also used for making clothing, perhaps Pat silk will make a fine summer wear. Eri silk, on the other hand, is a bit coarse and unrefined; hence, they are mostly used to make shawls.
3. Naga Shawls
Handmade shawls with colourful patterns with animal prints have its own history. Ao Nagas have a rich tradition in clothing and the shawls are their distinguish sign of manhood. During early times, only the bravest of men would be given the honour to wear the shawl and if anyone found wearing without the credentials was taken to task by the village council and had to pay heavy penalties for violation. Of course, that was then, now you can get this embroidered shawls in shops around Nagaland state. However, there are many shawls found in Nagaland all depict the different tribal culture of the region. It is a must buy from your visit and it comes in all sizes and it will give a warm cosy feel.
4. Northeast Pickles
Food in Northeast are beautifully prepared, they are homely, organic and gourmet cuisine. The pickles are served to make a dish more delectable and lip-smacking with spicy and tangy taste. Northeast is a place where you are bound to come across various spices and different pickles made from local herbs. Besides, Northeast is a place where each state has its own specialty when it comes to cuisine. Unlike other parts of India, pickles aren’t only dipped in mustard oil, plain salt or just vinegar but they are also infused with dried fish, bamboo shoots, pork, beef, sesame, chicken, you can pick whatever you like. And the process of storing or soaking them in the sun is the same. When in Northeast, a token of love in the form of pickle is a must buy product.
Northeastern states are the hub of bamboo, cane, wood and being a home to a large number of tribes and sub-tribes it is evident you are bound to find vivid handmade crafts. Around every corner of Northeast states, you can find furniture pieces, ornaments, tools, show pieces and displays. Some must have souvenirs from Northeast are weapons and musical instruments; they are made by fine local craftsperson. . Also, you can get baskets made by thin threads of bamboo; they will make a perfect home decor or even pottery for showcases for your living room. Other handmade souvenirs you can debate on buying are hats, bows, arrows, shoulder bags, ornaments, headgear, turbans and lower garments, shawls and kilts. Also some wood carving, a small relic for your keys and a colourful umbrella. All you have to do is grab hold of something interesting and pack.
6. Traditional Attire
Seven sisters and Sikkim is a vast multicultural dwelling and it is always good to know their traditional attire. And what can be the best thing to take home than the traditional wear of Northeast. Northeast has lovely collections from Sikkim’s Kho to Nagaland’s famous shawls and the classy and elegant mekhela. And the many unique accessories of Northeast, most of the jewellery are made of cane and bamboo. It is not just the women who wear ornaments but men as well, necklaces made up of metal coins and of leather studded with stones are few masterpieces. Most of the accessories are made of materials like gold, brass, silver, and the use of bone is also an extension in their jewellery creations. Additionally, colourful beads with feathers or wings of birds and even wings clipped from beetles etc are used to make ornaments in Northeast. Quite unique isn’t it, and it can truly come in handy and it is easy to carry.
Something to consider when parting from Sikkim. Thangka is a Buddhist painting depicting a Buddhist deity, picture, or mandala. The image is painted on a cotton or silk appliqué and is traditionally kept unframed and rolled up when not on display. The Thangka are typically small in size but there are larger once as well. You can come across some of them in the monasteries in Sikkim. In fact, Thangka is found widely in places like Bhutan, Nepal, Ladakh. Picking up Thangka as a souvenir will completely transform your home and will make it look serene and peaceful.
8. Singing Bowls
A reminder, a memento from your visit will definitely hum with you. Sikkimese Singing Bowls are something you must have seen in Buddhist Monasteries, as you rotate the handle around the bowl you will hear a calming sound. A total spellbinding experience, this relic is a must buy if you enjoy meditating and enjoy every second of peace, tranquillity, and relaxation. These bowls have mantras engraved on them and it brings peace and harmony (as they say) the more you keep moving the sound leads to a crescendo. However there is a trick to make the bowl hum, place the bowl on top of the hollow of your palm and gently move the wooden stick around. Make sure to not let it detach from the bowl.
9. Cane Mats
Mats made of cane are quite famous and are found everywhere; however, they are quite popular in Meghalaya. Usually, tribal people eat sitting on the mat, and are well-known for their durability. Cane Mats are known as Tlieng in Meghalaya and they are made by the tribal people. You can actually get one of these and use it as a table mat or floor mat. You can even use them for sitting during picnics and even as sleeping mat. So much in one, it is certainly a must buy souvenir and perhaps can help an endurance traveller during journeys.
Blacksmith or metal crafts of Nagaland has made a recent introduction to the Naga crafts. Black Smith is simply an ornament made of metal worn on arms and neck. While other tribes are famous for making weapons and armour, the Rengmas tribe of Nagaland are considered the best Naga black smith. You can get beautifully decorated spears as take-away from the stores around Nagaland.
These eight states of Northeast are brimming with exquisite collection of handicrafts. Along with an unspoiled beauty you capture in your camera you get an opportunity to pick some intriguing mementos to take home. Besides, shopping acts as an important part of your travel. We would like to know which ones are your favourite. Please share and leave your comments below.
Published: 29 Mar, 2017