Kerala lets you take home with you several items and articles (or at least miniatures and beautiful replicas) that are distinctly characteristic of God's own country. A few of those that find their way to almost all tourists' bags are:
This is a large flat wok or pan that is a typical utensil of Kerala. It has been in use in the kitchens for ages and there are innumerable references of the Uruli in traditional recipes. Dishes prepared in them are supposed to have a characteristic taste. Uruli is made of a special alloy, and even a small one is very heavy.
Aranmula's beautiful metal mirrors are skillfully cast from a special alloy. Once a closely guarded preserve of royalty, these ornamental mirrors are possessions worth spending on. They can be bought at Aranmula where only two master craftsmen and their families still make them.
This is a thick wooden container that was used many years ago as a standard unit for measuring grains. Even today it is used as an important prop at auspicious functions and celebrations. The ornamental sample of the parra has strips of brass running along the sides of the wooden container.
Nilavilakku, the traditional brass lamp is an auspicious sign used during functions and special occasions. It is also necessary for stage performance of temple art forms such as Kathakali, Koothu, etc. Many types and sizes of Nilavilakku are in use even today. They have survived as elegant examples of craftsmanship typical to southern India.
Kasavu Embroidered Clothes- Kasavu Mundu/ Neriyathu
These are extremely light pure cotton handloom cloths bordered with golden thread. At times contrasting bright shades are also woven along side the rich golden border. Such saris and dress material have elegance and kasavu is a brand by itself. Karalkada at Thiruvananthapuram is the best place to purchase Kasavu clothes. There are also outlets of Kasavukada that are known for its quality products.
One of the oldest and the most sought after spices in the world, Pepper has many uses in food and medicine. It is aptly called the king of spices. There were references to it not only in early Sanskrit works, but also in Greek and Roman normal texts as well. This spice, native to Kerala, was one of the chief items that had lured foreigners to Kerala.
The sweet flavour of this 'Queen of Spices', adds an extra something to mouthwatering desserts and delicacies. This spice that is used in vegetarian and non- vegetarian dishes has also been found effective in treating nausea, fever, headache and eye diseases.
A common spice of Kerala, clove is the dried floral bud of Eugenia caryophyllata. It is locally known as Grambu or Karayambu. 'Garam masala', the tastemaker for most curry dishes have clove as a main constituent. Clove is also used to flavour sweets, preparing toothpastes and mouth fresheners.
Kumily has a lot of fine shops that sell quality spices. However, all these spices are available at any provision store in the state, and can be preserved for years together.
Beautifully carved sandalwood sculptures are lovely souvenirs to take back from this land that boasts of being home to a natural sandalwood forest. Sandalwood sculptures are slightly expensive.
Coir is one of the major export items of the state.
The fibre drawn from beaten coconut husks is representative of Kerala, the land of coconut trees. Coir and the numerous coir products speak of how the people of Kerala make use of every part of coconut and coconut trees. Mats, rugs, wall hangings, door pieces, bags, hammocks, ceiling or floor furnishing, beds, cushions, little show pieces and blinds made from coir form a range of durable products. They also demonstrate the skill and hard work of the village folk who work on the same.
Kathakali is one of the celebrated art forms of Kerala. Miniature models of the ornate headgear with the brightly painted face and the long black hair made in plaster of Paris, clay or papier-mache are available throughout the state. It would be an ideal souvenir of the state's rich culture and folklore.
Chundan valloms or the snake boats are typical of Kerala and its backwaters. In the early days, the rich and the clergy owned these 24 to 36 meters long boats, made from special Anjili wood, and fitted with a coronet that resembles the hood of the cobra. The magnificent sight of these huge structures speeding through the waters is what has earned the Nehru trophy vallomkali and other boat races the fame they enjoy. Miniature models of these will serve as a reminder of a vibrant celebration (the boat races) of a rich land.
Cashew nut, a popular seasoning for desserts and the 'rich man's snack', is believed to have been brought here by the Portuguese. Cashew earns Kerala plenty of export revenue and cashew-processing factories still provide employment for a lot of people. They are processed and graded differently to offer a variety of nuts. With most of the processing units concentrated in Kollam, which is the best place to buy cashew nuts.
Kerala is famous for its intricately designed gold ornaments and there are also plenty of provisions for customization. Gold has always been a yardstick for measuring one's wealth and even today Malayalees believe that it is one of the safer items to invest in. The rates and quality are almost the same all through the state.
Kerala cuisine is made even more colourful by a wide range of pickles that are usually served along with lunch and dinner. Home made samples of these hot and spicy achars last for a surprisingly long while. A range of different items can be pickled. The different varieties of mango pickle and lime pickle are the most in demand. Ginger, garlic, vegetables, gooseberry, chilly, prawns, fish, meat, mussels etc are a few of the other pickled items that have a significant market. Pickles are available in all provision stores and super markets.
This is a long (and usually loose) cotton shirt made from specially woven khadi (cotton) material. It is known for the traditional look and lightweight. These kurtas would be a marvelous piece to add to one's summer wardrobe. Khadi products are also known to be durable.