KVIC revives 1,000-year-old Monpa handmade paper industry in Tawang

The 1000-year-old heritage art – the Monpa handmade paper of Arunachal Pradesh – which was driven to the extinction, has come to life once again, with the committed efforts of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).

27 Jan 2021 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

The unit has engaged nine artisans who can produce 500 to 600 sheets of Monpa handmade paper per day

Once an integral part of local custom and culture in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, the paper was produced in every household, and was a major source of livelihood for the locals. However, the handmade paper industry almost disappeared in the last 100 years; prompting the KVIC to plan revival of this ancient art.

The KVIC commissioned a Monpa handmade paper-making unit in Tawang, which not only aims at reviving the art but also engaging the local youths with this art professionally.

The fine-textured handmade paper, called Mon Shugu in the local dialect, is integral to the vibrant culture of the local tribes in Tawang. The paper has great historic and religious significance as it is the paper used for writing Buddhist scriptures and hymns in monasteries.

The paper will be made from the bark of a local tree called Shugu Sheng, which has medicinal values too. Thus, the availability of raw material will not be a problem.

Back then, such was the scale of production that Monpas used to sell these papers to countries like Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand and Japan, as no paper making industry existed in these countries at that time.

An attempt to revive this handmade paper industry was made in 1994, but failed owing to various geographical challenges in Tawang. However, this time, the unit was successfully established despite the challenges. On the instruction of the KVIC chairman, a team of scientists and officials of Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute, (KNHPI) Jaipur, was deputed at Tawang to set up the unit and training the locals. Over six months of rigorous efforts bore fruits and a unit has been commissioned at Tawang.

Initially, the paper unit has engaged nine artisans who can produce 500 to 600 sheets of Monpa handmade paper per day. The artisans will be earning wages of per day Rs 400 per day. To begin with, 12 women and two men from local villages have been trained to make Monpa handmade paper.

Apart from handmade paper, Tawang is known for two other local crafts – handmade pottery and handmade furniture – that are also getting extinct with passage of time. The KVIC chairman announced that within six months plans will be rolled out for revival of these two local arts.

(Courtesy: Press Information Bureau)