Two Unique Papermaking Destinations In India To Write Home About

Love handicrafts, and stationery? While everyone else is in line checking out the must-do places, you would much rather visit old craft stores Then you must check out these places in India
Paper making workshop in Sanganer, a town on the outskirts of Jaipur
Paper making workshop in Sanganer, a town on the outskirts of Jaipur@The Campbell Collection/Instagram

The craft of handmade paper originated in China under the Han Dynasty in the year 105 A.D. Initially, paper was used for religious purposes, government use or by the wealthy for business transactions. The earliest papers were made from recycled fishing nets, bamboo, mulberry bark or hemp. By the 15th century, major centres of handmade paper production had developed in India, and handmade paper gradually replaced palm leaves and birch bark as a preferred writing material. Visit these places to see the process behind this ancient tradition.

Sanganer, Rajasthan

Sanganer is an ancient town that existed long before Jaipur. It is known for its Kagzis, or papermakers and papermaking units which have existed here since the days of Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq. Sanganer today is a thriving paper manufacturing centre, but many units still make handcrated paper. You will find half-dozen large factories, all of which are heavily focused on exports. The Kagzis make paper from three types of raw materials cotton rags, silk, and banana trunk fibre. Cotton-based paper accounts for 90% of their output, but despite the humble raw material, the finished product comes in a variety of appealing finishes. There's metalised paper, which has been glazed to look like foil, and leatherised paper, which has been purposefully creased to look like leather. Then there's flower-infused paper. 

The Sanganer papermakers have several interesting anecdotes attached to it. In the 1930s, when the Kagzis were on the verge of ruin due to a lack of state patronage and undone by machine-made paper from Europe, Gandhiji came to their rescue by ordering a large consignment of handmade paper for his ashram. Allah Bux Kagzi, a Sanganer veteran papermaker, even made history by demonstrating papermaking at the Congress' 1938 session in Haripura. 

Getting There

Sanganer is situated on Tonk Road, which is linked to NH-8, providing easy access to all major locations in Jaipur as well as other parts of India. The nearest airport is Jaipur Airport, around 15km away. Sanganer Railway Station and Jaipur Railway Station are well-connected by local trains, making it easy to travel across Rajasthan.

Borong, Sikkim

The paper making unit in Borong uses papyracea plants to make the paper
The paper making unit in Borong uses papyracea plants to make the paperPiyali Sen

If you visit Sikkim, you must stop by the small handmade paper unit in Borong village. It is located about 17 kilometres from Ravangla town on the grounds of the Wildflower Retreat. The Borong-Polok Handmade Paper Unit is a village collective founded in 2003.  A venture of the Sikkim Development Foundation with equity capital and local participation from Borong's households, they make exquisite handcrafted paper products of various grades. These are exported to places such as Singapore and Thailand as well. The unit has several papyracea plants and they use the inner bark to make paper which is long-lasting and insect-resistant. Because of its longevity, it is ideal for preserving important written words, and it is still used for sacred texts by monasteries here.

Getting There

The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport in West Bengal. From there, it is about five hours by car. Alternatively, you can take a train to New Jalpaiguri Railway Station and continue your journey by road.

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