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Handmade Paper Craft in Nepal

Traditional papermaking usually has been practiced by a family, village, or guild (Tindale and Tindate 1952; Goto 1953; Schleider 1993; Barrett 2005). Within these groups there was a balance between individual specialization and some activities, such as the beating of pulp, in which the whole group might be called upon to work together. Hand papermakers have a considerable appreciation for carrying out activities in certain seasons, and also respecting the whims of the weather. Fall proved to be a good time to harvest paper mulberry (kozo) for fibers, and the mucilage used frequently by papermakers in the East had a much lower rate of fermentation if used in the colder months of winter (Longenecker 1985). During winter, many traditional farming families made paper to supplement their income. Social hierarchies have had their own impact on traditional papermaking, considering the fact that some of the finest products of the trade have served the needs of political and religious elites (Berliner 1986).

Nepalese paper, with unique toughness and softness, is of ancient origin. It is difficult to trace how and when this traditional paper came to be introduced in Nepal. According to history, the Chinese people knew the art of making paper even before the Christian era; Next, this paper craft spread to Tibet where those days the Lama Buddhists started scribing Buddhist manuscripts. Even in those ancient days, there was trade and intercourse between Nepal and Tibet: the, merchants of Nepal went to Tibet and the people of Tibet used to come to Nepal on pilgrimage to famous Buddhist shrines of the Kathmandu Valley. So it is likely the people of Nepal learnt the technique of making paper from the Tibetans. It is, however, noteworthy that in Nepal the people engaged in making traditional papers are generally those who live in the northern regions of Nepal – specially those who live on the caravan routes beading to Lhasa in Tibet;

The art of paper making gradually spread to the western parts of Nepal – specially among the Gurungs and Magars. In the eastern parts, the Rai’s excelled in this technique. The Nepalese paper was much in use in all the offices of the government even up to 1950. But on the advent of democracy in Nepal, the government offices started using paper imported from India. This, of course, came to affect, adversely, the age-old technology of paper making in Nepal. A great slack occurred in the Nepalese paper industry. Many paper-makers were thrown out of job. Recently, however, the Traditional Nepalese Paper came to retrieve recognition. Foreign visitors, who see the value of the handmade-paper, have started purchasing it for a variety of uses in their own homes. Thus these tourists have helped to boost up the traditional paper-craft. This is one of the reasons why the production of this paper is still thriving in places like Baglung and Dailekh in the west, and Solukhumbu, Ramechhap and Barabise in the east of

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