An Enduring Legacy: Rajasthan’s 500-Year-Old Paper-Making Community

An Enduring Legacy: Rajasthan’s 500-Year-Old Paper-Making Community
(L) D'Source ; Google Art & Culture (R)

It is no surprise that with time comes the introduction of modern technology, which often tends to replace traditional practices. It is not to say that modern techniques are all bad, it is simply worth pointing out that these traditional practices are those that influence and are a part of our cultural fabric. Our heritage and identity as communities of India are shaped by these.

The village of Sanganer in Rajasthan, however, has been busy keeping the traditional method of paper-making alive. With some machinery for aid, the villagers have formed their own close-knit industry of handmade paper. Now organised into factories, the kagzis, as they are called, source discarded fabric and paper, clean it, shred it, and then disperse it in water where it is pulverised by a machine.

Now, the kagzis form this pulp into sheets of paper by hand. They sieve out the pulp from the water onto large mesh-like frames before they are separated by sheets of cloth. This stack of sheets is then pressed to squeeze out the remaining water. Then, the paper sheets are separated from the cloth sheets (which get reused for the next batch) and are hung out to dry. The sheets are smoothened and the edges are trimmed to create the final product.

The set procedures work because of the paper-making community’s discipline regarding their work. Of course, for it to have sustained over five centuries, the kagzis are definitely doing something right.

When the paper is used by consumers, it gives a different feel altogether. It is not as smooth as commercially-made paper, but that is perhaps what makes it so special –– the craft of the people, their legacy, and their history reside in a matter of a few inches of paper. It is also not a hugely profitable business, but the people of Sanganer pour their heart into the work, and it most definitely shows in the product.

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