The act of documenting an idea or information for it to be re-consumed or transferred revolutionized the way human think, act and even interpret history. The history of paper in India is the junction of traditional techniques and political needs which led to the culture and evolution of the papermaking community, Kagzis.
As circular economy’s principle aim is to maximise the use of resources while reducing waste and making the best possible use of a product. The traditional practice of paper-making at Kagzipura has been true to this definition by thriving on a ‘Reuse and Recycle’ model.
Kagzipura is a small village in Khuldabad taluk which falls in the district of Aurangabad. It lies on the way between Daulatabad fort and Khuldabad to places like Ellora and Ajanta. Aurangabad has been a cradle of tangible and intangible heritage and indigenous knowledge systems and has nurtured various crafts of the region spanning over 2000 years. Although actual development started after 17century when Aurangzeb took the throne as a Viceroy of Deccan, there was a lot more happening before that. Ellora caves were made during the rule of Rashtrakuta dynasty, followed by the Tuglaq dynasty, who made Daulatabad their capital, but it was the Mughals who brought infrastructure in the region and the paper mills were one of those initiatives taken in that period. In or around 12th -14th century, Kagzipur boasted of 10 paper mills.
At one time Kagzipura produced one of the finest handmade papers in the country. Paper was undoubtedly an essential part of running an empire and all Mughal farmans, manuscripts and all-important and scholastic documents of that period were handwritten on paper produced here. The paper produced here is made from waste cloth or rags and is totally eco and environmentally friendly, as it recycles waste.
Originally produced in individual homes the craft is now housed in a centralized facility. The papermaking process is manual and involves several stages namely rag chopping, beating, pressing, drying and cutting. The raw material consists of cotton rags, paper waste and vegetable fibres or even used tea leaves, finely chopped into small pieces. This mixture of raw material is bleached and soaked in water and beaten to turn it into fine pulp in a large tank. The consistency of the pulp in the tank is kept constant to achieve a consistent thickness of paper sheets. Handmade paper is a layer of inclined fibres held together by the natural bonding properties of the fibres and lifted by hand sheet by sheet by skilled Kagzis. The water from the wet pulp is drained and transferred onto a muslin, pressed and is delicately handled while hanging it indoors to allow it to dry naturally.
Also, on the same principle technique, the pulp may be poured into the mould. This process is repeated for each sheet of paper the making of paper by hand uses exclusively non-forest to raw materials mainly cotton rags and is amendable to conversion by environment-friendly processes. Handmade paper production has low capital investment promotes local entrepreneurship generates more local employment and it is an environmentally sound technology.
The dry paper is passed to a series of metal rolls to ensure a uniform and smooth surface motives are created by adding flower petals or leaves to the damp sheets. After drying the leaves are peeled off leaving beautiful impressions. The rough edges are trimmed with the help of a hand-operated cutting machine. Handmade paper has a distinctive uniqueness and the craft involved in making each sheet is an eco-friendly process.
INTACH realizes the potential of this village and is making efforts to revive and restore the papermaking craft of this village. A series of workshops have been conducted, to enhance their skill levels and provide new design inputs the skills of creating usable products out of handmade paper were introduced. Notebooks pens stand photo frames lanterns envelopes carry bags and other value-added products developed, reinforced the activity of this village particularly amongst the women of the village. As the next phase, INTACH has developed a three-year implementation plan to develop infrastructure to boost the traditional paper-making craft. This strategic intervention includes design development and skill enhancement workshops, quality control, access to wider markets, community support and better opportunities for the women and the youth.
It also comes down to an individual’s responsibility, (being an artist, culturist, environmentalist, enthusiast or simply a consumer) to buy and promote these practices to ensure the continuation of such circular traditions.
About the Authors
Vikas Dargan (LinkedIn) is an Architect and a cultural professional with three years of experience of working towards craft revival and rural livelihood generation.
Video Source: Heritage, Craft & Community Division INTACH