The Elephant Dung story
Dung collected from cows in India is used for many purposes from fertilizing crops, disinfecting a village hut and as cheap fuel for cooking. As it is considered useful and therefore sacred, dung does not have the same negative connotation in traditional societies as it does in the urban world.
Detail of elephant dung paper with green silk filaments (2018-06-01) by Elrhino Eco Industries Pvt. Ltd.Dastkari Haat Samiti
In India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, small entrepreneurs have chosen the ecological route to preservation and waste management by using almost the same methods to convert elephant and rhino dung mixed with waste cloth into paper, since most of the grasses these animals eat are not fully digested and constitute a large part of their waste.
Vijender Singh Shekhawat creator of elephant dung paper of Rajasthan (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
The use of dung began in Jaipur with the enterprising and innovative efforts of Vijender Singh. He offers demonstrations of paper making and sells through his company Elly Express, under the brand Haathi Chaap (Elephant Imprint).
Vijender Singh Shekhawat tells of his own remarkable journey converting elephant dung into handmade paper and his many struggles and successes.
Instead of waking up at 4 am to collect marigold flowers from the wholesale flower market to be used to make decorative handmade paper in a large factory, he chose to go on his own, experimenting with elephant dung, strongly fibrous waste material which he discovered lost odour and harmful gases on being treated and converted into paper.
Decorative elephants in Jaipur (2018-05-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti
Vijender Singh collects dung from the elephants that serve the tourist industry in Jaipur. They are painted and decorated to give tourists rides in the area near Amer Fort.
He pays the mahouts a nominal amount for the dung. He found this dung with its high fibre content far better than straw from crushed sugar cane in nearby fields.
Elephants with mahout (2018-05-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti
A mahout and his elephant give each other care and loyalty. The men live and sleep along with the elephants in the same large shed.
Elephant dung as raw material (2018-05-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti
The dung is collected in sacks. The high fibre content of undigested grasses helps to bind the paper and give it strength even when made into pulp and mixed with textile waste.
Vijender Singh earlier tried using crushed sugar cane but dung gave a better result.
Paper Production at Elly Express
The use of dung began in Jaipur with the enterprising and innovative efforts of Vijender Singh who worked at a handmade paper making factory in Sanganer. He is a lover of nature and a clean environment. He entertains tourists with home-cooked food and offers demonstrations of paper making and sells through his company Elly Express, under the brand Haathi Chaap (Elephant Imprint).
Work inside elephant dung paper unit (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
Vijender Singh’s home and work unit are in the same semi-finished building in a colony near the airport in Jaipur.
Here, a woman friend from the village and his brother lift the muslin cloth away from between two sheets of paper. Some natural papers hang out to dry above.
Detail of texture of elephant dung paper (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
A detail of a ready sheet of paper held up against the light reveals the particles of grass from elephant dung and the textile component within the paper.
Detail of coloured and handmade paper sheets (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
Elephant dung paper has a distinct texture that is rugged. It can be dyed any colour with either natural or industrial dyes. Its thickness can be altered.
Elephant dung paper (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
Un-pressed papers hang out to dry along the ceiling of Vijender Singh’s work place. The natural tones maintain its eco-friendly connection.
The thickness of these sheets makes them perfect for experimenting with lamp designs, wall paneling or for strong wrapping.
Stacks of elephant dung paper (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
Coloured papers made of elephant dung are stacked in one side of the unit, awaiting dispatch for fabrication into note books and other stationery material.
Lady with notebook and raw material (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
Vijender Singh’s mother, a seamstress, supported her son when others laughed at his experimentation with elephant dung. She helps with housework and in the paper unit.
Here she holds marigold flowers, turmeric and other natural materials used to colour the cover of a notebook.
Leaf images insight elephant dung notebook (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
Some notebooks have decorative elephant dung paper. Leaves are imprinted on the paper when slightly damp.
Once removed, they leave behind their faint colour and pattern on the pages.
Insight pages of notebook (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
Vijender shows how some of his note books are bound by interspersing white sheets with brown. Many artists like to use such books to write travel notes and make sketches on interesting textures.
Notebook (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
The identity of his elephant dung paper products is stamped on many of them with amusing images of elephants and smile-generating indicators that they are made out of elephant poo.
Small notebook (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
A notebook popular with children. These are sold at periodic bazaars and also made against bulk orders for domestic sales or export.
Greeting cards (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
Colourful greetings are designed in Delhi by a friend and supporter who enables efficient marketing.
Vijender Singh and his enterprise are famous on tourist websites, bringing in visitors from different parts of the world to see his eco-friendly paper made of elephant dung.
He serves them home cooked traditional food to add to his income.
Notebook with elephant images (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
This charming notebook has a sequence of images showing an elephant doing surya namaskar (sun salutations) which consists of a series of yoga postures particularly good for the body.
Notepad (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
A significant message on the cover of a note pad made of elephant dung says ‘Support large animals and small businesses” which says it all.
Notebooks (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
The sophisticated aesthetic of colours and designs seen on Vijender Singh’s elephant dung notebooks belie the simplicity of his workplace, lifestyle and background.
unfinished ludo game in elephant dung paper (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti
A board game is in the process of being assembled. Even the movable pieces are fashioned by hand out of elephant dung pulp mixed with textile waste and dried.
Family of elephant dung paper maker (2018-05-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti
Vijender Singh, his wife, daughters and mother pose proudly before the small wall that divides the visitor’s area and entrance from the water troughs and work tables behind.
Its white figures painted by rural women with rice paste depict different activities in a Rajasthan village.
The décor is part of his effort to make his workplace pleasant for tourists.
Sheets of paper made of elephant dung hang above to dry.
Assorted stationery (2018-06-01) by Elrhino Eco Industries Pvt. Ltd.Dastkari Haat Samiti
Text: Jaya Jaity
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri, Subinoy Das, Charu Verma, Rajeev Kumar,
Artisans: Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute, Salim Kagzi,Vijender Singh Shekhawat, Mahesh Bora, Borung-Polok, Jamyang Dorjee, Rajeev Kumar, Qamar Dagar, Irshad Hussain Farooqi, Ram Soni
Ground Facilitator: Jaya Jaitly, Charu Verma, Subinoy Das
Documentary Video: Charu Verma, Chirodeep Chaudhuri, Subinoy Das, Jaya Jaitly
Curation: Ruchira Verma
Read more about handmade paper and calligraphy here:
-Research and Technology
-Calligraphy in Sikkim