Turning Waste Into Paper

Discover the process of using waste to produce handmade paper at Salim Kagzi, Jaipur

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Detail of coloured and handmade paper sheets (2018-05-01) by Elly ExpressDastkari Haat Samiti

History of paper in India

Archaeological finds at Gilgit in the Baltistan area indicate paper was used in the Himalayas in 6th century AD. In the 8th century a Sanskrit dictionary gives translations for both the Persian and Chinese words for paper. Muslim invasions into India began in the 11th century, bringing with them evidence of paper used for manuscripts. These manuscripts were in a long oblong format either piled together with firm top and bottom slats to sandwich them, after which they were tied with string. Palm leaf or birch bark manuscripts had holes punched on the left side through which a strong string was passed through to hold the scripted sheets together. Later, some were given decorative borders. Islamic and Jain manuscripts became elaborate with illustrations.

Notebooks made in Sikkim (2018-07-01) by Borong-Polok Handmade paper unitDastkari Haat Samiti

Paper as a material for religious scripts, office decrees, courts and administrative work became the norm between the 10th and 13th centuries.

Kagaz, the Persian word for paper, was adopted as the word for paper in India. Small hamlets called kagzipura, paper town, were established, one of which survives by the same name in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, where a Muslim community continues to make paper by hand even in 2018.

Handmade paper manufacturing establishments of different sizes are located in Sanganer, the biggest paper making centre in western India.

Round handmade paper boxes (2018-05-01) by Salim KagziDastkari Haat Samiti

Salim Kagzi

Salim Kagzi, a 100% export-directed unit carrying on a family tradition that dates back to the end of the 16th century has a fascinating link to Mahatma Gandhi. By the middle of the 19th century kagzi craft was dying because of imports of British factory-made paper.

In 1938 Janab Allah Bux, a master paper craftsman, met Gandhi in despair. His son Salim, who now runs the unit, tells of how Gandhi swore henceforth to use only handmade paper and promoted it, along with his father and his work,at every opportunity. His son lovingly refers to him even now as Bapu, father, the affectionate name given to Gandhi by the country.

Today the family business is both flourishing and highly-respected as leaders in the trade.

Shackful of hosiery waste at handmade paper factory (2018-05-01) by Salim KagziDastkari Haat Samiti

It is a big leap from research to the high end of production of handmade paper at a vast factory in Sanganer, on the outskirts of Jaipur city. This highly respected and well-established family-run enterprise called Salim Kagzi makes high-end paper exclusively for export.

A building that looks more like a college campus shows its size and success, with its four sides encompassing a large garden. Here, hundreds of sacks bursting with hosiery rags await pulping.

From trying to save a dying skill, the family now runs a multi-million-rupee

Hosiery waste pulp (2018-05-01) by Salim KagziDastkari Haat Samiti

Hosiery rags are put through a trough of water, boiled and stirred thoroughly till they are clean and the fibres are broken down into a pulp.

Hosiery waste and sequins (2018-05-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Spangles, glitter, flecks of grass, or rose or marigold petals are mixed into the pulp if required to embellish its texture.

Pink coloured hosiery waste pulp with mixed with marigold petals and grass (2018-05-01) by Salim KagziDastkari Haat Samiti

Pink colouring, flecks of grass and marigold petals have been mixed into the hosiery pulp to make sheets for gift wrapping, decorative carrier bags or invitation cards for a celebration.

Interior of factory in pulp to paper section (2018-05-01) by Salim KagziDastkari Haat Samiti

The pink pulp goes through many stages as can be seen on this shop floor of the Salim Kagzi handmade paper factory.

Two persons are needed for each stage of the process.

Men placing muslin sheet over layer of pink pulp (2018-05-01) by Salim KagziDastkari Haat Samiti

A thin muslin cloth is layered between each sheet to keep them apart after being strained in the mesh tray immersed in the trough,

Handmade paper process at Sanganer (2018-06-01) by Salim KagziDastkari Haat Samiti

The sheet and the cloth are piled one on top of the other and pressed hard to remove any excess water.

For bulk pressing a large machine is used if the tight schedule of an export order requires it.

Men pressing sheet after removing from trough of pulp (2018-05-01) by Salim KagziDastkari Haat Samiti

Otherwise, all handmade paper makers take pride in stating they do not use any machines at their establishment.

Two women with sheets of handmade paper (2018-05-01) by Salim KagziDastkari Haat Samiti

Handmade paper making is labour intensive and provides employment to many people. Salim Kagzi has over a thousand employees.

Many parts of the process of pulp to product produce there are carried out by local rural women who form 40% of the workforce.

Here, two women sit on the floor to remove the muslin cloth between the sheets after the paper has dried.

Women in process of drying sheets of handmade paper (2018-05-01) by Salim KagziDastkari Haat Samiti

Women workers at the Salim Kagzi factory roll stacks of paper on trolleys to the vast drying area where lines of wire and clothing pegs are ready to be hung out to dry fully.

Woman with stack of papers (2018-05-01) by Salim KagziDastkari Haat Samiti

When the papers have dried they have to be meticulously counted.

Handmade paper notebook (2018-06-01) by Elrhino Eco Industries Pvt. Ltd.Dastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about handmade paper industry here:
-Research and Technology

Credits: Story

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:

-Rajasthan Story
-Assam Story
-Sikkim Story
-Calligraphy in Sikkim
-Rajeev Kumar
-Qamar Dagar
-Irshad Farooqui

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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