Jamyang Dorjee and Art of Calligraphy in Sikkim

Handmade Paper and the Art of Indian Calligraphy

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Tibetan manuscripts on handmade paper (2018-06-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Handmade paper in India

Handmade paper is extremely popular among artists and calligraphers. One would think the uneven texture would not allow for smooth writing. Old Tibetan manuscripts written on fairly rough, textured handmade paper proves this impression incorrect. Japan, China, Thailand and Nepal have used handmade paper from rice, the mulberry plant, the argeli plant and Egypt created paper out of the papyrus plant for its exquisite Arabic calligraphy.

Calligraphy with bamboo pens (2018-06-01) by Rajeev KumarDastkari Haat Samiti

Calligraphy, the art of writing has many names in India. Called su-lekhan (su meaning beautiful and lekhan meaning writing), khushan visi, su-lipi, sulekh kala,in Hindi, khushkhati, khush nafisi, kitaabat, suloos, and khattaati in Arabic, Persian or Urdu, they all refer to the beautiful art of writing.

These find a true partner in handmade paper especially when the texture does not soak in too much ink from a pen.

The calligraphy workshop The calligraphy workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

Brushwork, writing with bamboo pens, or even a simple sketch pen gives highly aesthetic and beautiful results when a calligrapher’s sure and thoughtful flourish lights up the paper.

The calligraphy of Japan, China and Korea where a few black brush strokes bring magical art to rich cream-coloured paper.

India’s calligraphy flourished during Mughal times, when Persian calligraphers wrote manuscripts illustrated and illuminated by Hindu painters or vice versa.

One of the processes in paper making at the Elrhino factory (2018-06-01) by Elrhino Eco Industries Pvt. Ltd.Dastkari Haat Samiti

Paper making happened in many parts of India at that time, in spite of having 22 official languages, 13 scripts and over 700 identified dialects, Independent India has never been known internationally for its calligraphy.

It has many forms of classical and folk art, but although artistic sensibilities of its creative communities are high and widespread, they never extended to calligraphy.

Detail of calligraphy (2018-07-01) by Qamar DagarDastkari Haat Samiti

Perhaps this was largely because the communities that painted or crafted did not value or feel the need for being literate. The skills of writing were left to those upper classes that served temples, kings or governments.

Calligraphers who continued valiantly were all Muslim, as the value of writing was originally attributed to the fact that the Prophet Mohammad’s sacred words needed to be written beautifully, so all holy sayings were inscribed lovingly and artistically on whatever surface was chosen.

Calligrapher Rajeev Kumar at his studio (2018-06-01) by Rajeev KumarDastkari Haat Samiti

Calligraphers practicing in multiple Indian scripts are few, but, in the 21st century, there are a growing number, demonstrating, displaying and selling their art works in galleries, schools and at prestigious international events.

The papers acquired from hosiery waste, elephant and rhinoceros dung and the argeli plant were given to four prominent calligraphers of India, Jamyang Dorjee, Rajeev Kumar, Qamar Dagar and Irshad Farooqi, and Sanjhi paper artist Ram Soni, to enhance the visual and tactile experience of exploring handmade paper with their art.

Calligrapher of Tibetan script (2018-05-01) by Jamyang DorjeeDastkari Haat Samiti

Calligraphy in Sikkim

Jamyang Dorjee, who lives in Rabongla, is an expert calligrapher with a special style of his own.

Buddha statue at Buddha Park, Rabongla (2018-06-01) by Govt. of SikkimDastkari Haat Samiti

In the small town of Rabongla in South Sikkim an impressively large Buddha Park is its main attraction.

With the lower ranges of Mt Kanchenjunga as a backdrop, the golden statue of Buddha towers over the consciousness of the area, changing colours and moods according to the weather and time of day.

Block printed manuscripts (2018-06-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The Palchen Choeling or new Ralang Monastery is just six kilometres away from Rabongla.It was built in 1988 and is on the way to Borung-Polok, the tiny place where handmade paper is made out of local plant material. In the large hall of the monastery, tables are placed in multiple rows with ritual objects on them.

Old manuscript with Tibetan script (2018-06-01) by UnknownDastkari Haat Samiti

Old sacred Tibetan/Bhoti scripts, printed with wooden blocks are used by monks when chanting their daily prayers at the monastery.

Calligrapher Jamyang Dorjee demonstrates his skill (2018-05-01) by Jamyang DorjeeDastkari Haat Samiti

Jamyang Dorjee, who lives in Rabongla, is an expert calligrapher with a special style of his own.

He holds the Guinness World Record for having created the longest handwritten scroll which is 165 feet long. It was done on 120 sheets of handmade paper gifted by a friend who made the paper himself.

Lord Buddha depicted in various forms of calligraphy (2018-05-01) by Jamyang DorjeeDastkari Haat Samiti

The central form of Lord Buddha is depicted in miniature calligraphy at the centre, while concentric circles in expanding sizes of calligraphy form the sacred mantra. This is a signature style that informs many of Dorjee’s works.

Detail of Buddha form in Tibetan calligraphy (2018-05-01) by Jamyang DorjeeDastkari Haat Samiti

The complete heart sutra, hridaya sutra, of Buddha is done in the stufchung calligraphy method. The textural ‘imperfections’ add to the charm of organically made paper.

Calligrapher's brushes and pens (2018-05-01) by Jamyang DorjeeDastkari Haat Samiti

Detail of Jamyang Dorjee’s pens and brushes, fine handmade paper, and Tibetan calligraphy.

This finest textured argeli-based handmade paper is used in most of Jamyang Dorjee’s calligraphic works. The writing instrument depends on the quality of the paper.

Tibetan Calligraphy on handmade paperDastkari Haat Samiti

Calligrapher Jamyang Dorjee demonstrates different style of Tibetan calligraphy.

Calligrapher demonstrating differnt styles of Tibetan calligraphy (2018-05-01) by Jamyang DorjeeDastkari Haat Samiti

He uses a separate tool for each one.

Alphabet in Tibetan calligraphy (2018-05-01) by Jamyang DorjeeDastkari Haat Samiti

This alphabet is in the uchen method of Tibetan calligraphy.

"Tompa" writen in Tibetan calligraphy (2018-05-01) by Jamyang DorjeeDastkari Haat Samiti

Writing the word ‘tonpa’ in the umed style of calligraphy.

Mani Mandala in Tibetan calligraphy on argeli plant handmade paper (2018-05-01) by Jamyang DorjeeDastkari Haat Samiti

A complete mani mandala in the umed method of calligraphy. The calligrapher has put his signature seal in red on the right.

Calligrapher of Tibetan script (2018-05-01) by Jamyang DorjeeDastkari Haat Samiti

Sikkim calligrapher Jamyang Dorjee, who is a resident of Rabongla, holds classes for elder citizens of the Tibetan diaspora while visiting his sons in New York every summer. He examines his work before he leaves.

Calligraphy art (2018-07-01) by Qamar DagarDastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about calligraphy here:
-Rajeev Kumar
-Qamar Dagar
-Irshad Farooqui

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 industry in India here:

-Research and Technology
-Rajasthan Story
-Assam Story
-Sikkim Story

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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