Lokta Paper | Nepali Paper
We have been making paper for centuries. Prior to paper being invented in China in around 100AD, we used to use stones, tree barks or parchments or solid wooden objects for communication by scribing on them and transporting them. Han Dynasty of China has been accredited to have invented paper in around 200BC to 200AD. The Licchavi Dynasty, which ruled Nepal during 400-750 AD, could be one of the earliest adopters of paper making from the Chinese – handmade Lokta paper being found from Licchavi era.
As a kid, many of us may have seen how paper is made. The process is actually simple, comprising of dissolving the paper pulp and evenly distributing it as a layer and letting it dry. Traditionally, paper is made out of pulp from fibre collected from different plants. Based on what plant is found a particular locality, the process and texture of paper making slightly differ. In Nepal, paper is made out of the inner bark of a shrub /bush called Lokta (scientific name Danphe panachea) found abundantly in some 20 hilly districts in Nepal covering around 1 million sq meters.
Lokta Paper, also known as Nepali Kagaj (paper), has been the only kind of paper produced and found in Nepal till the 20th century. In late 20th century, however, the market was flooded with cheaper paper from China and India, which nearly proved terminal to the local paper making industry and affecting the livelihood of the villagers directly.
Government, upon advocacy by various NGOs and INGOs and recognizing the imminent threat, had mandated the use of Nepali paper in all handwritten official document until recently which helped keep the tradition and process alive. Today, Nepali paper is mostly used in making crafts, ranging from diaries to lamp-decors to greetings cards to various other stationaries and accessories.
Owing to its unique texture and properties, it is slowing gaining popular across the globe. With the opening of sale from across the globe, the production has been rising and many small to medium paper production industries has been established. This inturn has led to establishment of paper crafts making industry. Today, Lokta paper (as sheets) and the crafts made out of Lokta paper is exported to all major cities in the World.
Lokta Paper as Eco-friendly Paper
The process of making Lokta paper is entirely organic and manual. Right from picking up the inner bark from Lokta bushes to processing it for pulp extraction and then ultimately into making paper sheets are done by local villagers. Inner bark of lokta is boiled to extract the pulp. Pulp is washed using ash. Once the pulp is ready, it is dissolved into water and wooden frames are used to catch the pulp evenly across as a layer which is then sun-dried to make paper.
There is, however, minimal use of machine, especially the water pumps during washing process and small turbines during pulp thinning process being used in some paper making industries, especially in urban areas. Use of sodium bicarbonate had been practiced during the cleaning process, but has been banned by the government and has been replaced with ash again.
Thus, Lokta paper can be said to be completely eco-friendly paper. Lokta , a bush found between altitudes of 1500m to 2000m, is abundant in 20 hilly districts in Nepal.
Unique Features of Lokta Paper
- Lokta paper is one of the strongest paper in the world, it cannot be easily torn.
- Lokta paper is most resistant to termites and decay – hence suited for documents/books meant to last for centuries.
- Lokta paper has a unique feel and texture and overall vibe.
- Lokta paper is not easily damaged by water.
- Lokta paper exemplifies ink from pen or print beautifully.
- Lokta paper can be dyed in many colors and patterns for artistic purposes.
Lokta Paper Making Industry and subsequent crafts making Industry is one of the many crafts making industries in Nepal supporting villagers, especially women empowerment, by providing them employment and means of income. iMartNepal, as a promotor of handmade crafts from Nepal from Nepal, have a product range of handmade Lokta paper craft.