The sale of the 1000-year-old heritage Monpa handmade paper or `Mon Shugu’ is quickly catching pace, thanks to its special mention by prime minister in his radio programme Mann ki Baat.
Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), which revived this ancient art at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh on 25 December 2020, has also made Monpa handmade paper available online through its e-portal www.khadiindia.gov.in.
On the first day of its launch, more than 100 sheets of Monpa handmade paper were sold. The orders were received from Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. The handmade paper, handcrafted by trained local artisans in Tawang, was put to online sale on Sunday (31 January) after the prime minister spoke about this ancient art.
Monpa handmade paper is not only supporting environment protection but has also opened new avenues of income for the local artisans. The handmade paper sheet measuring 60 cm (24 inch) in length and 40 cm (16 inch) in width is priced economically at Rs50 per sheet.
KVIC chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena said owing to its religious and cultural significance, Monpa handmade paper had great market potential in India and abroad. “On the first day of its online sale, we received orders for over 100 sheets. The prime minister’s appeal will definitely make this paper popular among people. We will explore new market avenues for Monpa Handmade paper that will strengthen this industry and local artisans in Arunachal Pradesh,” Saxena said.
Revival of this art assumes significance as Monpa handmade paper was once produced in every household in Tawang and the paper was exported to many countries like Tibet, Bhutan, Myanmar and Japan among others. However, with the new technologies coming in, the handmade paper industry almost disappeared in the last 100 years.
Notably, Monpa handmade paper is made from the bark of tree Shugu Sheng grown locally in Tawang and is identified by its distinctive translucent fibrous texture. The paper is weightless but its natural fibres add great tensile strength to this paper making it apt for various art works. Monpa handmade paper has been used for writing Buddhist scriptures, manuscripts and for making prayer flags. Writing on this paper is also known to be tamper-proof. The Monpa handmade paper industry set up in Tawang aims at engaging the local youths with this art professionally and earn.
Initially, the paper unit has engaged nine artisans who can produce 500 to 600 sheets of Monpa handmade paper per day. The artisans will be earning wages per day of Rs400 per day. To begin with, 12 women and 2 men from local villages have been trained to make Monpa handmade paper.