Revival of 1000 Years old Paper
Traditional art and craft, practiced by various skill-societies in the country are the evidence of Indian cultural heritage. For this, a positive development has been made in the state of Arunachal Pradesh where an extinct 1000-years-old ancient paper mill has been revived by the Khadi and Village Industrial Commission (KVIC). This optimistic approach has welcomed opportunities in bringing the employment for the people of the state of Arunachal Pradesh and also play a vital role to boost the Indian economy.
The paper has great historic and religious significance as it is the paper used for writing Buddhist scriptures and hymns in monasteries.
The Monpa handmade paper, made from the bark of a local tree called Shugu Sheng, has medicinal values too. Monpa paper craft is made by tawang scheduled tribe people, known as monpa. They were the early people to practice this handmade paper. Slowly and gradually this art become an integral part of the local custom and their source of earning livelihoods. Monpa paper become famous and started being produced in large amount, which was exported in nearby places like Bhutan, Tibet, Thailand and Japan. Because at that time there was no proper paper making industry existed in those countries. Thus, the people of Tawang got the benefit.
The monpas are the major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh in northern India and the believed to be only nomadic tribe in north east India. They completely depend upon animals’ live sheep, cow, yak, goats and horses. Monpas share a close affinity with the sharchops of Bhutan.
This Tawang not only known for handmade paper but also handmade pottery and handmade furniture as with the passage of time it was also get extinct. It also famous amoung tourists for the mountain motorbikes. Tawang shares it bordering region with Tibet and Bhutan.
Over time, the local industry of Arunachal Pradesh began declining and the indigenous handmade paper was taken over by the inferior Chinese paper. After this declination, in 1994, there was an attempt made for the revival of Monpa paper industry but failed due to various geographical challenges in Tawang due to its tough geographical region, with high mountains, daunting terrains which makes industrial developed a complicated to established.
Process of Making Monpa Handmade Paper
Monpa paper is made from the bark of tree Shugu Sheng, grown locally in Tawang. To make Mon Shugu, the inner fibrous bark of the Shugu Sheng shrub is dried, boiled with a solution of ash, made into pulp and then cut into sheets of paper. The process of making this paper is entirely organic with no chemical additives. This naturally processed paper possesses strong tensile strength and is durable. Initially the paper industry engaged 9 artisans, who can produced 500-600 sheets of monpa handmade paper per day. For which each artisan was earning Rs. 400/-.
The Arunachal Pradesh government lent support to the project and offered a building on a nominal rent to set up the unit. A team of scientist and officials of The Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute (KNHPI) Jaipur were deployed at tawang by the instruction of KVIC.
Challenged faced: The most challenging task for KVIC officials was to transport the machines to Twang owing to its difficult mountainous terrain and inclement weather conditions.
Monpa handmade paper making unit in Tawang which not only aimed at reviving the art but also engaging the local youths with this art professionally and earn.
- Monpa handmade paper has high commercial value that can be harnessed to create local employment. By increasing production of Monpa handmade paper, it can be exported to other countries. This is a local product with great global potential, which is aligned with the Mantra of “Local to Global” given by the Prime Minister.
- The Government has tried to implement schemes for the people of Arunachal Pradesh like intra-state transmission and distribution infrastructure in the state by providing the states grid connectivity to remote areas.
- Producing paper from Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) and non-wood fibres help in reducing the need to procure pulpwood from natural forests and to minimize deforestation. These products are vital sources of income, nutrition and sustenance for many forest-based communities around the world.
- With increasing population, paper consumption has also been increasing which demand large number of raw materials from different sources, such as wood, non-wood fibre and non-timber forest products to increase the production.
With the strong resolve of the higher management of KVIC, the unit was successfully established despite many challenges. The 1000-year-old heritage art the monpa handmade paper of Arunachal Pradesh which was driven to extinction has come to life once again with the committed efforts of KVIC.The revival of this paper industry brings an encouragement to the art and heritage to the people of Tawang. This initiative not only brings the revival but the employment to the people of Arunachal Pradesh making it a part of their livelihood by the prime minister mantra “local to global”. The making process of monpa handmade paper is eco-friendly and the product is biodegradable which made from non-timber forest product. It also encourages the value of monpa (scheduled tribe) to the world recognition. Not only this revives the Indian heritage but also play a vital role to boost the Indian economy.
 PIB Delhi (2021, February 04). Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises; Article. People Patronize Monpa Handmade Paper of Tawang after PM’s push in Mann Ki Baat.Retrieved from https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1695156
Figure  - PIB (2020) Monpa Handmade Paper [Photograph] Arunachal revives 1,000-year-old handmade paper industry https://acumenias.in/uploads/affair/Monpa%20Handmade%20Paper20201230070138.jpg
Figure  PIB (2020 December 28). monpa handmade paper[photograph]. https://vajiramandravi.s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/media/2020/12/28/10/12/4/jjjjj.jpg
Figure  Holiday Scout (2017, 04 June) Tawang Focus – The Art of Making Paper. [Photograph] https://theholidayscout.com/indigenous-knowledge/arts-and-crafts/tawang-focus-the-art-of-making-paper/
Figure  Sentinel Digital Desk (2020 28 Dec). KVIC revives Monpa handmade paper industry, historic event for the locals of Tawang. [photograph]. https://www.sentinelassam.com/north-east-india-news/arunachal-news/kvic-revives-monpa-handmade-paper-industry-historic-event-for-the-locals-of-tawang-518374