Kagaz ki kahani


In this age of digitalization, mere mention of the word paper evokes the feeling of magic of the bygone era. There still exist some hardcore paper fanatics who can be spotted holding a book among Kindlers. They swear by the texture and smell of a book and have kept the romance with paper still alive.

Though the modern paper factory boasts of a state of the art machineries, there is something about handmade paper which still makes people drool over the raw beauty of paper. Handmade paper is a layer of entwined fibers held together by the internal bonding properties of cellulose fibers by hand.

The history of paper dates back to the history of human culture and civilization. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans wrote on 'Papyrus' a paper -like material.

The handmade paper making in India goes as far back as to the 3rd century BC. Paper making craftsmen are known as "Kagzi's". Their name is derived from Urdu word "kagaz" which means paper. The size of this community has dwindled over the years. There is a small settlement of "Kagzi's" in Sanganer near Jaipur, where a section of this community settled thousands of years ago. They claimed that they were originally from Turkey and from there moved to China and then finally settled in India.

In Sanganer the 'Kagzi' community own the handmade paper industry in the town. They can trace their history to the 14th century, in the time when Feroze Shah Tughlaq ruled. In those days the royalty used handmade paper made by them for official documents and maintain account books. Beautiful miniature paintings, calligraphy also flourished copies of the Holy Quran were made on this paper. In the 16th century the then ruler of Amber, Raja Man Singh brought the Kagzis to Sanganer and settled them on the bank of the river Saraswati, where clean water was easily available. Thus the town developed as one of the biggest paper producing centers in north India.

Under the British rule, handmade paper industry received a serious setback as the British promotef the import of mill-made paper from England. By the 1930s, the number of "Kagzis" dwindled to a number of handful. Mahatma Gandhi provided them with the much-needed support by buying handmade paper in bulk for his Ashram and other associates. After independence, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC)included handmade paper in the list of crafts to be promoted. Over the years the handmade paper industry has grown slowly but steadily and is today a major player in the world market, exporting a major portion of its production.

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