Visitors taking a stroll in the Kathmandu market place will see varieties of journals, photo albums, stationery sets and greeting cards made of a peculiar looking paper. The thin white, or sometimes colored paper is peculiar indeed. Its texture is different, and so is the method of making it. There is no solid evidence as to exactly when the Nepalese hand-made paper came into use. Some assume that Chinese businessmen doing business in India via Nepal, brought it into India around the 11th century. The sacred Buddhist text, Karanya Buha Sutra, written in the Lichhavi script indicates that it was written some time between the 1st and 9th century A.D., which attests to the strength and long life of the paper.
The paper is made from the bark of the Lokta bush, an evergreen shrub of the Daphne species, found in the mountainous parts of Nepal above 6500 feet. They can grow up to 10 feet in height and 2 inches in diameter, and are usually ready to be pruned four years after they sprout. The stalk is at least 1 1/2 inches in diameter before it is considered ready to harvest. This insures that it will yield a paper that is strong. The stalk is cut at least 8 inches above the ground so that the heart of the plant is not destroyed and it can easily grow again from its embedded roots.
After the stalk has been pruned, its bark is removed and softened by soaking it in water for 72 hours; it is then cleaned the knots are removed. It's washed and the clean bark is cooked in a large pot of water, the bark is properly cooked when it breaks easily if stretched. Once cooked, it is taken out and rinsed, the bark is then beaten on a stone slab with a split bamboo rod. Using a heavier device will destroy the fibers, making the paper weak. The beaten solution is poured into a specially designed wooden frame with a thin cloth stretched across it. The frame is placed on a flat surface and the solution is spread evenly across it, it is then placed out in the sun. Once dry, the paper is peeled away from the cloth and stored. Paper prepared this way is light brown in color, paper can also be made whiter by hanging it outside for days until the effects of the sun bleach it.
Handmade Nepalese paper, besides serving as a very durable writing material, is used by the native people for a variety of purposes. From making charms to ward off evil spirits to making gift items, it is even employed by the people of the remote villages as a substitute for plaster to be applied to heal cuts and fractures. It has also found its way into use in religious rituals and for making incense.
The harvesting of Lokta also serves other important purposes as well. It allows the plants root growth to accelerate to help hold the soil in place during the two monsoon seasons Nepal gets every year. It is the only export crop the remote villages have, thus giving them a sustainable form of income, making for a better standard of living. Historically, all Nepalese legal and legislative documents are printed on Lokta paper because it is so durable. This authentic tradition has caught on with international interest because of the environmentally sound, and natural production.
NepalesePaper.com has been in business for 17 years and has been practicing Fair Trade since before it was called Fair Trade, when it was just called "the right thing to do" Our paper is made primarily by women, with women being the premier paper makers of Nepal. For the past 17 years we have supported the same group in Nepal. Our products give the village regions of Nepal a much needed export, and result in the employment of many women in the Kathmandu Valley. All of our products are entirely tree-free, made from the environmentally sustainable trimming back of the Lokta Bush.
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