Friday, July 13, 2012

Sanganer : Haath Kagaz

As some of you may know, I have become increasingly interested in Traditional Islamic Papermaking over the last year or so. You can see the sheetforming method here. I have been researching this method of handpapermaking in India and reading as much as I can about it. Last winter I took a trip to Orchha to look for the Kagazis that I had heard were still making paper the old way. But to my disappointment, that was a dead end. I followed another lead that led me to the Kagazi Mohalla in Sanganer last month. This post is about my findings.

Mohammed Husain Kagazi sits on the left next to wife and grand daughter

His son, Zakir Husain now continues the trade in his father's place. He is joined by his two sons

The paper is still made in the traditional islamic style 

The fiber used is Sunn or Hemp, that Husain sources from Uttar Pradesh. Sunn used to grow in abundance by the river in Jaipur but over the years as the quality of the water has deteriorated, so has the quality of fiber.
It yields a darker and weaker paper that is no longer suited to their needs

The old papermaking vat, dug below ground level.
Muhammed Husain spent years 
bent over this vat making sheets of paper day in and day out

A woven grass mat or chapri constitutes the mould surface, upon which the pulp settles

The women make the chapri using the stems of a particular grass that grows by the river

To achieve the desired length, the stems are spliced together using the thinner and sturdier heads of the stalks. 
This process of splicing and weaving is painstaking and can take months

The chapri is woven with the aid of a frame

A detail

It is then placed on this wooden frame or mould and held in place by deckle sticks

This is what is then dipped into the vat to make a single sheet of paper

The vatman adds pulp to the vat a bucket at at time.
He fills enough to make 100 sheets of paper in one sitting

The vat is then stirred vigorously for many minutes. It is then left to settle before actual sheetforming

The paper is brushed on using a brush made of stems of bulrush

Husain's wife brushes on the pressed sheets onto the walls to dry

The paper dries pretty fast in the heat of the summer

After it is dry, the paper is then 'brushed' with this porous chest bone of a camel. 
This removes any stray fibers sticking up from the surface of the sheet 

The smaller sized paper is then burnished by hand. 
For the larger sheets, the paper is put through a calendaring machine

The paper is burnished using a smooth agate stone

Some of the paper is naturally dyed. The dye is brushed onto both sides of the sheet

Indigo is sourced in cakes form Gujarat

Kachcha Kathha

A root that gives a red dye

A plant that gives a yellow dye


Tesu, that gives a yellow dye

The paper being made when we visited was being used to re-write and make copies of various religious texts. The coloured papers were going to be used for the same purpose and would have been calligraphed on with gold