Lokta Paper: A Historic Craft Home to Nepal
Lokta paper preserves an age-old craft through its fibres
-  06 Feb 2018 | nepaltraveller.com
The Peacock Shop in Bhaktapur houses a paper emporium where Lokta Paper is produced from scratch.
With its roots deeply hidden in Nepal’s artistry, Lokta Paper is a handcrafted paper that has been around since the 12th Century. The paper is made from the inner bark of high elevation shrubs of the species Daphne, which are collectively known as Lokta bushes. Found high on the southern side of Himalayan Forests in Nepal, Lokta bushes primarily grow in open clusters between 1600-m and 4000-m above sea level.
For a long time, Lokta paper was used for almost all government documents and records because of its durability and resistance to natural conditions that might damage the paper. Lokta paper lasts as long as 3,000 years without much damage. Many sacred religious texts were recorded on this very paper to preserve the thoughts of medieval scholars and beyond.
During the olden days, the making of Lokta paper was restricted to rural areas and Baglung, a district in western Nepal, was well known for crafting this paper. Now, the art of making Lokta Paper has spread to over twenty-two districts, including the three in Kathmandu. One shop in Bhaktapur is a paper emporium and creates its own paper products from scratch. In the alleys near Dattatreya Temple, the Peacock Shop works as a paper and woodworking workshop, along with a store selling finished paper products and Samriddhi Prajapati of the Peacock Shop, tells us her father has been involved in the creation of Lokta paper for over 20 years.
The process of making Lokta Paper today is one that is tedious but is traditional and preserves the medieval art process. First, Prajapati tells us, the Lokta plant’s barks are scraped and put to boil for over five to six hours. The boiled pulp is then hammered and beaten until the desired consistency is achieved, after a few hours in cold water. This pulp is spread onto wooden frames for dying. Different coloured dyes are used to achieve bright papers. “Usually, the natural off-white, cream colour of Lokta paper is left to be dried without a dye,” she adds. The dyed pulp is dried in the sun for few hours and the set paper is then put into a machine to smoothen down.
After pressing the Lokta paper into a smooth like consistency, they are used to make the finished products like notebooks, calendars, bookmarks, wrapping paper, and decoratives. At the peacock shop, various designs are hand-printed onto the paper, especially for visiting cards— any design of choice is printed onto the paper, one by one by workers. The paper industry especially employs women workers to promote women involvement and empowerment.
When asked about the Lokta Paper’s popularity, Prajapati says, “Lokta paper is dyed straight with colour dyes, showing it’s resistance to water. And since the plants regenerate they provide a renewable source of raw materials, the paper is one that is less harmful to the environment.”
After the earthquake, the slowly rising paper industry was widely affected by a decrease in available worker and a lack of demand in the marker. Despite the aftermath of the natural disaster, the Lokta Paper Industry is looking to be prosperous and grow over time. With the art of the creating Lokta Paper in the hands of a few skilled artisans of Nepal, the age-old craft is one to be preserved.
The Peacock Shop
Taulachhen-9, Dattatreya (Near the peacock window)