A few days back, while scrolling my finger on my phone to watch some videos on Facebook, incidentally I happened to find a video of a woman of around 60s weaving fiber from a lotus plant to make lotus fabric. For me, it was just like an extraordinary scene as I didn’t imagine even for a once that one can weave thread from a lotus stem just like weaving thread from the cocoon of the silkworm.
Suddenly, an idea pop-up inside my brain, why shouldn’t I write an article on how we use the lotus plant meticulously to support the weaver of Manipur.
We’re greatly influenced by the love of the lotus flower, not because of its beauty but also its characteristic of rising above the muddy water, indicating how one can rise above from many difficulties of life.
Origin of Lotus fabric or Lotus Silk
The origin of lotus fiber fabric is mostly confined to some parts of Asian countries like Japan, Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma). As per sources from Fibre2Fashion weaving fiber from the lotus plant has been in practice in a country like Japan. However, due to its low demand among the people, this lotus fiber industry is not much in the air. The practice still exists but it remained a rare handmade textile owing to its time-consuming and high cost.
Benefits of Lotus Fiber or Fabric
We can take a lot of benefits from the Lotus plant (the national flower of India) much more than just its beauty. Since time immemorial the lotus plant is considered a sacred flower and has been using on various religious-related occasions. The Lotus plant has unique healing properties. It is used to treat ailments like headaches, heart ailments, asthma, and lung issues.
With all its healing properties combined together, it is believed that if we use fabric made from lotus fiber, we’ll experience the same effect on our body. Lotus fiber has unique properties owing to its softness, very light, breathable, and wrinkle-free. When you compare this Lotus fabric with other fabrics, you’ll surely find love in it as it is made from naturally occurring products, free from any kind of pollution or chemical toxins.
Most probably, this lotus fabric is the kind of fabric that is very close to nature and I called it the most eco-friendly fabric.
Can Lotus Fabric industry change the social strata of our weaver
The Lotus flower is a native plant of Asian countries and it is found in abundance. Here in Manipur, also lotus plant (Thambal) is grown abundantly and we’ve been using this plant in many forms. Some of its products that are famous locally – Thambou (lotus root or Kamal kakri) and Thamchet (lotus seeds) etc.
Uniqueness is the key ingredient to be a success in any kind of business. If you have this ingredient in your work, then it won’t take much time to stand out from the crowd. So, our weaver also can do some unique stuff rather than doing traditional types all day for a few bucks. Making of Louts fabrics from the lotus fiber is the one our weave can adopt. However, it is easier said than done. Proper guidelines or instructions need to be followed to reach the goal. No hit and trial method will work here.
Did you know that the production of Lotus fabric has been started in Manipur?
Yes, you hear it right. Not only in the field of sports, but Manipuri women also have exceptional skills in any field. You might hear of “Sanajing Sana Thambal” run by one of the promising women entrepreneurs of the state named Bidya Shanti from Thanga Tongbram Leikai, Bishnupur. She has already started making Lotus fabric. Her main products include muffler, stole, etc.
Even though the market place of our state is tiny as compared to other states, this Manipuri Chanu has done a commendable job, that no one even thinks about it. This type of work requires more workers to perform the manual work right from harvesting of lotus stem to weaving of thread. The making of fabric from the lotus stem is a painstaking process. Only the brave, hardworking, and patient one can take up such a painstaking job, and Bidya Shanti is also one of them. This type of entrepreneurial work can give the opportunity or a way of living to at least 10 women (assuming the type of work as small-scale). Nowadays, the fashion industry is one of the high earning industries in the world. Thus, importing such type of rare products will help in sustaining this business for a long time.
Bijiyashanti is an active and innovative woman who tries to make anything a reality. Absorbing the present situation, she is working to make masks from the stalk of the same plant. Thanga Tongbram locality is in the vicinity of the state’s famous Loktak lake and along with 15 more women are involved in the project. Currently, more than 20 women are giving training under her strong command. For now, lotus plants are grown in large numbers in Loktak lake and raw materials for her project are easily available.
How did Bijiyashanti started making of Lotus Fabric?
Bidya Shanti started the venture in 2018-19 when she first made thread and cloth from lotus stem for her start-up program. Her product was sent to a Gujarat laboratory which gave her the green signal for it. She is a Botany graduate and uses the internet for her research and the production methodology. Once, Bidya Shanti was told by one of her teachers to come up with an idea to serve as a source of living. This is when the idea of making fabric from the lotus stem clicked in her mind and started this journey.
Currently, her team is working on a project for producing traditional men’s shawl and necktie from this lotus stem.
Acknowledgement for her Work
Not everyone can take this painstaking work of making fiber from the lotus stem, as she did. Today, because of her hard work, patience, and discipline she got recognition from the honorable Prime Minister of India, Shree Narendra Modi. PM Modi appreciated the innovative efforts of Bidya Shanti in his “Mann Ki Baat” radio program.
How Lotus Fiber is Made? (just for informative purpose)
The making of lotus fiber from the lotus stem is a very slow and time-consuming process. If you want to produce 1 meter of lotus fabric you need to first harvest at least 40,000 lotus stems. The next step is to remove the thin white filaments that resemble spider silk. Thus, collected thin white filaments are then rolled into a single thread. Using a handloom the thread is spun into yarn. During the entire process of weaving, threads are moistened with water frequently to keep the lotus fiber cool.
The fabric made from lotus looks like a blend of linen and silk and possess wrinkle-free and breathable properties. These unique and rare qualities fabrics made from lotus is very famous in Japan and Europe. Loro Piana, an Italian fabrics and clothing company specializing in high-end, luxury cashmere and wool products, makes jackets from lotus fabric cost as high as $5600 and it is famous in many European countries.
Without thinking of big or small, if you start pursuing your dream, one-day you’ll be able to grab in our hand. While chasing your dream you may find many difficulties and face situations that might even demotivate you to continue dreaming. Uniqueness is the most essential ingredient that one requires to get success in his path. Doing differently in a very unique manner can help you stand out from the crowd.
We also need to support our artisans, as a responsible citizen. Our artisans are struggling to find a way in this society mostly due to the lack of financial support. Even if we cannot support them financially, we can still use their products to motivate them.
In our daily lives, we’re prone to newness in every aspect. To merge with the newness is not a major task, what matters is one’s approach towards it. Passion about what we do, at work, during leisure, and other things pays. And lastly, any work done with passion gives better and safe results.