Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal

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Historical Background

The historical development of Nepalese craft and cottage industry, though very old, is full of ups and down. A reference is found in Kautilya’s Economics about various production and export from Nepal. During the time of Chandra Gupta Mouriya in forth century there was considerable trade in blanket of wool, Nepal was mentioned as a source of good blankets. It was rainproof blanket made of eight pieces joined together of black color known as “bhiringisi” as well as “apasaraka”. In the same way it was mentioned in the epics of Jain religion “Brihatakalpasutra Vhashya” that good quality of woolen blanket were available in Nepal. Various famous Chinese travellers (Wangunshe and Huansang 648 A.D.) had highly appreciated many skills of Nepalese craftsmen and artisans in travelogues. Right from the very beginning up to the mid nineteenth century the rulers of the country to promote national industries and trade did adopt various measures of production, promotion and encouragement. To save national industries, only those commodities were imported which were not produced locally.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century Nepalese arts and crafts in particular the entire home based industries in general suffered a lot due to the general liberal import policy of the government. Before British could establish their regime over India and entered in to place treaty with Tibet in 1904 A.D. Nepal was interpret and the main route for Tibet, external trade with other countries. But the treaty os 1904 A.D. facilitated the Britishers to open a new route between India and Tibet through Chumbic Valley plus the trade route treaty of 1923 A.D. between Nepal and British India, which was not in favour of Nepal and had very unfavorable effects both on industries and on flourishing trade of the country.

But the unusual demand for all consumer goods prior to and during the World Was IInd provided a respite to the dying Nepalese industries. Moreover the government of the day realized the necessity of some and, eans to promote industries in Nepal. As a result of the realization, “Industrial Council” was set up in 1935 A.D. Later on “Nepalese Cloth and cooage Industries Publicity Office” was established in 1939 A.D. As it is clear from its name, the office was the only government effort for promoting cottage industries.

Besides the government efforts there were some individual “Gandhin Social Workers” who regarded spinning & weaving as potential weapon to flight against dehumanizing poverty of the masses and Rana’s dictatorship. Tulsi Meher tops the list of such people. He is the man who also got the “Nehru Purushkar” of the year i.e. 1978 A.D. For the first time, it was advocated to executive spinning and weaving as composite work and not separates.

Kautilya spoke in praise of all Nepalese home made goods including handloom products. Weaving is practiced by all most all communities of the hills and valleys e.g. newars, gurungs, magar, bhote, Sherpa, rai, limbu and tharu of Tarai.

Kerk Patrick who came to visit Nepal in 1793 A.D. wrote in his book, “An Account of the Kingdom of Nepal”, the newars are expert in cottage industries. As far as cloth is concerned, they make rough course kind of it partly for use and partly for export. The cotton needed for it is produced in Nuwakot of Madhesh. Thus even as late as 1816 A.D. Nepal was not only self sufficient in her requirement of cloths, but had surplus for export also. Thus up to the end of 19th century, Nepalese people were self sufficient to meet the requirement of cloth through the production of handloom which was flourishing and promising cottage and small scale industry of Nepal at that time. After the treaty of Sugafuli in 1918 A.D. with the British, the door for open trade between Nepal and India was thrown wide open. Indian goods mass produced in factories and goods similarly produced in other countries had free occurs into Nepal, which cause a great suffer to the indigenous industries of our country. Thus cottage and village industry of country went on determining day by day.

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