Early Paper industry in Bihar

The ARWAL Paper

In beginning of the nineteenth century, a considerable quantity of paper was being made at Bihar Sharif and Arwal. It was whiter than that made in Rangpur in Bengal ; but had some minor other imperfections, that was less durable, and the dampness in the air caused the ink to sink, so as to form almost illegible blots. Therefore, only ink made of the cakes could be used with such paper. In Bihar, the paper most commonly made was that called Dufturi, which was 19 by 17 1/2 inches a sheet, and was that used in common business; but other kinds of a larger size, and rather superior quality were also made.
                                                      The beating Machine-Dhengki

The material was old bags of the Sun hemp (Crotolaria juncea).
These were cut into small pieces, and, having been soaked in water, were beaten with the instrument called a Dhengki. The pulp was then put on a cloth strainer, washed with water,and dried on a rock. This substance was then put into a cistern with some ley of soda, and was trodden with the feet for some hours, after which it was in the same manner washed and dried, and these operations with the soda were in all performed six times. The bleached pulp was then put into a cistern with a large

quantity of water, and was diligently stirred with a stick for about three-quarters of an hour, when it was wrought off into sheets as usual. The moist sheets were stuck on a smooth wall, and dried. Having been rubbed with a paste made of flour and water, they were then smoothed by placing them on a plank, and rubbing them with a stone.
The ream consisted of 10 quires, each containing 24 sheets. Over that period, 30 houses in Bihar Sharif with 100 men were engaged in paper making, while in Arwal, there were probably 40 houses, or in all 140 men.

At Arwal ,20 families kept an equal number of beaters (dhengkis). On the opposite side of the Sone river , in Shahabad, there were 50 beaters, and the whole produce of these was sold as Arwal paper, which although made of the same materials, was whiter and more durable than that made at Bihar Sharif, and was commonly used by Persian writers all over Bengal. Each beater was usually making five bales in the year; and each bale contained 20 reams.

The people, who smoothed paper by rubbing it with polished glass, were called the Mohurahdars.

  • The History, Antiquities, Topography, and Statistics of Eastern India: Behar (1838) By Robert Montgomery Martin Publisher W.H. Allen and Co.,London.