Children help in the screen printing of the book in Gangtok. Picture by Prabin Khaling
A single-page book, 200-m long and 50cm wide, has become the single source of information about the sacred lore of the tribes in Sikkim and the Darjeeling hills.
Stories and sacred lore, kept at the Star cinema in Gangtok, is unique in other ways as well. Screen printing is used for the book, made of hand-made paper brought from Nepal.
Acoustic Traditional, which is behind the initiative, claimed that it was the longest single page book in the world.
The book has 50 stories — 30 in writing and the rest in visual illustrations.
“The book measures 200m in length. The page is not bound to a cover and is folded many times. The stories are printed in hand-made paper from Nepal, known for its strength and durability. It consists of the stories which were recorded and documented from different folk story tellers of the region,” said Salil Mukhia, the founder of Acoustic Traditional.
The NGO, formed in 1999, works towards the conservation of folklore of indigenous communities across India, with a specific focus on the Eastern Himalayan region.
“Since, it is impossible to create such a long single sheet of hand-made paper, we have glued together several hand-made papers which are approximately 30inch long and 20inch wide each. Over 240 paper sheets were used to make the book,” said Mukhia.
|A Lepcha shaman in Gangtok.
The sacred narratives (stories shared by the shaman communities) were collected from the region between 2010 and 2013. The stories include those of the Mountain guardian Yeti and Lyemlyemleh, the wife of forest-dwelling shaman, Ban Jhakri.
“All stories are integral to the communities’ core identity. In these stories, one can find a wealth of traditional wisdom and ancestral teachings and scientific thoughts of many hill tribes in the region,” said Mukhia.
According to him, the stories were recorded through field visits across different areas in the region (Sikkim and Darjeeling hills).
“The Acoustic Traditional’s annual national conferences, where indigenous stories are shared, also contributed to the book’s making,” said Mukhia.
A team had collected 100 stories after field interviews and 30 of them were selected on the basis of their lengths.
The book’s cover is made of card board. In fact, no part of the book is made using any machine, even for the cover binding.
The organisers said the main motive of compiling such a book was to create awareness among the public of the oral traditions of indigenous communities.
The process of making the book started on July 28 and was completed on August 22.
“It was a tedious and a time consuming process as the printing was completely done by hands. We worked for almost 18 hours a day for the book,” said project head Minket Lepcha.
The book will be put up on display at the cinema from August 28.