May 25, 2022, Wednesday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Palpali Dhaka reinventing market

The Nepal Weekly
March 1, 2022

On February 25, Friday,a special private event was organised in Kathmandu to connect with and celebrate the resurgence of Palpali Dhaka. On the occasion, a number Dhaka fabric of new patterns and design were displayed.

Over the last two years, UKaid Skills for Employment Programme, Palpali Dhaka Association (PDA), Tansen Municipality, and other individuals and institutions have played important role in building an innovative partnership that has fostered and led to improved competitiveness and growth for the industry and its workforce.

Palpali Dhaka, an indigenous hand-woven fabric that originated in Tansen at Lumbini Province, is on the path to revitalization and re-positioning in local and international markets. Given the tremendous potential of this heritage for modern-day relevance and the continued appeal for identity-based high quality handcrafted collections, newly skilled artisans, designers, fair-trade entities and marketers, local entrepreneurs and government have been hard at work, carefully restoring the legacy of this heritage handicraft from diverse vantage points. UKaid Seep has been supporting and partnering with PDA to ignite and propel its resurgence. Our collaborative action approach, along with our ability to spark and enable systems thinking, innovations, and transformative results, has been central to Palpali Dhaka’s progress and recognition. From the get-go, the design of our partnership has been local- and multi-stakeholder informed so it is geared toward addressing the most-critical barriers for Palpali Dhaka’s growth; grounded on our collective understanding of the role and value of various stakeholders, to leverage and support each other; and build unity and trust among various key actors in pursuit of a common purpose.

It is worth to recall that on 12 February, UKaid Seep launched its partnership with Palpali Dhaka Association (PDA), Provincial and Municipal Government of Province 5 in the presence of Honourable Chief Minister Mr. Shanker Pokhrel in Tansen Municipality Hall, Palpa

A partnership signing between Ashok Kumar Shahi, Mayor of Tansen, Purna Maya Maharjan, President of PDA and BaljitVohra, Team Leader of  took place during the event where more than 300 participants, which mostly comprised of women Dhaka weavers from Tansen, the provincial assembly members, and members of the Province 5 cabinet including Madhu Kumar Marasini, Secretary of Ministry of Economic Affairs and Planning and Dr.Gopi Krishna Khanal, Secretary of Ministry of Social Development.

PDA lead this multi-stakeholder partnership designed to upgrade the training infrastructure and capacity at the factories, generate gainful employment for more than 1,500 Nepalis by 2022, inject innovation in fabric design, strengthen backwards and forward market linkages.

“Nobody believed in us when we first started the Dhaka business,” says Purna Maya Maharjan, who co-founded one of the first Dhaka enterprises in Tansen in 1959 with her husband, “but even through the ups and downs, we never compromised on the quality. However, the past few years have been difficult due to high demand but low production.

Dhaka fabric holds a special place in Nepalese Lifestyle. It has been in every Nepalese head as Dhaka Topi, a special cap used by male members of Nepalese society. Not only limited to Dhaka Topi, Dhaka has many other products like Dhaka Shawl, Choli (Blouse for Nepalese cultural dress), Sari, Kurta and many more. Dhaka is widely available in Nepalese market these days but once it was only made in Palpa district of western Nepal. Thus, it is more popular as Palpali Dhaka. This Dhaka fabric of Nepali origin and the capital of Bangladesh have the same name but they are quite different in meaning. Therefore, confusion must not be prevailed any way.

It is also not to be confused that Dhaka fabric is woven hills in eastern Nepal as well. However, colour design and patterns bear differences between Palpali and eastern Dhaka. The indigenous Limbu people of eastern Nepal weave Dhaka as a traditional fabric. At present, that is gaining popularity in all cultures and around the world. It has its origin in the Tehrathum district of Nepal. People from this generation teach the next generation about the tradition of making Dhaka. Dhaka fabric represents a Limbu cultural dress.

In 1958 AD., a man from Palpa named Ganesh Man Maharjan, who had returned home with skills to weave cloth in India established a textile industry in Palpa named Swadeshi Bastrakala Palpali Dhaka. Then the market problems, raw materials and other things had to be bought from India and it was difficult to compete against the finer quality imported fabrics which led to difficulty in sustain of this industry. In 1962, Maharjan who had gone to Kathmandu for training, observed that Rana Prime Minister Janga Bahadur’s daughter Dambar Kumari, who lived in Varanasi in India used a special kind of fine and valuable textile fabric called ‘Dhaka’. The fabric was known as ‘Dambar Kumari Dhaka’ in Nepal as was used by Rana families and other ladies of elites. Having caught his attention by ‘Dambar Kumari Dhaka’, he returned to Palpa and adopted the technology to weave Dhaka in Palpa. This is how the attractively coloured and patterned ‘Palpali Dhaka’ was born. With many challenges and difficulties in the beginning, overcoming the challenges of inconvenient transportation facilities, market problems, less production and many other difficulties, Palpali Dhaka succeeded in establishing its own identity all over the country form 1967. Many other Dhaka Industries were established and Dhaka Production boomed in Palpa District.